Over the years, automatic garage doors have evolved from regular electric ones that use basic code technology to the modern, remote control powered models that are password protected. However, some burglars are not deterred, so you’ve got to get smarter too.
In spite of new and advanced technologies used in the construction of modern garage doors, daredevil thieves continue to come up with new ways of hacking into an automatic garage door system and gaining entry into a person’s home.
Some use hand transmitters, basic materials and even toys, which are further improvised to make opening a garage door very easy – in less than 15 seconds – with the application of just a little force.
Before going into the details on how a garage door is hacked and what to do, you first need to understand how a garage door works.
In 1926, the first automatic garage door opener was invented and introduced to the market, but it only started becoming popular after the second World War. The openers were made in a way that allows the homeowner to simply push a button or keypad from their car to make the garage door open or close.
However, that was a fairly stressful process, because a wire ran from the keypad to the switch on the garage door. It was only when technology further improved that a wireless remote control was introduced. Then, once you pressed a button, a code was transmitted to the opener from the remote control, using radio signals. When the opener received the command, the garage door motor would draw the door down or up.
Plugging the first security loophole
When the electric garage door openers finally became very popular in the 1960’s, garage door companies and even homeowners realised that it was easy for security systems to be breached and the property burgled, as all the automatic garage doors created at the time used the same code. It meant that an intruder could simply buy a remote control, drive by a neighbourhood, push a button and ‘Jackpot’!
“Manufacturers and garage door service companies realised that they were making a bad name for themselves and that triggered the transformation of the entire garage door industry,” said Cory, a home security expert from Neighborhood Garage Door Service.
John explained that: “The result was the introduction of a new set of garage door openers that transmit a new code at every push of the button. Manufacturers made an opener that enables the owner to change the code when they want to either buy more remote controls or replace a bad or lost one.
“To create a new unique code in the new programmable opener, a series of up to 12 dip switches can be set in a down or up position. You can get over 4,000 possible unique codes when you make use of the 12-switch remote control. With as many of these codes as possible, it would be difficult for a thief to easily match your exact code when they use any standard remote. In fact, they would have to just stay outside your garage and keep testing all the codes while setting all the dip switches.”
While the codes might look like a lot, it’s not as much as you might think – in binary terms. The funny thing is, you can even secure your garage door system by making use of a three-character alphanumeric passcode of any combination. This means you have a wide range of options to explore.
New ways Intruders may try to hack your garage door opener
Some thieves actually use very sophisticated equipment – from modified children’s electronics to password scanners and hand transmitters. Once they have monitored your movements (such as when you typically leave your home or return), they can hack into your garage door opener in less than 15 seconds and carry out their nefarious activities.
There are some devices that can actually transmit all the possible 4,000 unique codes to the 12-switch remote control door, in less than an hour – with a 5-15 seconds wait per code.
Mathematically, the time it takes to get a single code transmitted and the door opened can also be shortened. This means that a thief can park outside your house on the other side of the road, for as long as it takes for a particular code to work – and no one will easily notice.
“When something interferes with your transmission signals, a code can be sent multiple times. But there’s hardly any interference, so when thieves send out a code just once, all they do is wait less than 15 seconds to see if the door will open. The door even opens in less than five seconds in some cases,” Cory stressed.
Some thieves are smart enough to even remove the waiting time entirely. This is because automatic door openers use a Bit Shift Register, which simply needs a code to match with the actual opening and closing code. Therefore, when all the codes are sent spontaneously, the opener follows the command sent after it had checked all the likely permutations of the code.
If the thief is a really determined crook and mathematician combined, they might use the De Brujin Sequence to send all the unique codes that can open the door, as quickly as possible. This means that all the 4,000 plus codes can be sent to the 12-switch remote controlled garage door in less than 15 seconds.
How to prevent these attacks
Ever since the latest advancements in technology, these hacks do not easily affect automatic garage door openers, as the ‘rolling code’ technology has made it easy for an entirely new code to be transmitted once you send a command from your remote control.
That doesn’t mean there are no more old models that use dip switches – or even older garage doors that use basic codes that can be sent from just any standard remote control. That’s why it’s recommended you talk to your garage door service company to provide important tips and guidelines about using the product before you buy it.