[Update] Please see the updated statement from SimpliSafe at the bottom of this article
Hearing that your home alarm system is less-than-stellar isn't exactly a comforting measure, but that's exactly what a video uploaded to YouTube seems to suggest about SimpliSafe's alarm system design. For background, SimpliSafe is one of the largest self-install monitoring systems in the US and includes the ability to have your home centrally monitored by a professional monitoring company.
Let's also get this out of the way before continuing: the test performed in this video is very specific, and it requires knowledge that the common criminal would likely not have. The issue at hand here is that all the information needed to bypass the alarm mechanism in the video was obtained via public FCC filing info that anyone can look up. It also costs less than the price of a Whopper to perform this trick, but since it's a very specific method, you might not have to worry about it actually taking place if you use SimpliSafe in your home.
Here's how a theoretical situation could go down.
Someone staking out your neighborhood notices your SimpliSafe sign in the yard and the accompanying stickers attached to the windows on your home. They take a quick gander at the official Federal Communications Commission website and look up the frequencies that SimpliSafe has legally been registered to use. It just so happens to be that SimpliSafe utilizes the same 433MHz frequency that tons of consumer electronics use, including baby monitors, garage door openers, and many other wireless home gadgets.
This frequency can also be used by handheld Amateur Radio devices, a key factor in the equation.
The idea here is that the window and door sensors all transmit back to the base station at 433MHz, but it's done at such a low power rating (milliwatts) that many other types of electronics in this range could easily override it if they were close enough to the sensor. Since a handheld radio is likely using several watts of power, it could easily overpower the window/door sensor by "scrambling" its frequency so that the base station cannot understand the open/close commands.
A few dollars will buy a 433MHz universal RF remote that's designed to replace that broken garage door opener, but just so happens to be more powerful than the window/door sensors that come with a SimpliSafe system. Even without a more powerful and expensive handheld radio, that little handheld remote was able to trick the base station into not understanding the "door" in the example was opened, and never triggered an alarm, even on an armed system.
SimpliSafe officially states that this particular test was done on the exact power level and range required to fool the system, but it still raises a few eyebrows since it could be replicated, albeit in a very precise way. When the base station detects an interference like this, it can be set up to send users a text message advising them that something is interfering with their security system. Normally this means a baby monitor or someone's garage door opener going crazy, but having cameras to view the home in case of this type of situation is certainly a strong advisement for consumers.
It also brings up the question of whether advertising your alarm system to potential burglars is even a good idea in the first place. Since this entire experiment was devised by simply searching publicly filed FCC records, it's not unreasonable to expect a clever burglar to do the same thing if they see those signs in your yard.
Moral of the story? Publicly accessible information is always a concern. Whether it's checking in at a restaurant and letting the whole world know you aren't home for a while isn't the best practice in the world, and advertising your exact brand of wireless security system probably isn't too smart either. Cameras help, too, whether that's a video doorbell camera, a set of perimeter cameras, or even cameras you keep in entryways or elsewhere in your home. You can find the video experiment in full below.
Statement from SimpliSafe:
Currently, if the system detects interference, it alerts our customer and also triggers video recording.
We are in the process of another round of detection algorithm tuning which will continue to refine our ability to differentiate between brief interference noise and bad actors. This update is currently in beta and will be released remotely in a month or so.
SimpliSafe already offers video verification — an opt-in service where, in the event of an alarm, our professional monitoring center views video from your home, prioritizing it for the police. This enhances police response times when real alarm events are in progress, and cuts down on false alarms and unnecessary police dispatches. In the near future, we will offer video verification for potential interference events, where experts at our monitoring center can review footage and determine if police dispatch is warranted.
We want to emphasize that this type of attack is not a reliable or effective way to break into homes. In our decade of experience protecting people, we have never heard of anyone attempting — let alone successfully pulling off — a break-in this way.Advertisement