The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) has introduced security risks to previously isolated devices like garage door openers. Connecting openers to the internet for remote access convenience also opens the door to potential cyber-attacks. This article explores in-depth best practices for securing internet-connected garage door openers.
How Traditional Garage Door Openers Work
Most residential garage door openers use a rolling code system called KeeLoq to encrypt wireless signals between the opener and remotes. Here is how they work:
- The opener and remote control each have a unique cryptographic key and counter.
- When syncing a remote, it begins generating a sequence of encryption codes based on its key and counter. This sequence matches the opener’s.
- Pressing the remote’s open button increments its counter, generates a new encrypted code, and wirelessly transmits it to the opener.
- The opener checks received codes against the next 256 codes in its queue based on its counter.
- If a match, the opener increments its counter and opens the door.
- Keypads mounted outside the garage work similarly by syncing with the opener and then transmitting a code when the password is entered.
The encryption provides protection against replay attacks or code grabbers. The rolling nature prevents captured codes from working again later.
Security Risks of Internet-Connected Openers
While traditional openers are reasonably secure against local attacks, connecting them to the internet introduces risks of large-scale exploits:
- Mass attacks: If a cloud service used by an opener manufacturer is hacked, attackers could gain the ability to send open commands to any connected garage door.
- Account compromises: A breach exposing user credentials for a cloud account allows attackers to look up associated home addresses and access those doors.
- Insecure defaults: Companies inexperienced with security often enable insecure remote access and authentication by default.
- Central point of failure: Cloud services introduce a single point of failure for authentication, app connectivity, and server availability.
Additionally, cloud-connected openers rely on home WiFi security. Poor WiFi passwords or outdated routers put the opener at risk.
Securing Your Internet-Connected Opener
Here are the best practices for securing an internet-connected garage door opener:
Use a Unique Password
- The cloud account used to control the opener should have a strong, unique password.
- Common or reused passwords are easily guessed through brute-force attacks.
- A weak master password puts all users of that cloud service at risk.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
- Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring both a password and a one-time code from an authenticator app or SMS.
- This helps prevent unauthorized access to the account even if the master password is compromised.
Be Cautious of Password Reset Options
- Resetting passwords via email introduces risk if the associated email account is hacked.
- Resetting through security questions is also problematic as the answers are often easy to find or guess.
- Requiring physical proximity to the opener itself proves possession during reset.
Isolate Your Opener on a Separate Network
- Place your opener on its own WiFi network, separate from other smart home devices.
- This limits the attack surface in case any of your other internet-connected devices are compromised.
Update Firmware and Applications
- Make sure to promptly install any security patches and firmware updates for the opener.
- Also, update any apps used to control the opener to the latest versions.
- Updates fix vulnerabilities and improve protections.
Limit User Access and Permissions
- Only provide remote access to users who need to regularly control the door.
- Restrict administrative privileges to modify settings and add users only to the main account owner.
- Use auto-expiring links or time-limited permissions for temporary access.
Use Alerts Judiciously
- Focus alerts on anomalous events like new users added or activity during nighttime rather than routine open/close notifications.
- Get notified only if something out of the ordinary happens.
Internet-connected garage door openers offer convenience through remote access but also introduce new cybersecurity risks if not properly secured. Follow the recommendations provided to minimize threats while still enjoying the benefits. Additionally, leverage trustworthy brands with reputations for prioritizing safety and security in their products. Stay vigilant about new threats as this technology evolves. Your smart home is only as secure as its weakest device.