Having an alarm system is one of many ways that you can protect your property and your loved ones. The problem is that many alarm systems may be more vulnerable than we may realize, giving us a false sense of security. Knowing how a burglar commonly disables most alarms will help to take extra measure to increase your security.
In this article, we will discuss the various ways that burglars can disable alarms or security systems, along with some additional information that will give you options to increase your security and sleep better knowing you are doing everything you can to keep your home safe.
What can a burglar do to bypass or disable a security alarm? Disabling a home security alarm may be easier than you may think. Experienced burglars know most of the common aspects of home security systems and ways to work around them. Basic alarms are often disabled one of the following ways:
- Cutting Phone Lines
- Turn off the main power to the home
- Crash and Smash
- Breaking Window Glass
- Finding unmonitored access points
- Cause false alarms
Have some of these surprised you? Read on to better understand these and other ways that a burglar can disable or bypass most home security systems.
Types of Alarm Systems
There are several types of alarm systems. In general, all security systems will include a central control unit, one or more entry sensors, and maybe even video cameras and motion detectors. The difference that is most important when considering how alarms are disabled is the way the system is connected and monitored. Generally, all alarm systems will fall into three main categories.
Landline or Wired Security Systems
Older home security systems and even some modern systems utilize a landline phone line to connect and monitor the system. Others, even if they do not utilize a phone line, they can be wired directly into the home’s electrical system.
Wireless Wi-Fi Security Systems
The most common modern home security systems, including most DIY systems, use your homes internet to connect the system components together and to any monitoring service. This has grown in popularity due to the ability for homeowners to self monitor their systems, allowing for no ongoing charges once the system is installed.
Cellular Network Security Systems
The most secure wireless home security systems use the same technology as our smartphones to communicate. The reason these types of security systems are more secure is due to not being dependent on direct electrical power or internet signal.
Weaknesses Security Companies Don’t Tell You (And Ways to Fix Them)
No matter which type of alarm system you have (or are looking at) each one will have some weaknesses and a security company may not be as quick to disclose some of them. Not only will we share them, but we’ll also give you ways to fix them.
Power Outages Can Disable the System.
Most home security systems are connected to the electrical system in your home in some way. Rarely are even wireless systems 100% battery powered. If a wireless home security system uses your home internet connection, a disruption in power will drop the Wi-Fi as well.
Fix: There are a couple of ways to fix this weakness. First, it is possible to get a router with battery backup. The best option is to go with a home security system that uses cellular signal technology for connections and monitoring. This is important for the central control units of your system.
Police Response Time Varies.
We admit this is not the fault of any security system or even the police department. The reality is that response times can be extremely different depending on where you live, the level of criminal activity your police department deals with, and the type of emergency.
When a police department is signaled that an alarm system has been triggered, it may not take priority over other emergencies. Another unfortunate reality is that just like most people have gotten so used to car alarms going off, security alarms may not automatically mean an imminent threat.
Fix: While you cannot really improve response times, you can make sure that the police have the information necessary to determine the true risk involved with your alarm signaling. Here are a couple of ways to improve the integrity of your alarm.
- Avoid False Alarms – Police departments quickly become aware of an alarm system that is responsible for repeated false alarms. Most often these are self-installed systems with less accurate sensors. Take the time to test your security system completely before setting up any emergency services contact to avoid false alarms placing you in the “boy that cried wolf” category.
- Add a neighbor, family member, or friend to the contact list that can check on your home personally when the system is triggered. In addition to contacting you, alternative contacts can reduce response time by making a person to person call for help.
Police Often Just Drive-By.
There are several reasons that police officers are not able to check on a home after an alarm was triggered. These include gated communities or additional security precautions. These limit the accessibility to police officers that cannot legally access properties by force in many situations.
Fix: Include any additional access information in your plan to contact emergency services, including police, fire, and medical services. This could be as simple as having instructions given from your monitoring company to emergency response with necessary access codes or passwords. Remember to update this information when there are any changes.
All Systems Have Default Codes
You may know that alarms and security systems have default codes when they are purchased and installed. The problem arises when people either fail to change the codes from the default codes or use easy to guess codes, like 1, 2, 3, 4 or your birthdate. Using the information that can be found in public records, or even your favorite social media page can be easily accessed by anyone, including a burglar.
Fix: The first thing you should do is change from the default code as soon as your system is successfully installed. Do not use an easy to guess code. Follow these tips to keep your alarms codes extra secure:
- Use auxiliary codes for members of your family, do not share the master code with anyone. This will allow you to make easy changes to the codes and allow or disallow access if the need arises.
- Change your master code after any repairs or service to your system by an outside technician. We prefer to believe that these individuals will not share our information, but make sure just in case.
- Change all codes after any incident that triggers your alarm, even if the code was not used or you believe it was not compromised
Remote Arming and Disarming Are Possible and Easier Than You May Think
Believe it or not, burglars pride themselves on being up with technology. The most effective criminals know how to hack into or bypass many security systems.
One of the most common elements of modern security systems is the use of a key fob, or keychain remote to alarm and disarm the system, much the same as a car alarm. These devices use radio frequencies that can be picked up or jammed.
Fix: Don’t use the key fob or keychain remote when you are very far from your alarm. Check your surroundings first to make sure that no one is observing or paying attention. If you can avoid using them, you will be in better shape. Manually arming and disarming your system is the safest practice.
What Do the Criminals Say?
There have been many studies that utilize the expertise of actual criminals to learn how to recognize the most common weaknesses in home security. We wanted to share some of the information that criminals have shared regarding home invasions.
Choosing a Target
When asked how they choose a home to target, criminals repeated to give the following answers to describe the homes they look for, and what makes them stay away. These are not hard and fast rules, there is always the potential for a less experienced criminal to make different choices.
What Criminals Like:
- No one home during the day, on a regular and dependable schedule
- Homes with some distance to neighbors
- Blind spots around the home
- Older windows and frames
- Cheap doors
- Large trees or shrubs for cover
What Criminals Usually Avoid:
- Cars in the Driveway
- People coming and going at different times
- Homes in busy neighborhoods
- Security cameras
Methods Burglars Use to Disable an Alarm
There are several methods that burglars have at their disposal to disable your alarm. The method may vary from target to target. Criminals admit to having their favorite methods that they will use whenever possible. If there are several break-ins in your area, attempt to find out how access was made, as one way to prevent the same at your home. Until then the most common methods of entry fall into one of these.
Cutting Phone Lines
This refers to home security systems that are wired and use traditional landlines to communicate with monitoring services. Many burglars are well versed in different security systems and can identify quickly how your home security system is connected, even if they do not know your specific set up the communication is the primary target.
Turn off the main power to the home
As mentioned above, your electrical power box that controls all your electricity may be a place of vulnerability that some criminals will target. More than likely they will have had some electrical experience prior to the criminal activity. Contact your electricity company for any assistance in securing your electrical box.
Crash and Smash
This is a term used by criminals and law enforcement officers to refer to a technique that involves gaining access to a home. The burglar usually breaks into the home as close to the alarm keypad as possible. Upon entering they attempt to physically destroy the keypad before it can signal the home has been breached.
This is, unfortunately, a successful tactic for many criminals. Often the keypad is visible from the front door or surrounding windows, and they are rolling the dice that there is no backup system or failsafe in place. Homeowners can defend against this tactic by implementing one or more of the following.
- Upgrade to a Cellular system – even a partially cellular-connected device can give you added protection against the crash and smash break-in. Often multiple components of the system use the cellular signal.
- Utilize Disarm Confirmation Options – Monitored alarms often have an option available to prevent a crash and smash. Often referred to as disarm confirmation, the system alerts the monitoring company as soon as the door is opened (or crashed) and the monitoring company is then on alert waiting for the alarm to be disarmed.
After a set length of time if the alarm is not properly disarmed the police are alerted. In some cases, law enforcement has been able to arrive while the criminal was still in the home. Since the criminal has no knowledge that their plan failed, they tend to take more time.
Breaking Window Glass
Window Glass is a big target for criminals, especially in homes that have built-in cover from landscaping or distance to other homes. Homes in areas where noise is all around are especially vulnerable. If the sound of breaking glass would not attract attention, then a criminal would risk it in many cases.
There are a couple of options to prevent your windows from becoming targets. There are now some amazing security options for your windows that will eliminate the option for most intruders.
- Security Screens – These screens give you the ability to leave the window completely open and make the window completely secure. Made of tightly woven stainless steel, they cannot be broken or pried off.
- Security Film – Another option is to apply a security film to your windows. Security film works much like mesh laced security windows, the window will shatter but not fall out, making the criminal take much more time then they are willing to get through the window.
Take Extra Steps to Reinforce Your Security
There are a few more steps that you can take to help increase your home’s security, making you a less desirable target by eliminating the most common ways that thieves gain access. Most of these involve very little time and effort that makes them more than worth it to add a little bit of peace of mind.
Locked Electrical Box
Did you know that your electrical box probably has a shutoff that will disconnect your entire home from the electric grid? We aren’t talking about the breaker box in your basement or spare room. We mean where the electricity comes into your home. This is where your electrical meter is located. Some criminals gain access to the electrical box and disconnect your electricity.
Most electricity companies keep a special locking tag on the box to ensure that no one can have unauthorized access. Take a moment occasionally, to double-check and make sure that the lock is intact. For extra security, you can request a lock be added that cannot be cut and require a code or key to access. Some utility companies will allow you to add your own lock, others do not.
Keep Valuables Out of Sight
Many burglars take a casual walk around your home looking into windows before they decide if the home is worth the risk. Keeping your valuables, like jewelry and cash, out of site will lower the temptation. Bedrooms are a prime target according to convicted criminals that have shared their secrets.
A shocking number of burglaries occur by a doorway being easily forced open. While your doors may have a deadbolt, the framing and door jam is perhaps most important to the security of your doors. Using long screws to secure the locking plate not only into the jam but deep into the framing will make the entire door more secure.
Most police departments will help you determine how secure your home is, particularly the strength of your doors. These are often part of the community outreach programs and is a free service. Contact your local police department for help.
Lock all Windows and Doors
While it does happen, most burglars have no need to break a window, since they are often able to find a window that is not secured, allowing easy access. Making sure you keep all doors and windows locked, even second-story access points.
Most security systems use sensors that involve magnets that when in alignment, one part on the window casing and one on the window. When you open the window, the sensor loses the connection and signals the alarm. Criminals have discovered ways to trick the sensor, by using stronger magnets. You can eliminate this weakness by backing up the sensors with motion detection inside your home.
There are probably many other ways that burglars attempt and some successful at entering a home when they are determined to break-in. Hopefully what information we have provided helps you to be more aware of the possible weaknesses in your security system. As technology changes the ways of breaking in will evolve as well, so take care of your property and your family as best as you can. Best of luck to you and yours.