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My 2014 Landrover Discovery 4 was stolen when they picked the lock and paired a new key with it using the ODB port. As it is keyless start, that is all they needed to drive it away. I still have both of the original keys.

The manufacturer's response was about people doing illegal things. It seems a retrograde security step from older vehicles where you needed the key to get the immobiliser to work, to the new vehicles where if you can get in, you pair a new key and drive it away in minutes.

In my head, it should be a requirement that you

  • have an existing working key present, or
  • enter a pin number somewhere

before being able to pair a new key.

Is there a technical reason why this should not be the case?

To recap, this question is only covering pairing new keys and keyless start, this is not asking about keyless entry.

  • Those older vehicles had issues with thieves using scanners to replicate the codes, prior to that "hot-wiring" was common. There is a truism "what science can invent, science can circumvent". – Solar Mike Apr 23 at 9:55
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    That's true, but the fact that I now have to resort to having an 1990's style crook lock on a modern car suggests that something somewhere has failed with modern design. Keyless start is an answer looking for a problem in my opinion - I'm not sure of why you need to do it. You should be able to switch these features (e.g. keyless entry) off at your discretion to lessen the attack surface. – Kevin Jones Apr 23 at 10:32
  • If I wanted to steal your vehicle I would turn up with a bright breakdown truck (with flashing lights, clean and sparkling) and just pull your vehicle on to it... Did that once with the alarm sounding on a customer's car - the one passer-by who asked anything was only worried about the noise - luckily then I was working for a legitimate company. – Solar Mike Apr 23 at 10:34
  • As for keyless start, it is probably driven through marketing feedback with some users saying they are too lazy or feeble to insert and turn a key... – Solar Mike Apr 23 at 10:36
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    To me, this "question" seems more like a rant on Land Rover and not a real question. It seems you already have the answer and are just looking for validation of your rant. In most vehicle I'm aware of, you have to either have a paired key present or you have to take the vehicle to the dealership. It doesn't mean some entrepreneurial thief might not have gained access to the dealership tools needed to pair a new key. As you stated, "There's always going to be a way to steal vehicles". – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Apr 23 at 13:27
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Upfront I'm going to say that I have no experience with Land Rovers. All my experience comes from Ford/Mazda.

Ford/Mazda have four distinct security system styles. Each one has advantages and disadvantages.

  1. One of the oldest systems had a chip in the key. If the key was left on for three 10 minutes period the car would learn the key. The idea was that 30 minutes was too long to steal the car and you needed a cut key. It was problematic because the system was really dumb and could hardly tell you if something was wrong besides just not starting.
  2. Still old, it has a Lucas electronics module in it. Each module had a serial number on it. If you had dealer level access you could use the serial number to get an "in" code. That code was a nightmare to enter. The key had to be left on for 10 minutes. Then by counting the flashes of the security light and turning the key on and off the "in" code was entered. This would wipe all the keys and all the current keys would have to be entered in by turning each key on and off one at a time. Similar ideas for security as above; need a cut key, need to wait 10 minutes, and most importantly need the "in" code. The downfalls were that the "in" code never changed. If you got the code once you could use it over and over. I suspect that if you brought your own module and key you program the key in about 12 minutes. Also, similar to one the system is quite dumb.
  3. This is a current system that tends to be popular on Fords. PATS (passive anti-theft system) timed access. Using an IDS Ford scan tool request security access and wait 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, the car is yours. If the car has keyless ignition not even a cut key is needed. Again the thought is that 10 minutes is too long to steal a car. Also, a scan tool is needed which is expensive (around $2k). The system is also quite smart and can tell you where it "hurts" if the car is not starting. What is unclear is who imposes the 10 minute wait, the car or the scan tool. If it's the car then it's not bad. If it's the scan tool, then some reverse engineering is all you need to ask the car to learn the key.
  4. This is a current system that tends to be popular on Mazda. PATS coded access. Using the same scan tool request security access. The car will give you an "out" code. Using dealer level access, the VIN number and the "out" code the system would generate you and "in" code. Enter that code into the car and the car is yours. The advantage over Lucas was that the engine computer held everything there was no separate module. Also, the codes were rolling, the "out" code was always different and that generated a different "in" code.

The biggest drawback of requiring an original key to add new ones is if you lose your keys. I've replaced countless lost keys for customers.

Most likely the flaw is in the software of the car. Criminals have found some way to bypass the security locks for learning keys assuming that those locks were in place, to begin with. It may seem that a system like Lucas or PATS coded access would be the solution because of the multi-factor style authentication but that system was at one point compromised by hackers. That someone, was selling "in" codes online. No one noticed for several years until whoever it was that broke in started deleting Lucas "in" codes. Then the system was locked down.

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