Can Thieves Crack Your Wireless Home Security System?

Published: Sep 16, 2015 at 08:01 UTC

Wireless home security is all the rage these days. Whether you’re shopping in-store or online, you have plenty of low-cost and high-featured products to choose from. The packaging might look good and the brands recognizable, but is setting up your home with one of these off-the-shelf alarm systems just serves as an invitation for crooks to break into your home?

Cheap Home Security: You Get What You Pay For

When it comes to wireless home security systems that you buy and set up yourself, there are two issues that you need to look out for: quality and – believe it or not – security.

As the Internet of Things becomes more popular with each passing day, hundreds of companies are being established every year to take advantage of the boom. While that’s great for progress and the emergence of newer and better technology, it also means a decrease in quality as manufacturers compete to be the cheapest.

This means that when you when you buy that low-cost system off the internet, you might think you’ve snatched up an awesome deal when you’re actually just setting up your home for failure. The top concerns with cheap home security systems are build quality, improper design and poor lifespan.

Many of the least expensive wireless security options that you’ll find online are manufactured overseas by companies that knock-off popular brands. While these products may look similar to the products made by the big-name companies, the quality just isn’t there. In some cases, the products may not even work right out of the box. Other times, they may fail just a few weeks or months after installation.

Are More Expensive Products Infallible? Not Always.

Let’s say you are smart enough to stay far away from the cheap, gimmicky stuff; instead, you turn to brands you know and trust. You choose products that you’ve seen on TV – probably in a flashy commercial – or that you’ve read about on your favorite review site. Are you safe now?

The answer is maybe not. While you’ll probably have better luck with brand-name products and services, it’s important to note that just as technology is moving forward at break-neck speeds, so is the crook’s ability to adapt and persevere.

Case in point: just this week, the Los Angeles Police Department began warning residents that cars equipped with wireless key remotes were vulnerable to a new and insidious burglary trick. Using a device called a power amplifier, crooks were actually walking right up to cars in driveways, popping the lock, disabling the alarm and walking away with whatever they wanted –all in broad daylight.

Similar technology can and has been used to disable wireless home security systems, too. Using an array of small remotes, clickers and the like, thieves have been able to walk up to a front door and – upon deciding that no one was home – use their small devices to deactivate the sensors and alarms waiting for them on the other side.

At this point, you must be wondering: how is this possible? How can the very system that is supposed to protect you, your family and your home able to be so easily manipulated?

In most cases, it has to do with radio frequencies and outdated technology. The way many wireless home security systems work is like this: sensors are attached to your doors and windows. When one of these entry points is opened, an alarm is tripped and a signal is sent to you, the police or both.

The problem lies in the fact that the radio frequency technology here is not encrypted.

This means a crook with a little know-how could hijack the data, decode it and then send back their own commands, such as “don’t trip the alarm”. If the criminal is being lazy, they could also just create enough radio “noise” to keep the signal from the sensor from reaching the panel.

So How Can You Protect Yourself?

As concerning as it can be to learn that some wireless home security systems are just shy of useless, it’s important to realize that there is a lot of technology out there, and not all of it is obsolete just yet.

If you’re interested in setting up a wireless home security system, you can go about it two ways: you can do lots of research online and find the products that use the latest and most crook-proof technology or you can turn to a security expert and allow them to help you navigate the rough and choppy waters of home security.

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