Many of us rely on the convenience of wireless garage door openers and car remote controls almost every day. There’s no better feeling than being able to open your car or garage from several feet away with the simple press of a button.
However, these same wireless controls may be giving hackers and burglars an easy way into our homes and cars.
Samy Kamkar, the security researcher who in June discovered a way to hack into garage door openers with a children’s toy, recently built a $32 device capable of intercepting and stealing the wireless codes responsible for opening keyless garages and car doors.
According to an August 10 Gizmodo article, Kamkar’s RollJam device works not through code-cracking or decryption, but through deception.
When placed in the vicinity of the targeted home or car, the RollJam — a tiny, easily-hidden gadget — mysteriously prevents the victim from unlocking the garage or car door on the first attempt. On the second try, the victim is able to successfully unlock the garage or car door, but only because the RollJam is sending the code it captured to the door. Once the device has this code, the RollJam can open that door at any time in the future.
Because the RollJam can be left running for days, hackers would be able to steal the security codes of our car and garage doors with stunning convenience and ease. The ease with which hackers can gain entrance to garages is troubling, especially when about 82% of homes in the U.S. have a two-car garage or larger — and nearly everyone these days drives a car with a remote-controlled lock system.
Kamkar said that his device can break into “Nissan, Cadillac, Ford, Toyota, Lotus, Volkswagen, and Chrysler vehicles, as well as Cobra and Viper alarm systems and Genie and Liftmaster garage door openers,” and that he “estimates that millions of vehicles and garage doors may be vulnerable.”
To make cars and garage doors more secure, Kamkar explained, manufacturers will need to develop car door and garage door openers whose codes time out after a short period of time. The security of our homes and vehicles depends on it, he said.