Security systems dramatically reduce the odds that your home will become the victim of a burglary, but they aren’t foolproof. Nearly all security systems are susceptible to “jamming,” a process whereby a burglar uses radio frequencies to disable your security system.
While jamming is rare, it’s important to know how your security system holds up against this type of attack and what measures you can take to minimize the chances that you’ll become the victim of jamming.
What is jamming?
Unlike hacking, which involves someone gaining access to your security system by pilfering your username and password (usually from a security breach at a financial institution or company you do business with online), jamming presents a more direct attack on your home security system.
The system’s central hub uses radio frequencies to communicate with the window and door sensors, glass breaks, cameras, and motion detectors put in place to protect your home. When something triggers one of these sensors, it sends a signal to the hub over these radio frequencies. The hub then alerts you and the monitoring service.
When a burglar jams your security system, they use a laptop and a portable radio frequency (RF) transceiver to overpower these signals, preventing the sensors from communicating with the hub. It’s essentially the same thing as blowing an air horn while two people are trying to have a conversation.
With the sensors cut off from the hub, an intruder can open a window or door, trip a motion sensor, or set off a glass break without triggering an alarm.
Jamming attacks are very rare
Hackers who infiltrate your security system to steal personal data are certainly scary. But these types of attacks usually threaten your bank account and credit card information, not your house itself. Jamming presents a threat to your family’s physical safety because it allows an intruder to walk through your front door unchallenged.
Luckily, you’re very unlikely to become a victim of such an attack. According to FBI crime data, the vast majority of home break-ins involve brute force entry through a window or door, not sophisticated jamming attacks. (1)
In fact, the FBI doesn’t keep statistics on jamming because such break-ins are few and far between. That’s because jamming requires a significant amount of planning, a certain level of technical expertise, and special equipment that’s not easily available.
In order to jam your system, a burglar first needs to identify what kind of home security system you have and the type of equipment it uses, so they can dial in the necessary frequency to jam your system.
Proximity is also key. While a hacker can bypass your data security measures from hundreds or even thousands of miles away once they have your system’s username and password, a burglar’s portable jammer must be physically close to the security system (within 5 to 15 meters) to disable it.
Procuring the necessary equipment for jamming in itself presents a challenge. Any type of equipment one can use that blocks communications is illegal, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). (2)
Even after jamming the system, the burglar will still need to overcome any physical locks on doors and windows preventing entry into your home. They also need to make sure that their jammer continues to block the security system as they enter and move about the house to avoid setting off motion detectors or tripping indoor cameras.
Given the complexity of such an attack, most thieves are unlikely to go to such lengths to break into your home unless you happen to live in a bank or jewelry store. Most burglars will see the security system shield by the front door and move on to an unprotected neighbor.
Is jamming equipment legal?
Though your home is unlikely to be a victim of jamming, it’s important to understand that such an attack is possible. If you’re worried about jamming, there are precautions you can take to protect your home, along with features you should look for in a home security service.
Go with a wired system
Essentially, any home security system that uses wireless technology has the potential to be jammed. One solution is to go with a hard-wired security system that doesn’t use Wi-Fi or radio signals to communicate.
Just know that if you decide to go with a wired system, you’ll likely need to handle the installation, which can be complicated, on your own. You can find wired home security systems available through online retailers and your local big box home improvement store (most of the major professionally installed and DIY security systems use wireless technology).
Before you begin drilling holes and running wire, know that wired systems also have their vulnerabilities. Would-be burglars can disable a wired system by simply cutting the wires that connect cameras and sensors to the system’s central hub.
Use an ethernet cable
You don’t have to go with a fully wired system to thwart jamming. Some attacks use a Wi-Fi jammer to prevent your hub from sending you and professional monitoring stations alerts. By connecting the hub to your router with an ethernet cable, the hub will be able to alert you to a potential jamming attack by letting you know the hub has lost contact with the sensors.
Purchase a security system that uses higher levels of encryption
Some home security systems are more susceptible to jamming than others. Look for systems that use 128-bit encrypted sensors with frequency hopping. Sensors with this level of encryption constantly change their broadcasting frequency, making it harder for a would-be burglar to jam the system. Systems with components that use Z-wave technology are also harder to jam since they use two different radio frequencies to communicate.
Look for a security system with jam detection
Many home security companies are adding jamming alerts to their list of features. SimpliSafe, the subject of a well-publicized YouTube video of someone demonstrating how easy it was to jam the system, now has an anti-jamming algorithm in its system. (3) SimpliSafe will send you an email alert if the system believes it’s being jammed.
Be aware that not all home security companies are adopting this new technology. Some have decided against adding jam detection as this feature can sometimes create false alerts caused by interference from other wireless devices in your home.
Identify the signs of a jamming attack
If you’re under attack by a jammer, not only will your security system cease to communicate with its wireless sensors, cameras, and the like, your entire network will likely go down. You’ll lose internet connection to your devices and may even lose connection to your cell phone data. If your entire network suddenly goes dark, you may be experiencing a jamming attack.
Purchase a professionally installed system
Pretty much all the major home security systems use wireless technology, which makes it possible to jam them. However, some are more vulnerable than others. Most DIY security systems are easier to jam than professionally installed systems such as Vivint, ADT, and Brinks. That’s because most professionally installed systems have encryption designed to prevent these attacks. Not all DIY systems do.
Don’t use branded security system signs
These signs let burglars know what kind of system you have, making it easier for them to match the frequency of your window and door sensors and jam them. The FCC requires most wireless devices to list their radio frequency right on the device. Once a burglar knows what system you have, determining the radio frequency is just a Google search away. Don’t do away with signs altogether, as it’s the first line of defense for your security system. Instead of posting a branded sign outside your door, use a generic one.
Invest in local video storage
While cloud-based video storage is convenient, allowing you to store weeks of video and access it remotely from anywhere you have a data connection increases your vulnerability to jamming attacks. Even if you’ve hard-wired your surveillance cameras to a central hub, a jamming attack that takes out your Wi-Fi will prevent it from sending recorded footage to the cloud, leaving you with no video surveillance of the break-in. Back up those cameras with SD cards or a hub with a hard drive (preferably in a locked room or closet in your home), which will store the camera footage locally, so you can review it post-break-in.
Realize that a home security system is just one piece of the home security puzzle
Employ other means of security that complement your home security system. Make sure entryways have sturdy deadbolt locks. Close and lock ground-floor windows at night or when you’re away from home. If you don’t already have good outdoor lighting, consider investing in motion detector flood lights that cover the perimeter of your house. These efforts, coupled with a security system, make your home a less attractive target for burglars.
What security systems are jammable?
While any wireless device is susceptible to jamming, some have technologies that make them much harder to jam than others. Generally speaking, DIY systems are more vulnerable to these attacks than professionally installed systems due to the complexity of their encryption.
In early 2022, Consumer Reports conducted an in-depth test of 10 major DIY home security systems and found that half, including Abode, Cove, Ring, SimpliSafe, and DIY camera system Eufy were jammable using relatively inexpensive jamming equipment. (4) DIY systems Blue by ADT (now defunct), Ecobee, Honeywell Home, Kangaroo, and Ooma passed the jamming test.
SimpliSafe and Abode may not be able to stop jamming, but they do have algorithms that can detect this type of attack then alert the homeowner and trigger cameras to record evidence. Keep in mind those push alerts and cameras won’t do much good unless you have the security system hub and cameras wired to the router with an ethernet cable.
Ring, like ADT, Vivint, and Link Interactive, uses Z-Wave technology to communicate. Z-Wave uses two frequencies as opposed to one, requiring a burglar to have two transmitters to jam both frequencies to disable a security system. This makes the system more difficult, though not impossible, to jam.
Eufy made efforts to fix its jamming issues with a software update it released in April 2022. Cove is considering adding more layers of encryption to its sensors to thwart jamming but may ultimately decide not to since it sees this type of attack as very rare.
While the idea that a burglar can disable your security system and stroll through your front door without setting off an alarm is disturbing, it’s important to remember that this type of attack is very rare. Since most burglars lack the expertise and equipment to jam a security system, they’re much more likely to target the more than two-thirds of U.S. homes that do not have a security system.
That said, as this type of attack becomes better known, it is possible that more burglars could add it to their bag of tricks. With that in mind, consider what precautions a security system has in place for this type of attack when shopping for a system. If you already have a security system, make yourself aware of how your security system is addressing this threat by contacting the company and asking questions.
Tony Carrick is a full-time freelance writer who has contributed to a variety of publications, including Bob Vila, U.S. News and World Report, Field & Stream, Angi, Futurism, and Popular Science. Tony, who received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Elon University and Masters of Arts in English literature from Salisbury University, began his career as a reporter for local newspapers in North Carolina before spending seven years writing in the business-to-business space. He spent 13 years as an English teacher before transitioning into his current role as a full-time freelance writer covering home security, home improvement, lifestyle, outdoor recreation, and consumer electronics and technology.
Eric Paulsen is a writer, editor, and strategist who has been creating content in the B2B, healthcare, FinTech, home security, and government sectors for more than five years. He holds an MFA in creative writing and lets everyone in his life hang that over his head. When he doesn’t have his hands deep in some piece of content, he’s either watching baseball or praying for the offseason to end quickly.
Endnotes and sources
1. “FBI Crime in the U.S. - Burglary,” FBI.gov. Accessed 10 January 2023.
2. “Jammer Enforcement,” Federal Communications Commission. Accessed 10 January 2023.
3. “Simplisafe Alarm Bypassed with a $2 Device From Amazon,” YouTube. Accessed 9 January 2023.
4. “Ring, SimpliSafe, and Three Other DIY Home Security Systems Vulnerable to Hacking,” yahoo! Accessed 8 January 2023.