Unfortunately, there is the potential for almost any connected electrical device to be hacked, from your home gaming system to the latest generation of automobiles. You may have seen or heard about hackers being able to activate garage door openers, giving thieves easy access to your home. There are also reports of clever thieves modifying other transmitters, even children’s toys, to activate your garage door. But is that still a risk?
Your Garage Door Motor
The average garage door uses around a 6-MP, 1/2 HP motor that’s more than capable of pulling a door on it’s rollers up and down the door’s guide track. Often these motors use DC power instead of household AC by means of a simple inverter. For a remotely activated door, a radio signal is transmitted to a receiver is built into the motor. When the receiver detects the right signal code, the motor turns on and raises the door by means of a chain or gears.
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DIP Switch System
Originally, one remote could open almost any door. To add security, garage door manufacturers began using a DIP switches. This is a series of electrical switches that have to all be set in order for the entire circuit to be complete and the motor activated. A different DIP switch was created for each motor manufactured. In the 1970s, there were 256 separate codes. But by the 1980s, there were usually 12 DIP switches, giving 4,096 possible codes. So it was a pretty safe bet that nobody would be able to guess your code.
However, computers changed all that. By 1993, it was possible to create a transmitter on a loop that could send all 4,096 codes and stumble upon the right one within minutes. Garage door manufacturers quickly came up with a solution using newer technologies. Remote switches began sending a signal where a binary code is built into the transmission. Using just a small computer chip, this makes billions of random codes possible.
It was still possible for someone with the right tech to intercept and record the binary code. So remotes now create a new code each time it’s used, called a rolling code. The receivers on the motors were also embedded with a chip that uses the same algorithm to create new codes, so the two are always in sync. The odds or any hacker being able to anticipate the right code at the right time are virtually zero. However, it is still possible to hack your garage door opener if they have physical access to it. Keep garage access closed and locked when not in use.
All new garage door openers use rolling codes. If you have an outdated garage door system, upgrade to the new technology as soon as possible.
By Dixie Somers