Ok, this is my story. Like most suburbanites, I own a house with a garage. It’s great! I put all my stuff in there. Like those weights I told myself I’d use last summer and finally get back in shape (never happened). Or that sewing machine my wife spent 2 months researching and used a grand total of 3 times.
Jokes aside, it’s a blessing having a place to store things that don’t get used too often but definitely have value. In fact, I realised that I had thousands of dollars of stuff in there with just a garage door protecting it! Was this safe?
I did some research and was shocked to find out the answer. So if you’re interesting in learning about just how safe all your valuables are behind the thin sheet of metal we call a garage door, then keep on reading…
Are Garage Doors Hackable?
Before we get into this, I think it’s probably worth distinguishing between smart garage doors and traditional lock and key ones. I’ve owned both over the years and both have their pros and cons. Although given the choice I’d chose a smart garage every time.
Are lock and key garage doors hackable?
The answer is yes! absolutely they are. All you need is an old school lock pick and you can make your way past the average garage door lock. These types of locks are ridiculously easy to break into.
So from a non high tech point you view you can easy gain access to someones garage with only moderate lock picking skills. The catch being that the criminal would have to physically be at your garage door in order to do this. Here’s a photo of my old lock and key garage door lock.
Are smart garage doors hackable?
Normally when we think of things being hacked the focus is on computers or smart-devices connected to the internet. Obviously a smart-house has some risks when it comes to WiFi-connected lights, thermostats, and such. A regular garage door, however, is that actually hackable?
Are smart garage doors hackable? Shockingly enough, the answer is Yes garage doors are hackable. Don’t think just because your garage simply relies on radio waves from an opener you’re exempt from being hacked, they can easily be copied and result in a hacked garage. There are many examples of garage doors being hacked to drive the point home about the risk.
Examples of Garage Door Hacking
Hacking garage doors can be done if a hacker has a machine capable of sending-out the limited number of radio signals that exist to trick a garage door into opening. With the right kind of tool, this is quite easy.
In Los Angeles, there was a rash of, “Code grabbers” opening garages, strolling in and then rifling through all the valuables in houses, easily taking-off with thousands of dollars worth of coats, jewelry, camera gear, and other high-priced items.
It happened in Chicago as well, where hackers first shut-down the security in smart-houses with hacking via WiFi and then using code grabbing devices to pop-open the garage after the risk of being seen on camera had been addressed. Pretty much any city has a story about their garage being hacked because it can be so alarmingly easy to do.
In fact, a, “Good guy” hacker named Samy Kamkar took advantage of these limited radio signals to use an old Mattel toy for text messaging and have it send-out radio signals to a garage until each one was attempted and a garage door opened.
He made it effective enough he could open basically any garage door in under 30 seconds. Because he was ethical and also knew companies wouldn’t do anything unless he took action, Kamkar actually posted the directions for how he did EVERYTHING online and notified garage door companies to force them to take action and fix the security flaws Kamkar identified and exploited. If one man can figure out how to hack almost any garage door that easily, clearly garages can be exploited.
Are all Garage Doors Insecure?
To be frank, there is no such thing as a completely unhackable garage door unless your garage door only opens with a lock and key. However, getting out of your car to unlock and open your garage anytime you get home basically undermines the whole point of having the ease of a garage door.
There are methods to address how insecure or secure your garage door is, however, and make it harder to hack. By taking the proper steps you can take your garage door from being an insecure and appetizing target for hackers to a risky challenge those after a simple robbery will skip instead of risking trouble.
Are Some Garage Doors Easier to Hack Than Others?
Thankfully, not all garage doors are as easy to hack as others. The key to fighting off hackers is to not have simply one, “Fixed code,” and instead have a, “Rolling code.” Having a fixed code means that the same code always opens the garage door.
Therefore, once a hacker figures it out that code will always work. A rolling code (also sometimes called a, “Hopping code,”) changes every time, with the garage door and remote knowing the code has changed, making it harder for a device to easily hack it due to how every time it is opened it changes.
Also, some older garage doors that only have fixed codes or even rolling codes also have an incredibly small number of codes. Newer versions can have a wide range of codes that make hacking a much more complex and lengthy process–something which discourages hackers who are looking for an easy target as opposed to a house they would have to suspiciously stand in front of (or be parked in front of) for hours.
WiFi vs Bluetooth smart garage doors
In theory both are way more secure than traditional remote controlled garage doors with fixed or even rolling codes. That’s because the are software controlled and the software that controls the system can be constantly updated by the companies that make them. For instance if a security flaw is found, then the company could just issue a software patch and the risk would be fixed.
These are the gold standards of security. But lets for arguments sake ask which is more secure. Well the answer is the bluetooth route since it does not communicate over the internet. This makes man in the middle attacks that much more difficult since the hacker would have to be in range of the bluetooth in order to hack your garage.
But even over WiFi the system is extremely secure. I mean we put our credit card details into websites all the time and that’s over WiFi. The risk so extremely low compared to traditional remote controlled garage doors (that we’ll look at in the next section) Here’s my attempt at a diagram on how a potential hack over WiFi could occur.
What Garage Doors are the Hardest to Hack and How Can I Protect My Garge Door?
The more security features you have for your garage and the newer/more updated they are, the harder your garage will be to hack. By making sure you have a newer version of rolling codes you are one-up over fixed code garage doors.
Adding another feature such as an additional electronic lock basically doubles your protection and just requires an extra button. Having a smart-garage can be wise too, although then you need to ensure your WiFi has a number of strong protections, or else you very well could have bought something that costs more than a standard garage door opener, but is easier to hack due to a lack of encryption.
Determing How Easy to Hack Your Garge Door Opener May Be
In order to know how secure you are, you want to know if you have a fixed code or rolling code. First of all, rolling codes were not introduced to the market until 1995. Therefore, if your garage is older than that, you are guaranteed to have a fixed code version.
Rolling codes did not really catch on until within the past 10-15 years, so even if your garage is from around 2000-2005 there are still good odds you have a fixed code. Generally, you can tell what kind you have simply by examining your opener or its remote and noting the brand.
Once you know the brand, looking online for what models are fixed code versus rolling code is a cinch. For example, if you see you have a, “Genie,” brand opener it will say, “Intellicode,” if it features a rolling code, or a, “Master,” brand opener will feature the wording, “Security+,” if it has a rolling code.
Once you know what kind of garage door opener you have, that will assist you in being aware of how many more steps you may need to take to improve your security. If you have a much newer garage door opener that is smart/connected to WiFi, then the focus is not having fixed or rolling codes, but having a strong network with powerful encryption to keep hackers out. No matter if you’re using radio signals or WiFi, you need to focus on security!
What Can I Do If My Garage Door Gets Hacked?
Should your garage door be hacked that does not mean all hope is lost. Generally, thieves are looking for easy targets that won’t pose too much difficulty or catch them on camera. Having a security camera visible within your garage as soon as it opens can scare away a potential hacker who doesn’t want to deal with the risk that they could be recorded.
In addition, if there is nothing especially valuable in your garage that helps prevent the risk of a thief trying to quickly hack in, grab some items, and get out. As tempting as it may be to store excess items of some value in the garage (like power tools), anything both small and of value should probably be kept in your house.
Speaking of your house, one simple way to stop too much from being stolen if your garage door is hacked is to make sure the door to your garage is locked. Having a locked door that can’t easily be lockpicked or kicked-down can also serve as a deterrent to someone who wants to simply hack a garage and have it be easy to grab whatever valuables they easily spot.
Simply put, the harder you make it to get anything after having your garage hacked, the more likely a hacker looking for an easy score will move on instead of risking getting caught or being too loud addressing other obstacles.
In Closing: Keep Your Garage Door as Secure as you Can!
Anything that uses radio signals or the internet such as a regular garage door or, “Smart,” garage door can be hacked. You can take steps to be safer, however. If you buy more modern garage door openers (should you have an outdated model) that is one major step to be safer. Adding on other safety features like electronic locks or security cameras is a smart choice as well.
Make your garage as difficult a hacking target as possible and then if it even should be hacked, take steps to avoid making yourself more at risk–keep your garage free of easy-to-steal and valuable objects (besides just your car), and always have the door to your house within your garage locked.
This piece has made it clear that while your garage door can be hacked, it doesn’t have to be. Keep your garage door as secure as you possibly can so that instead of looking like a tantalizing option for hackers, you appear to be a risk not worth bothering with for thieves after an easy target. At the end of the day, the, “Name of the game,” is safety and security.
Please share this article to others if you found it useful! I’d really appreciate it as it takes time and research to put these articles together.
All the best Steve.