When watching the commercials and advertisement materials of home security companies, robbers are usually depicted in an almost comedic manner: big mindless brutes, forcing their way into the home, unknowingly triggering the alarms, then quickly subdued by the arriving right hand of justice. There is no denial: modern home safety equipment works effectively against criminals armed with wrench and a crowbar. But what would you think, dear reader, if we said that some of today’s criminals are tech-savvy individuals, who are using radio tuners to bypass the system, and remotely disarm your defense.
Modern Design, Old Technology
There is no such thing as 100% failproof protection. The latest advancements of the 21st century allow people to establish a smart home, where they can access their garage doors, smart locks and security hub completely remotely. The wireless nature of the units may be an advantage, as motion sensors and cameras can freely communicate with each other, but the cellular connection can be the downfall of your home too. Two researchers separately investigated the flaws of the modern home security systems, and both of them concluded that breaching cellular-based defense lines is surprisingly easy.
The case is simple: wireless alarm systems rely heavily on radio frequency signals as a means to allow the base station and for instance a window sensor to communicate. In case the sensor detects forceful intrusion through the window, it sends a signal on this frequency, and the base station alerts the residents and the police. But if someone intercepts or blocks this signal, then the alarm won’t be triggered.
And the shocking truth is: the method of transmitting these important radio signals hasn’t been updated since the mid-90s! That’s right, even though these cellular messages contain the key to your house; they are barely encrypted or not even encrypted at all. They’re being broadcasted through the entire neighborhood in thin air, so everyone can freely connect to them!
Radio Tuners Are The New Crowbars
Although hacking radio signals might sound futuristic for regular people, in reality it doesn’t require a PhD to master it, just a little tech-know-how. Even worse; the actual equipment that allows performing this insidious act is pretty common. Software-defined radios are commonly used for legal purposes too, and their price ranges from $10 to $1700. Luckily, cheaper ones are only able to monitor the security signals, but incapable of interfering with it. Still, investing into a serious unit quickly pans out after a successful streak of robbery.
What Should I Do?
Smart homes are still relatively safer than old fashioned alarms and locks, as the wireless technology repels regular thieves with ease. When ordering the system, ask the security provider whether its products use anti-jamming technology to prevent malicious hacking. Naturally, criminals still have to enter the building to loot the property, and establishing an indoor video surveillance network could help you spot the robbery in time. Also, use the remote appliance controller function. Hackers frequently check the radio traffic inside the house, and when they sense activity, they conclude that the house is occupied and choose another target. Or, go for the millennium-old security system, and have a guard dog in your house.
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