Secure Your Garage this Holiday Season

Posted on December 14, 2015 by Toni Mason

The holidays are upon us, and many homeowners are planning a few days or even weeks away from the house. Some are spending time away with family; others are visiting extended family; and still others are just getting away from it all while the office is closed. But regardless of the reason that you’re stepping away from the home for a few days, it’s worth asking yourself if your garage door is properly secured.

In this post, we’re going to offer a few tips about garage security and how to protect from burglary or vandalism while you’re away. But before we get into that, let’s take a look at a garage-door risk that most homeowners aren’t aware of to begin with: hackers.

Hacking Automatic Garage Doors

When you think of hacking a security system, you’re probably envisioning some sort of secure network with an Internet connection and a firewall. What’s at risk? In most cases, it’s account information, sensitive log-ins and personal data. What you may not realise is that your brick-and-mortar systems may be vulnerable as well, especially if operated with a remote control.

Hacking a remote-controlled TV set is one thing. But if a hacker gains access to your automatic garage door, the stakes are a bit higher. Most garages contain expensive tools, not to mention a car or two. This isn’t a space you want to provide easy access to.

Earlier this year, science researcher and YouTuber, Samy Kamkar, demonstrated how he could hack an automatic garage door with a modified children’s toy. The hack works on garage doors with basic 8-12 bit security codes by bombarding the sensor with a series of potential codes with the hopes of eventually hitting the right combination.

In the given scenario, there about more than 4,000 code combinations, which sounds like a lot. But a modified transmitter (like the aforementioned children’s toy) can run through all possible combinations relatively quickly.

It’s generally older garage security door systems that are vulnerable, as newer models feature a rolling code system which selects a new code (out of a pool of billions) every time the door is open. The odds of cracking one code out of billions with a brute force attack are, well, at least one in a billion.

This is an important (and often overlooked) reason to insist on purchasing your garage door system through a reputable dealer offering the latest models with tight security. And, of course, if you have any questions about your current model, contact your garage door specialists for information.

garage security

Keeping Your Garage Safe

While getting hacked may be one of the more noteworthy security risks for a garage, there are plenty of old-fashioned ways to break in as well. Here are a few additional tips for securing your garage while away: 

Install Smart Lighting
Motion lights around the exterior of your garage will deprive would-be burglars of the luxury of darkness. As soon as they approach the area, it’s immediately bathed in light. In addition to that, set the interior lights up on a timer so that they periodically turn on and off. This makes it look like you might be home, and is usually enough to deter a break-in. 

Install Strong Locks
When a burglar sees a garage door, they’re likely to consider it one of their most likely points of entry. A well-secured door is difficult to break into, but the fact remains that far too many homeowners are lax when it comes to installing locks for garage security. When you’re going to be away for an extended period, begin by disabling the electric opener. Follow up with a bolt through a hole in the track or a padlock on the door latch. With that done, a burglar is going to have an easier time kicking in your front door or breaking a window. In other words, they’ll pass over your house for the next one.  

Secure Your Windows
Not all garages have windows. But for those that do, this is usually the weakest link in security. Installing metal bars inside make the windows more difficult to penetrate. It’s also worthwhile to add shades, blinds or even a window film so that anyone looking in from the outside cannot see what’s inside. In many cases, burglars are enticed to keep trying to break in when they can see a specific prize they would like to take home. Blocking their line of sight is an effective deterrent in itself.  

Keep an Eye Out with CCTV
Mounting a security camera around your garage allows you to keep an eye on what is happening, at least in hindsight. However, most modern security systems also allow you to check in via your smart phone in real time, allowing you to notify the authorities if a burglary is currently going down. And if you don’t have proper security system, it’s even possible to turn an old smart phone into an ad hoc CCTV system.

Join Forces with Your Neighbours
Nothing compares to the power of a neighbourhood coalition. At bare minimum, a trusted neighbour will probably be willing to look in on your house from time to time, especially if you are standing by to do the same for them when they’re out of town. If you are going to be away for an extended period of time, you may also consider asking them to park a car in your drive from time to time, or even shovel your walkway if it snows. The last one is admittedly a big request, but if you’re on good terms with those in your neighbourhood, and don’t mind returning the favour, it can probably be arranged.

In the grand scheme of things, burglaries are relatively rare. But securing your garage before you strike out on holiday grants you and your family peace of mind. There’s much to be said for knowing that your property is safe and secure while you’re away. That, in turn, gives you the chance to relax and enjoy one another’s company, which is really what the holidays are all about.