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Can burglars interfere with your wireless security system?


Colin West McDonald / CNET

Any product that promises to protect your home deserves more in-depth consideration. It is therefore not surprising that you find many strong opinions on the potential weaknesses of common home security systems. After all, Home Security is a kind of chess game ̵

1; you want your system to be as advanced as possible to the bad guys.

One of the main problems with home security is whether or not a particular system is prone to blocking work altogether. With wired configurations, it is feared that a burglar could shut down your system or prevent the authorities from being notified by simply cutting off the right cable.

Read more: Intelligent Security Systems with Best Data Protection Techniques

Wirelessly attach battery-powered sensors to your home that keep an eye on windows, doors, motion, and more. If they detect a problem while activating the system, they send a wireless alert to a base station, which then triggers the alarm. This approach eliminates most cable cutting issues – but what about the Funkanal, the noise? If the right device is tuned to the right frequency, what can prevent a thief from disrupting your set-up and preventing the warning signal from ever reaching the base station?

As already mentioned, the likelihood of such an attack being made on you is low. – successful or different – but let's look at the facts.

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Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Wireless Jamming 101

Problems with disruption are nothing new and can not be found only in security systems. Any device designed to receive a radio signal at a particular frequency may be overwhelmed by a stronger signal coming in at the same frequency. For comparison, suppose you wanted to "disturb" a conversation between two people – all you have to do is yell in the ear of the listener.

In order to disturb a radio, you need to know both the transmission frequency and the correct frequency devices in order to disturb this frequency. It also requires criminal intentions because jamming is highly illegal. Buying or selling these devices without the proper certifications is often illegal.

Security devices must list the frequencies on which they air – meaning that a potential thief can find what he needs to know with minimal Google effort. However, you must know which system you are looking for. If you have a sign in your garden indicating which setup you are using, it would lead you in the right direction. At this point, however, we are talking about a highly targeted, semi-sophisticated attack rather than a kind of forced attack. Burglary attack that accounts for the majority of burglaries.

It is easier for some frequencies to find and source jamming equipment than for others. For example, there are a lot of common radios that transmit in the 400 MHz range, which makes it easier to find something off the rack that interferes with those frequencies.

  simplisafe rf interference-in-event-log. jpg

Some systems use software to detect deliberate RF interference.

Screenshot of Ry Crist / CNET


Wireless security providers often take action to combat the threat of congestion. For example, SimpliSafe uses a two-time winner of our Editor's Choice award, a proprietary algorithm that can separate random RF interference from targeted interference attacks. If the system feels it is jammed, you will be notified by a push alert on your phone. From there, you must trigger the alarm manually.

We tested this disruptive algorithm as early as 2015 after security researchers expressed concerns that the system was vulnerable to such attacks. These concerns recently surfaced after a security researcher posted a video on YouTube showing how someone could disrupt the signal of a SimpliSafe contact sensor with a cheap radio transmitter to the SimpliSafe base station.

Having taken appropriate measures to limit RF interference to our base station In the test lab, we tested the attack ourselves and were able to verify that it was possible with the right equipment. However, we also checked that SimpliSafe's anti-jamming algorithm works. It caught us in the act, sent a warning to my smartphone and also listed our radio interference in the event log of the system.

We were able to block SimpliSafe sensors, but the system detected this and sent us a warning.

Screenshot of Ry Crist / CNET

We like the proprietary nature of this software. This means that a thief would probably not be able to verify the algorithm's operation and then find a way out. Even if this were possible, SimpliSafe informed us in 2015 that the algorithm is constantly evolving and changing slightly from system to system, which means that there is no universal magic formula for cracking. I've tried to ask for the latest anti-pinch information from the company, and will update this area when I hear something.

A plausibility issue

An entrapment attack is absolutely possible. As already mentioned, with the right equipment and the right know-how, any wireless transmission can be disturbed. But how plausible is it that someone successfully invades your home and steals your belongings?

Imagine you live in a small house with a wireless security setup that provides a working anti-jamming algorithm like the one we tested from SimpliSafe. First, a thief must target your home, especially. Then he needs to know the technical details of your system and acquire the special equipment needed to block your specific setup.

Presumably you keep your doors locked at night and during your absence, so the thief still has to break in. That means somehow defeating the castle or breaking a window. He must bother you at this point, as a broken window or door would normally trigger the alarm. Likewise, the motion detectors would be in your house, so the thief must continue jamming as soon as he's inside looking for things he can steal. However, he has to do this without triggering the anti-jamming algorithm, on the details of which he almost certainly will not have access.

There is no exact data on how often jamming is used as a break-in technique. But when you begin to think about the practice in such real-world terms, it becomes much easier to get involved in the idea that intrusion attacks are extremely rare. It's hard to imagine that our hypothetical burglar would choose a house without a security system instead.


By far the most likely burglary scenario is the unaffected crime of occasions when normally a window or window is broken another type of brute-force entry. According to the FBI, in 2017, more than half of all US housing spills were accounted for by such crimes. The vast majority of the rest were illegal, informal immigrants due to the fact that a window or a garage door was left open. The likelihood of a criminal handling a security system by technical means is so low that the FBI does not even track it.

Ultimately, home security systems are primarily designed to protect against opportunistic attacks that make up the majority of burglaries. You are also just a single shift in an approach that should ideally be diverse to secure your home. These include sensible things like sturdy locks and good outdoor lighting at night.

No system is impenetrable and no one can promise Eliminate the worst-case scenario immediately. Each of them has vulnerabilities that a knowledgeable thief could theoretically exploit. A good system is one that makes the worst case scenario as unrealistic as possible, while providing robust protection in the event of a less extraordinary attack. For my money, well-designed systems that are smart enough to detect when jammed will meet this standard.

$ 179

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