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

Nest Secure Alarm System Tested on Nov 16, 2017
Google's expansion continues, this time into home security with their Nest subsidiary's move into alarm systems. They paid more than a...
Selecting Access Control Readers Tutorial on Nov 09, 2017
Given the variety of types available, specifying access control readers can be a daunting process. However, focusing on a few key elements will...
Honeywell Crowdfunding Bombs on Nov 08, 2017
100,000+ employees and $40,000,000,000 in annual revenue. That's Honeywell. ~200 backers and ~$67,000 in funding in a week. That's Honeywell...
Honeywell Indiegogo-Funded DIY Intrusion System Examined on Nov 02, 2017
Honeywell did $39 Billion dollars in revenue last year, but they are asking the public for $50,000 (.0001% of revenue) to fund their Indiegogo...
Avigilon Access Control 2017 Examined on Nov 01, 2017
For more than 4 years, Avigilon has been in the access control business, since their May 2013 acquisition of RedCloud. Since then, Avigilon has...
ONVIF Wire Free Camera Tested (Netgear FlexPower) on Oct 31, 2017
Totally wire-free cameras are a hot growth market. But they have had one major problem: Proprietary. IPVM has tested Netgear's Arlo and Arlo Go,...
Hikvision vs Dahua Access Shootout on Oct 26, 2017
Dahua and Hikvision have spent heavily expanding internationally in video surveillance. Now, both companies are looking to do similarly in access...
Avigilon / Canon New Lawsuits, No Settlement on Oct 11, 2017
In July, Canon sued Avigilon, a notably rare move amongst major players in the industry, including Canon's subsidiaries Axis and Milestone. At...
Access Control Job Walk Guide on Sep 26, 2017
Significant money can be saved and problems avoided with an access control job walk if you know what to look for and what to ask. By inviting...
'Clowns' Allege Ubiquiti 'Completely Fraudulent' on Sep 20, 2017
A short seller has alleged Ubiquiti is 'completely fraudulent'. Ubiquiti's CEO has responded calling them 'clowns'. Here is the short...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Imperial Capital Security Investor Conference Review on Dec 08, 2017
Investment bank Imperial Capital holds an annual Security Investor Conference where 60+ companies present, including this year: IPVM bought a...
Integrator GPS Vehicle Tracking Statistics and Success Examined on Dec 08, 2017
GPS vehicle tracking is a growing but somewhat controversial topic. On the plus side, tracking may increases productivity by providing greater...
Hikvision NA Biggest Sale of 2017 on Dec 07, 2017
Hikvision North America has been relatively disciplined the past 5 months, reducing the number of sales and the breadth of what is on sale. No...
Security Integrator IT Expertise Statistics on Dec 07, 2017
20 years ago, putting physical security systems on IP networks was just emerging. Today, almost every system is networked in some way, IP cameras...
Lighthouse Deep Learning Camera Tested on Dec 07, 2017
A Silicon Valley startup, Lighthouse, with a Stanford PhD CTO, has released a deep learning AI camera with 3D sensors for just $300. The company...
Access Control Course Winter 2018 on Dec 07, 2017
Learn more below about the Winter 2018 IPVM Access Control Course. Register here. IPVM offers the most comprehensive access control course in...
Broken Hikvision App Exposes Hypocrisy on Dec 06, 2017
While Hikvision talks about a commitment to cybersecurity, their broken app and their insecure 'solution' exposes not only their engineering...
'Catastrophic Problem' For Videofied App on Dec 06, 2017
Less than 2 months after closing their DIY division DragonFly, Videofied has been hit with a problem the company calls 'catastrophic'. Now the...
ASIS Dumps 'ASIS' For Show on Dec 06, 2017
After 60+ years, ASIS is dumping its eponymous show name and replacing it with 'GSX'. This is a classic marketing mistake. For a show struggling...
Risks Of Managing End User Passwords (Statistics) on Dec 05, 2017
Integrators know admin passwords for nearly all end-user systems, according to IPVM statistics. But how do they manage them? How do they ensure...

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