Jam Detection Update

Posted August 8th, 2019 by SimpliSafe

RF Jamming is a technical reality. All devices that use wireless communications protocols can be jammed. The good news is, a) this is *not* a known attack vector for home security, because it’s not a reliable way to enter and move about a home undetected, and b) we have a jam detection algorithm that is being constantly tuned and updated behind the scenes, which notices if someone is trying to jam your system and alerts you. More on that below:

A little tech talk:

First we’d like to highlight one of the most annoying issues in detecting jam attacks: False positives are a huge problem. Radio signal “noise” is everywhere and intermittent. So for some customers these alerts could become annoying — and potentially harmful if they created the incorrect feeling that their system isn’t working. We are constantly tuning our detection algorithm to get better and better at differentiating between normal, ubiquitous RF interference and actual, concerning jamming activity without frustrating you with a barrage of nuisance alerts.

Second, jamming without being detected would be extremely difficult, as is clear in the Youtube video. The jam detection was triggered several times by the tester. Our system’s array of multiple sensors and cameras (layers of protection), wireless communications protocols and jam detection algorithm work together to make it very hard for anyone to interfere with your system undetected.

Here’s why: The jamming demonstrated is under controlled conditions, with the "jammer" in close proximity to the base station and the sensor which is transmitting. Our testing shows that moving the jammer to another area away from the base station and having the sensor closer to the base station, the sensor could still communicate with the base station. Also, if the jammer is tuned too close to our transmission frequency, as it moves closer to the base station, it will trigger the RF jamming warning. In other words, prior knowledge of the layout of our motion sensors, door sensors and base station in the customers home and a rehearsal of how to move about the home would be necessary to confidently select a frequency that will both jam and not be detected — let alone on the first try. Plus they would have to keep the jamming interference in that range for the entire time needed to pull off a burglary, while continuing to avoid detection. It’s not impossible...but we’re continuously improving our system to make it increasingly impossible. 

We frequently tune our detection parameters and release security and usability updates. We are in the process of another round of detection algorithm tuning which will continue to refine our ability to differentiate between the brief interference noise that typically occurs in many homes, and actual bad actors. This update has been in the works for a while — it's currently in beta and will be released remotely in a month or so. 

Also, SimpliSafe already offers video verification — an opt-in service where, in the event of an alarm, our professional monitoring center views video from your home, prioritizing it for the police. This enhances police response times when real alarm events are in progress, and cuts down on false alarms and unnecessary police dispatches. In the near future, we will offer video verification for potential interference events, where experts at our monitoring center can review footage and determine if police dispatch is warranted. 

Finally, a reminder (found in this CNET article):

“The most likely burglary scenario by far is the unsophisticated crime of opportunity, usually involving a broken window or some other kind of brute-force entry. According to the FBI, crimes like these accounted for more than half of all residential burglaries in the US in 2017. The wide majority of the rest were unlawful, unforced entries that resulted from something like a window or a garage door being left open. The odds of a criminal using technical means to bypass a security system are so small that the FBI doesn't even track those statistics.”

We are a company focused on protecting you, which means we work on protecting you against even unlikely scenarios like this.