General

Your Home Security System Isn’t as Secure as You Think

Burglar reaching through a door with a chain lock

According to the FBI, a home burglary occurs every 13 seconds. These criminals tend to be desperate people looking to steal things they can turn into quick cash. They look for items such as jewelry, small electronics and credit cards that they can easily sell on the black market. Sadly, there isn’t much to stop these thieves from breaking in—only 17% of homes have a working home security system installed.

Moreover, criminals are becoming more brazen and dangerous these days—choosing to rob even those houses with an alarm system. In fact, many nationwide security companies are finding that their systems can be hacked with just a little bit of work. Big companies like ADT, Comcast, and Vivint have had technology issues exposed.

Nowadays, most security systems are tied to the internet instead of using a telephone landline. An internet-based system allows you to add other technology features to your alarm setup.

For example, you could add smart locks, light bulbs, and a thermostat. Then, you can control all these components from your smartphone. Despite all of this fancy technology, criminals could still hack your system. And it’s not very difficult to do.

First, let’s review how a basic home security system works. Most systems on the market today operate the same way, using sensors on the doors and windows that communicate with the home base system. If the signal from one of the sensors is broken, the alarm will sound.

Burglars do not like to be in the spotlight. Keep your house well lit.
Burglars do not like to be in the spotlight. Keep your house well lit.

The problem with this type of system is the radio signal the hardware uses to communicate can be easily disrupted. A criminal could simply order an inexpensive radio jammer from a company overseas and have it shipped to the U.S. Then, all they’d have to do is, find the frequency that your security company operates at, and they could jam the signal. The alarm would never go off.

Using radio signals probably sounds outdated, but security companies haven’t had a reason to change this technology, because it was never an issue… until now. To address this flaw, most of the major home security providers claim to have added anti-jamming software to their systems. However, during testing, many hackers say the jamming technique still works.

In fact, one company admitted that their anti-jamming software only alerted the homeowner to an issue with the security system and didn’t actually set off the alarm. Despite this, installing a home security system is still a good idea.

Shadow of a burglar through the sheer curtains of the window.
Burglaries in the home can happen at any time

Here’s are a few more things you can do to make your house less appealing to burglars:

Place a large dog bowl near your back door.

Criminals are terrified of dogs. If they see the dog bowl, they’ll move on to a dog-free neighbor’s house.

Install motion-sensor lights around your home.

First, take a walk around your home at night and locate all of the “dark spots” so you know how many lights to buy and where you need to put them.

Reinforce the locks on your doors and windows.

Put a wooden bar along the floor track of your sliding glass door. Smaller wooden pieces can go in the bottom of window tracks or along the inside of window frames.

Remember, any home security system has its flaws. You should always have a backup plan to protect yourself if you’re home when a break-in occurs.

Mine happens to be a gun (Sig Sauer P226). Yours might be a gun, knife, baseball bat, or something else. Whatever it is, don’t rely solely on your home security system to protect you.

What kind of home security system do you have or what security measures do you employ? Share your answers in the comment section.


Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author of Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life. To get a free copy of his book, visit www.SpyEscape.com.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (28)

  1. Forget the wireless stuff,,, All the sensors in my homes are hard wired and can’t be defeated. In addition to the standard loud buzzer inside the house I have a extremely loud,,, can be heard for blocks away,,, very annoying siren hidden up on my roof. Also,,, several red strobe lights are placed around the perimeter of the house which begin to flash when the alarm system is triggered. This makes it easy for authorities to find the place.
    My house is monitored thru a cell phone network, so cutting the phone line defeats absolutely nothing. By law in many places monitoring stations are required to attempt to contact the subject home by phone before calling the authorities. My monitoring service has been instructed to call and only ring the phone one time, hang up and then immediately call the police.
    My wife and I are both highly trained shooters. we are both armed with laser and strobe equipped high capacity guns and also have backup guns immediately available incase of a weapons failure. Lastly, we sleep in separate rooms at opposite ends of the house. So,,, if anyone is crazy enough to try a home invasion on us they run the risk of being shot at from multiple locations. I know this sounds rather radical to a lot of folks, but hopefully you might find some of these ideas useful.

  2. ** ACCORDING TO FBI:

    – STORM DOORS – Front -and- Back – reduce the chance of ur home being hit – by 80%!! CRIMINALS HATE STORM DOORS. Install AT LEAST “Medium” Security Quality.

    Since the majority [of criminals] love to kick-in front/back doors – STORMDOORS make it too much work! They then simply look towards ur neighbor – who DOESNT have Stormdoors!!!!!!
    – 80% LESS LIKELY!!
    – 20% of the time: windows. Put locks/alarms on…

    ** THE BEST GUNFIGHT? THE ONE(s) U NEVER GET IN! SEND THEM ELSEWHERE! DETERRENTS WORK!!!!!!

  3. Think mine id pretty good, have a 100 lb German Shepherd 14 outside security cameras, an am armed. 2 of the cameras send info to remote website, dog does not let anyone he does not know in the area, driveway is 1/8 mile up the side of a mountain, night time very dark closest neighbor is almost 1/4 mile. dog hears when someone turns onto driveway, and he has chased off bears & other wild life, and you don’t dare get out of your car near the house.an you are on camera the full time. So don’t worry about anyone stupid enough to try this house

  4. The best combination I found: Lasershield (phone line based) Burglar Bomb Interceptor (infrared triggered oc spray), a K9 and a Mossberg 500 loaded with bird-shot. The oc spray will cover a 2500 sq home in merely seconds, creating a very unfriendly environment and self dissolves after about 4 hrs without any residue or windows opened. It airs out in minutes if windows are opened and fan is on. Does not hurt pets. Little pricey, but ultimate piece of mind!

    1. OC BOMB? … HELLLLLLLLLL NO!! OC/CS, etc… CORROSIVE!!

      Everything that comes in contact with – electronics (TV, STEREO, PHONES, COMPUTERS; Wire… metals of any kind…

      ** INSTANT TRASH!!
      Actual stories out there regarding…
      NO THX! Better methods around.

  5. First level of security is our German Pinscher dog who has a strong bark. Second level are the lights and motion detector lights that light up the house 360 degrees. Third level are Night Lock door stops screwed into the floor to prevent door being kicked in. All door screws replaced with 3 inch long screws, to door frame. Additionally, all doors and windows, to include garage doors are alarmed. Additionally, all windows have wooden dowels in the tracks to prevent opening. Alarm system has glass breakage alarm in case of breaking glass. Motion sensor adds security inside the house. As CCW qualified, I carry 24/7 inside and outside the house to keep from having to run to my firearm if needed. Other weapons, guns, knives and other sharp objects, dot the house in case they are needed. Am I afraid? No. I just wish to live in peace and quiet. Always check to see who is at the door before opening door.

  6. Good idea using a small nylon wire tie!

    We had a recent break-in in our neighborhood where they stole a car that was in the garage, but keys left in.

    In spite of their advertisements, garage door openers provide zero security.

  7. Posting of signs only help those that do not actually have a system or those who are about to be burglarized by a first time burglar. If the signals can be blocked, why warn the thieves?

    1. @ rt66paul,

      Not true. It is a known statistic in law enforcement and through inmate interviews that homes displaying signs are passed over by would be burglars. Their reasoning is there are simply too many other homes without signage to move on to. They say they just don’t have the time or inclination to mess with homes posted that might have an alarm system when so many others don’t.

  8. Due to recent rise in day time burglaries in my town I installed outside cameras around my house hiding the wires in the wall, the main dvr well hidden with a wireless mouse. And had my cable company change where our main cable wire entered the house, to the second floor so the wire couldn’t be cut. Added the cellular option to my home security package. As well as adding more motion lights around the house. Front, back, and lights above the garage are dawn to dusk. And my lab has a vicious bark. You can’t be to safe these days.

  9. Really good comments. Ones I am definitely going to install. We have home security and camera doorbell. I am going to be installing a cam outside as soon as I can get my ladder up there. Another point is get to know your neighbors. My husband and I being retired are usually home. We keep an eye on the neighborhood. We also participate in “Nextdoor”, a neighborhood program where we communicate to all those who are in our neighborhood and agree to join. We can ask if others are having any problems with anything. I’m a lead in Nextdoor and try to keep on top of any issues that surface.

    1. Very good Diane with the exception of the door bell camera. Criminals like those and are very likely to simply steal tat alarm system or go to the back door. In my area they have “Safe Touch” which is like a super “Sonotrol”. “I” have strong dead bolts and TWO dogs, a large black one with very large teeth and bark to intimidate and a small one to bark like crazy until you are off the property and if given a chance will bite you if you are not looking at him. While home I most often a firearm on or very close to me and at worse have one that I can get to quickly if needed and they are both pistol, rifle and shotgun that are close and quickly obtained. I am also an “Expert” qualified NRA Police Pistol Competition who basically do not miss hitting the spot I want and just don’t miss a man-sized target at anything less than 50 yards, even when hurried.

  10. Just putting a bar in the track is only half the solution. You also need to lock the top of the window or door. In addition, the patio door is easy broken by decorative planters, picnic benches etc in your back yard. A partial solution is to get plastic film put on your sliding glass doors. If you do that, be sure that the film goes into the door frame. If you just put the film to the frame and not into the frame it is easy to kick the glass and break it all the way around the frame. I know that from sad experience.

    1. Good point. I also use a layered defense, similar to the moat and drawbridge of days past.. Motion detectors outside, ADT alarms system with passive and active detectors, 2 large dogs and finally, my wife and I are very competent with pistols and shotguns.

  11. Here’s another good tip. Anyone who has ever installed a deadbolt or replaced a door handle, has used those one inch screws they provide in the kits.

    Worst idea ever!

    A solid kick will simply splinter the door jamb and your door will open.

    The fix is to replace those one inch screws with three or four inch screws that go beyond the jamb, and into the 2×4 framing.

    You door can still be kicked open, but it’s going to take a lot more effort, as well as create a hell of a racket, maybe giving you time to prepare a defense.

  12. For the readers feeling they might not be able to make a professional assessment, or who might simply appreciate an Officer’s perspective I would recommend contacting their local law enforcement agency and having an officer come to the residence. The Officer could then take a few minutes with the home owner to make an assessment with them. Many departments, as time allows of course will gladly come to your home and assist you in making your residence safe(r). Having an Officer come out also allows them to make recommendations to the home owner/residents about shrubs, bushes, ill kept fences, outside lighting etc with their trained eye that the home owner simply would not noticed or even thought would have been a concern. Simple observations from an Officer’s trained observations, would be an invaluable asset to the home owner and their family’s. Be alert, know your surroundings and stay safe. Also, if you’re going to carry, then carry at home as well..!!! Just my $.02 worth. :{)

    1. Excellent post Mike! I used to do this myself when I had the time and was able to find the owner outside so I could contact him quickly. Never had a problem with dispatch notifying them I was out with a Homeowner making a security check. Unless it was something serious or that had to be answered quickly they would allow me to do our thing undisturbed. Great PR for the Dept. and cut way back on housebreakings.

  13. Layering is the main takeaway from this article and all the comments. The best advice was, “Don’t rely on just an alarm system to protect yourself.

    You don’t have to dig a moat around your house, but you do need to keep safety and security a current topic.

    I found my power and internet systems extremely vulnerable, so I padlocked, and installed boxes, and steel conduit to prevent an easy bypass by some criminal.

    Do you have an alarm on your garage door? Did you know that openers, touted as a sort of garage door lock can be bypassed with a coat hanger?

    A criminal just pushes his coat hanger through the top center of your door, and snags the emergency door disconnect. Viola! Door opens easily!

    1. You can thread a small nylon cable tie through the garage door disconnect to foil the coat hanger. The cable tie will break if you actually pull hard on the disconnect.

  14. not just a dog bowl but a dog. being old my hearing sight strength are just not what they use to be. my dog is invaluable. my gun varies but i prefer a 40. in pistol. an AK or AR and of course a 12 gauge shotgun with buck shot. if a have time my shotgun would be my saiga 12. mag reloads are quicker. my pistol is only for when i cannot or do not have a rifle or shotgun.

  15. As an LEA my work affords me the opportunity to stay current on some of the most sophisticated security equipment available. It also allows me access to firsthand knowledge on crime trends, methods and stats which I share with family and friends so they remain alert.

    I remember when home invasions were on the rise because intentionally hitting a house while residents were home made getting in and out faster. It is easier to threaten fearful occupants into telling where all the valuable stuff is hidden rather than wasting time looking for it when no one is home. Also there’s no need to break and enter when they can simply knock on the door while posing as a salesman, delivery guy or someone in need of assistance.

    On a personal note I am also somewhat of a technology geek and have installed several layers of security to my home. Aside from a standard home security system, I also have security cameras covering all external sides of the house. I made certain the cameras are obvious and use security signage everywhere. I replaced my regular doorbell by installing a wide angle security camera doorbell that uses an internal monitor. It includes night vision and day color which all mounts to the door. My kids have grown quite dependent on that.

    I also installed powerful motion sensing lights everywhere. But in addition to those, I’ve installed these interesting camera – light – sensor combos that actively turn in the direction of any detected movement in day or night. My neighbors have told me these units freak them out when this cyborg looking light turns on them and follows as they take their trash out. Hopefully it will help ward off any would-be thieves as well.

    One last layer I’ve added is individual battery operated door alarms as a backup in the event the main system gets hacked. They won’t alert a monitoring service, but they could wake us up if intruders breach the main alarm. You can get these real cheap online and are mainly designed for travel use in hotels. The funny thing is I used them initially to scare the kids back when they were little and first learning to turn door knobs to go into rooms they weren’t allowed in.

    One last tip often overlooked by homeowners – if your breaker box is on the outside of your home, put a padlock on it to act as a deterrent to prevent burglars from easily cutting power.

    1. As a general contractor I am often asked to come in and repair the damages from break-ins. I hear quite frequently that a) “I didn’t lock the door because I thought they would try to avoid coming in if I were home so it didn’t matter.” and b) “I left my (insert weapon of choice) under the bed, behind the washing machine, or some other location which couldn’t be reached while I was sitting watching tv and not expecting the home invasion.” So, the lesson I’ve learned is 1) keep it handy and 2) the smart crooks will want you home!.

  16. I own a traditional alarm company and “central station” monitoring facility. Founded in 1978 while I was still on the Oakland PD. By traditional, I mean door and window sensors concealed and wired to the alarm control box whenever possible. This eliminates the need for battery replacement at each opening and, though a lot more work to install, provides the customer with a far more reliable system that is harder to defeat. Systems are monitored by phone line, our own packet radio system and internet and often a combination of these for redundancy. Almost all the systems we install cover all accessible openings and include back up interior protection, so the system can be used when occupants are at home (with interior devices bypassed) as well as when they are away.

    My guns, except for those being used for home defense or daily carry, are kept in a safe. The alarm system is just one layer of protection.

    1. I have 3 protection trained German Shepherd Dogs. I have trained protection dogs since 1960 & highly recommend that people have a dog, any dog that barks, but recommend a large, protective breed.

      But…you need to get the dog trained, but more importantly, you need to get trained.

      Join a Schutzhund, Ringsport, or some kind of working dog club that trains you & the dog in protection.

      More importantly, ensure you have a firearm & are well trained in using it.

      Home protection should be a layered system, with electronic protection as a part, but to be really protected, you need the dog & gun.

      Don’t listen to the weenie libos telling you the gun is going to be taken away from you, that’s a crock.

      Get trained, get a dog, & get good electronic protection!

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