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Toyota South Africa announces free safety upgrades for these cars

After identifying an uptick in vehicle theft in South Africa using sophisticated attack methods, Toyota has announced free “safety enhancements” for local customers in an effort to mitigate Toyota and Lexus-branded vehicles being stolen.

The models that are eligible for these upgrades include:

  • All Fortuner models from 2016
  • Hilux Legend models from 2019
  • Prado VX and VXL models from 2017
  • All Land Cruiser 200 models with Smart Entry
  • All Land Cruiser 300 models
  • All Lexus RX and LX models from 2015

“Customers who own the vehicle models mentioned above can take them to their nearest dealership for security enhancements from the first week of December,” said Leon Theron, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Toyota South Africa (TSAM).

Individuals who take their vehicle for a service at TSAM dealers will automatically receive the enhancements, too, and “these will all be carried out at no cost to the customer,” said Theron.

The manufacturer did not reveal specifically what these enhancements encompass, though it did say that they have been reviewed and evaluated by the VSS Administration – an independent South African organisation that specialises in vehicle security and automotive systems.

“For all the other models using keyless entry, but not mentioned above, customers are recommended to purchase a Faraday Pouch for their keys [which are] available at dealers,” said Theron.

“Alternatively, they can consult their dealer to either have their vehicle alarm recalibrated in a way that prevents fob relaying or set the alarm using the remote in a specific manner that prevents fob relaying.”

Car Theft

Three methods of attack

Toyota partnered with various organisations as well as the South African Police Service to identify and gather intelligence on the new methods used when stealing cars.

“The intelligence gathered revealed that highly sophisticated cyber-attacks are used by thieves to exploit the vehicle’s computer-controlled systems,” said TSAM.

According to the company, the main forms of attack are CAN attacks, fob relaying, and a combination of forced entry and key cloning.

CAN attacks happen when the Control Area Network is infiltrated by high-tech electronic equipment to gain entry into the car and access to the computer system to start the engine.

Fob relaying, on the other hand, uses strong receivers and transmitters to remotely read the vehicle’s security key when the owner is nearby, thereby allowing the attacker to unlock and start it when the owner has left.

“The third, a combination of forced entry and key cloning, is executed using advanced techniques and equipment to disable the vehicle’s alarm system, and then cloning its security key,” said TSAM.

Criminals tend to target higher-end models with features such as keyless access, and the issue isn’t limited to Toyota alone as other manufacturers have also fallen victim to these crimes.

In studying these attacks, TSAM has developed “several measures to mitigate possible theft of Toyota and Lexus-branded vehicles in the country.”


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