ADT Sued, Claimed 'Easily Hacked'

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Nov 17, 2014

A lawsuit has been filed against ADT.

The class action complaint claims ADT's wireless systems are 'easily hacked', that ADT knows this and yet engages in 'deceptive and misleading marketing statements.'

In this note, we examine the details and the technical claims.

The Lawsuit

The class action complaint filing claims "ADT’s deceptive and unlawful business acts and practices in connection with the sale of wireless home security equipment" and alleges "ADT’s failure to encrypt or otherwise secure its wireless signals" violates commercial trade practice acts in several states.

The lawsuit seeks "requiring ADT to change its marketing materials and to secure its customers’ wireless systems" plus various damages.

At this date, no claims of specific damages or loss due to the exploit are listed with the suit.

Claims

The lawsuit alleges that ADT's wireless security systems are susceptible to easy exploits that criminals can execute.

Vulnerable: The core weakness the suit claims is that ADT uses unencrypted wireless communication between sensors and the main panel, so that criminals can sniff out and 'jam' actual alarms from being triggered with inexpensive software defined radio gear easily purchased for <$15.

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

Alternatively, the suit claims hackers can trigger a flood of false alarms, potentially resulting in users refusing to arm it out of frustration. The other scenario paints a situation where local police fail to eagerly respond to a 'routine' call from a notoriously errant system, leaving the facility vulnerable to real heists 'or worse'.

The main external reference the complaint makes is a July 2014 Forbes article where a cybersecurity reseacher claims to have hacked ADT wireless systems:

"He was able to play around with an ADT system thanks to the graciousness of his girlfriend’s father, who had one at home. The different vendors’ products all had the same problem: legacy wireless communications from the 90s that failed to encrypt or authenticate signals. He could be pick up the signals being sent from sensors on windows and doors to the main control system using a cheap SDR, meaning he could see transmissions from sensors — which are sent even when the system is unarmed — and track when people were opening and closing windows and doors. With a more sophisticated SDR, he could interfere with transmissions, setting the alarm off falsely by telling it doors were opening when they weren’t or jamming the system so that it wouldn’t go off, even if doors did open. He could do this from 65 to 250 yards away– basically a house over."

Issues With the Claims

On the surface, the claim could bear out as a risk at least for some ADT systems.  However, one aspect of an 'ADT System' not addressed in the suit is there is no single or even typical alarm system. While unencrypted wireless could prove a vulnerability for some residential grade and older intrusion systems, ADT installs over 20 different systems. Several of those prominently feature 'spread spectrum' and 128 AES encrypted wireless technology that at least makes sniffing out and tampering with systems difficult. 

Interestingly, ADT's flagship Pulse offering is Z-Wave based, and makes no explicit claims about encrypting wireless intrusion sensors, but does claims that the wireless video surveillance element uses WPA2 encryption between the camera and hub, and then HTTPS between local hub and cloud servers.

Not Just ADT

While ADT is the target of the suit, it bears emphasizing the potential risk is not only an ADT problem. Indeed, other wireless alarm systems sold by incumbents like Vivint and Monitronics are likely equally vulnerable to the same basic exploit.

Improving Security

Hacking unsecured wireless is neither new nor exotic, and multiple defenses are available to mitigate risk.  Some basic steps include:

  • Go Wired: Wireless cannot be hacked if it is not used. More costly (labor intensive), wired intrusion systems are still available and the mainstay of 'high-security' alarm systems. Simply choosing wired systems eliminates the potential risk described in the lawsuit.
  • Use Spread Spectrum: When using wireless 'spread spectrum' or 'frequency hopping' connectivity between sensors and panels makes zeroing in or jamming  a particular link extremely difficult. The nature of spread spectrum means the connection frequency intermittently shifts between endpoints, and the phrase 'trying to hit a moving target' describes the difficulty. 

Who is the Plaintiff?

The plaintiff is Dale A. Baker and the law firm is Zimmerman Law Offices, who says their main part of their practice, with 18 years of experience, is class action lawsuits. According to the attorney, Baker has an ADT Pulse system installed at his home.

"His system was erroneously activated 2 times and police had to come to his house. He subsequently learned that their were wireless systems that were encrypted that would prevent would be burglars from interfering with the wireless systems. He felt he had an obligation to inform other people that they are not as safe in their homes as ADT may lead them to believe and also is seeking to have ADT modify this product to encrypt the wireless signals so they can not be intercepted."

Those looking to join the class action lawsuit may contact Zimmerman Law Offices.

1 report cite this report:

How to Hack an ADT Alarm System on Jan 26, 2015
This report explains the key steps in hacking an alarm system, like ADT, as was presented in a Defcon 22 presentation. The risk of such a hack has...
Comments (10): PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

ESX 2017 Final Show Report on Jun 16, 2017
The ESX (Electronic Security Expo) day 3 / Thursday is done and the exhibits are over. IPVM was in Nashville covering it in-depth. Below covers...
Hikvision Ezviz Mini Trooper Totally Wireless Camera Tested on Jun 13, 2017
Totally wireless cameras are a major growth trend in video surveillance, driven by consumer demands to eliminate wiring. Hikvision is now joining...
RMR Integrator Importance Statistics on Jun 08, 2017
How do integrators feel about offering RMR / recurring revenue services? For many, their business revolves around RMR, while others see no...
Samsung SmartCam A1 Totally Wireless System on Jun 06, 2017
Hanwha is keeping the Samsung brand alive in consumer cameras with the SmartCam A1, a new offering combining an autotracking 1080p camera with base...
US States Security Licensing Guide on May 30, 2017
In the US, many states require integrators to be licensed to install burglar alarms, CCTV, electronic access control, or all three, and...
Alarm Supervision Guide on May 24, 2017
Burglar alarms can constantly monitor the health of attached circuits, sensors, and devices to ensure that they remain operational. This is known...
Aura's 'Invisible Ripple' Next Gen Intrusion Detection Tested on May 23, 2017
Aura Home is a startup intrusion detection system, but it claims new, high-tech sensing that monitors the 'invisible ripples' movement creates,...
Blink XT Outdoor Totally Wireless Camera Tested on May 11, 2017
Running wires for cameras outdoors is one of the biggest challenges, especially for consumer or DIY installs. Now, Blink has released an outdoor...
Burglar Alarm Partitions Guide on May 10, 2017
Many burglar alarm systems have a single designated level of access for users. A user can arm or disarm the entire alarm by entering a single code....
Alarm Circuits Guide on May 09, 2017
Alarm circuits are a fundamental element of wired burglar systems. Designing the alarm circuit greatly affects its performance. In particular,...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Uniview Low-Cost Bullet PTZ Tested on Jun 21, 2017
Uniview is offering a HD zoom bullet camera, the IPC742SR9-PZ30-32G, with an integrated pan / tilt positioner, for the price of a low-cost...
QSR Video Surveillance Best Practices on Jun 21, 2017
Fast food restaurants or QSRs (quick service restaurants), are frequent victims of crime and fraud. Because they are open late, deal with cash, and...
45 Drives 'Lowest Cost' Enterprise Storage Company Profile on Jun 21, 2017
45 Drives claims the "lowest cost per Hard Drive Slot in the industry." But who or what is '45 Drives'? What started as a product design to...
No Hack, Still Liable, Court Finds ADT on Jun 20, 2017
Recently, ADT has been in the news for a $16 million settlement for a cyber security vulnerability class action suit. One of the most important...
Resolver / PPM 2000 Incident Management Platform Profile on Jun 20, 2017
You might have seen the company whose employees wear hockey jerseys at trade shows and wondered "what do they do?" PPM 2000 has been active in...
Axis P3225 Mk II Tested Vs. Original on Jun 20, 2017
Axis has released a number of 'Mk II' versions of their cameras, which are the same fundamental camera but with specific improvements. We tested...
Directory of 40 IP Camera Manufacturer Discovery Tools on Jun 19, 2017
Locating the IP address of a DHCP client or factory defaulted device on a network is often a difficult task.  In another report, we discussed...
Dahua Demotes USA CEO on Jun 19, 2017
Dahua has demoted their USA CEO Tim Wang. Inside this note, we examine the move, Dahua's challenges and what lies ahead for the...
Avigilon Increases Prices In Canada, Europe and UK on Jun 19, 2017
While many video surveillance companies are racing to see who can cut prices the fastest, Avigilon is taking a contrary approach, actually raising...
VMS UI - Light vs Dark Preferences on Jun 16, 2017
Several VMS manufacturers have the ability to choose a user interface with either a light or dark color theme. 150+ integrators told us which they...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact