Vulnerabilities in Garage Door Openers: How the Bad Guys Get In

Garage Security

Garage door openers have become a tool of convenience for most homeowners. Nowadays, it is rare to find a homeowner manually lifting open their garage door, as garage door openers are widely used and installed by default in most newly constructed homes. A garage door gives burglars another way to get into your home. Unlike with doors or windows, burglars attempting to enter your home through a garage door have one of two options, the wireless signal used to open the garage, or the garage door keypad.

The Remote

The remote that comes with your garage door opener emits a wireless signal to open your garage. The signal sends a special code to your garage door opener which authenticates you as the homeowner, and causes the garage door to open. Although this signal does not travel far, it is possible for a burglar to intercept the signal if they are standing nearby when you press the button on your remote, or if they have access to the remote for a short period of time. Garage door remote duplicators are widely available at many electronics and home goods stores, so the burglar does not need to be highly technical, and can buy these tools easily and legally.

The Keypad

A keypad is also available with most garage door opener systems. This keypad is typically placed outside the garage and is used to open the garage if the homeowner locks themselves out of the house. The keypad opens the garage when the homeowner enters a PIN number that is set up during installation.

Rolling Code Garage Door Opener Technology

Protecting Your Garage Door

Here are a few ways you can protect yourself from burglars that are looking to use your garage door opener to enter your home:

  1. When buying a garage door opener, look for one that has Rolling Code technology. This is a feature commonly found in newer garage door openers. A Rolling Code automatically changes the code in the wireless signal each time you use your wireless garage door opener. This ensures that burglars cannot open the garage door even if they intercept the signal.
  2. Never leave the remote to your garage door opener unattended. This includes taking the remote with you when using services such as valet parking, or lending your car to a friend or family member. If someone with ill intent has access to the remote they can capture the signal and use it in the future to open your garage door without your knowledge.
  3. Pick a complex code for your garage door keypad. Burglars often try common PINs such as “1234” or “1111”. Pick something that no one can guess. If your keypad comes with a default code from the factory, make sure to change it as soon as possible. Factory set PIN codes are often the same across the company’s products and they can be easily looked up online.
  4. Consider not installing the keypad unless you really need it. If you find that you don’t often use the keypad, it may be a good idea to have it removed. It’s one less thing to worry about and one less way for a burglar to gain access to your home.
  5. Disable the garage door opener when you go away on vacation. If you don’t intend on using the garage door for an extended period of time, consider turning it off until you get back.

A Couple of Non-Tech Tips

Burglars will break into cars to get the garage door opener, knowing that few people lock the door that leads from the garage into their house. If you are parking your car in a public place, it’s a good idea to lock the garage door opener in the glove compartment or console, where it can’t be seen. If you are parking in your own driveway, take your opener inside the house with you. My car was once broken into in my own neighborhood, in a very safe neighborhood. They stole the radio faceplate and a tablet. We think it was teenagers and not burglars, but I never leave my car unlocked in my own driveway since then. Of course, if you park your car in the garage, you should be safe leaving the opener on the visor.

And then again, if you have an automatic garage door opener, there are ways your garage door can be easily broken into – in 6 seconds. Several “regular” people have tried, for the first time, and were able to do it in 20 seconds. And once a burglar is in your garage, they can often walk right into your home, either because the door into the home has no lock, or is usually left unlocked. There’s a fairly simple fix for this, which you can see in the following video.

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