Luxury Car Hacker Gets 8 Years in Prison

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British car thief Alan Watkins was recently sentenced to eight years in prison for leading a gang that stole more than 170 BMWs, Audis and Range Rovers.

"Watkins had details of over 500 vehicles and had all the required documentation to create false registrations for over 300 stolen luxury cars -- a practice known as 'ringing,'" The Telegraph reports.

"Watkins would use the Internet to identify cars that had been exported to Cyprus," Infosecurity reports. "His gang would then search car parks in London and Essex seeking similar vehicles. Once located, the gang would follow them until they were parked and left. As the owner departed, they would use a remote signal blocker to prevent the vehicle’s remote-locking system from functioning, leaving an empty and unlocked luxury car."

"When the unsuspecting owners left their vehicle, thieves would enter the unlocked car and hack into its computer system to access information about its key before installing a hidden GPS tracking device," writes The London Evening Standard's Justin Davenport. "Watkins was then able to forge an electronic key for the car and the GPS tracker allowed the gang to locate the vehicle and steal it at a later and more convenient date. The cars would be given the new identities of vehicles in Cyprus and sold on in the UK."

"'This was a very well organised operation and Watkins employed advanced technology in ways not previously seen in order to enable him to defeat the security on modern vehicles,' said Det. Insp. Paul Fuller of Scotland Yard," writes Softpedia's Eduard Kovacs.