Can A Thief Really Jam Your Alarm System?
Updated: Sep 12, 2022
How to stop wifi jammer attacks on home security systems
A news story from Queens, New York went viral recently that showed a burglar sliding across the floor holding some sort of device. The story speculated that the device was thought to be a wifi jammer. The jammer was being used to shut down the home’s wifi network and devices rendering the home alarm system offline and unable to detect his presence.
Is this even possible? Yes, yes it is.
So what is a wifi jammer?
In general, these jamming devices generate a frequency that creates noise on the spectrums that operate on 3G, 4G, 5G, cordless, and wifi networks. Basically, all of them.
All of this noise blocks devices from using those frequencies to operate as normal. This also means that emergency networks used for first responders are also blocked, which is why these are illegal. But they are made on the black market and you can of course build your own. Don’t Google how to do that, because you’ll end up on a watchlist.
So a jammer creates its own noise that hogs the frequencies our devices use to stop them from working. Because these are frequencies being generated, they spread out from the jammer and can block tons of devices, even the ones that the user isn’t targeting.
After learning this, do you think that this will block your phones, alarm sensors, alarm base station, smart locks, and wifi cameras? Yep, it sure can.
Now you might be wondering, “Hey, Andy my alarm system has cellular back up for when the wifi goes down. Won’t that still work? No, because the sensors will not be able to communicate with the base station. Remember these jammers also block mobile spectrums, so your base station won’t be able to call out over wifi or a cellular network.
Deauth Attacks On Wireless Cameras
In related news, you might see reports of thieves using technology to "jam" wifi cameras. In these cases, thieves could be using jammer but most likely they’re using readily available deauther.
Deauthers don’t jam your devices. Instead, it’s like a denial of service attack that sends a fraudulent disconnect signal through your network that will keep devices from connecting and reconnecting to that network. A deauthorization frame is used by wifi networks to remove unwanted devices.
And yes, the wifi just executes the command, no questions asked. Seems like an obvious issue, right?
Now you need to know that these deauth attacks from an ESP8266 chipset work on the 2.4 giga-hertz networks. That means if you use the 5 giga-hertz, you’ll be unaffected by this type of attack.
But most smart home devices work on 2.4 GHz because it’s been the industry standard for so long and it can reach further than the 5 GHz networks. And older routers can only use 2.4 GHz.
Many new routers are dual-band meaning they can do both 2.4 and 5. For example on my phone, if the 2.4 GHz band goes out, my phone will search for other known wifi networks and will switch to my 5 GHz band and keep going. So if a security device can use the 5 giga-hertz, then do it.
But in doing my research did discover that 5 giga-hertz networks can be attacked as well, it’s just not as easy as buying a deauth watch on Amazon. Oh, yes you can buy these devices on Amazon for about $35. And wear them like a watch.
You can buy them on Amazon under the pretense that these are only used for ethical activities. So you know criminals will abide by that, right?
So Is there even a good use for these devices? Yes, finding and stopping hidden cameras in a hotel room or an Airbnb. So you could use this type of device to keep yourself safe on the road, so you might want to look into it for that reason.
How To Stop Wifi Jammer and Deauth Attacks
Now that we know what these types of attacks are and what they do, how do we stop them? Do you remember how I’ve told you for a long time that you should not put the alarm company branded sign in your yard?
This is why. When you tell criminals what you use to protect your home, they can use the exploits against you. It’s not hard to find out which companies use the 2.4 GHz band.
When buying new smart home devices, look for ones that are dual-band or work on the 5 gigahertz. I’ve also read that W-P-A 3 security will prevent these sorts of attacks, but that’s not definitive as far as I can tell as a noob. Now, any wireless alarm system will be susceptible to a jammer attack, there seems to be no way around that for now.
Of course, you can go old school and get a fully wired home alarm system that runs off of a landline. If there are no wireless parts, then you should be good.
Security Cameras With SD Card Storage
Many companies like Ring have cameras that use local storage. This means that if the wifi goes down and cloud storage isn’t an option, then these cameras use local storage to record clips. You won’t get a notification, but you can check the SD card in the camera itself for the footage.
If you are heavily invested in a wifi camera system, then you can add a cheap local storage camera to your home as a backup. This way if you are hit with a jammer or deauth attack, one camera will still be getting footage. But if the attackers spot the camera, they can smash it and take it with them.
But the biggest lesson for us today is this: Do not rely on technology to protect your home.
If my alarm and cameras go down, my home is still secure because of the physical deterrents and fortifications I’ve made to it. Alarms and cameras are nice, but unless you have something that can physically protect you, you’re not really safe.
So if you are reading this and your only line of home defense is a camera, then you need to take action now to protect your home. You are not as safe as you think you are.
To help you, start with The Secure Dad 5 Day challenge. In that challenge, I don’t talk about any technology at all. What I share are real solutions that will protect your home.