Garage Door Security: Is Your Customer's Garage Secure?

In this article, we’ll examine the security of a typical manually-operated garage-door and a typical electrically-operated garage-door. I will demonstrate major vulnerabilities in each of these systems and show how those vulnerabilities can be easily...


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Vulnerability #1

The electric opener on this door came with a remote designed to be mounted on the visor of a car. And that’s usually where remotes like this are stored, as they’re too large to carry conveniently in a pocket. But the problem is that anyone who breaks into the car can get the remote and use it to get into the garage. Cars are pretty easy to get into, so this certainly undermines a garage’s security.

Vulnerability #2

This door is just as vulnerable as the manually-operated door examined earlier. The emergency release-lever can be pulled using the coat-hanger tool like the one shown earlier. In fact, it’s even easier on this door because the tool’s path is more direct. Insert the tool over the door near its horizontal center, as in figure 6. Slide it toward the center until it stops alongside the door-arm. Then pull the tool back, along the trolley-rail, until it hooks the release-lever. (On this particular door, it helps that the door has windows. But, with a little practice, this can be done on any electric garage-door.) With only a slight tug, it will cause the release-lever to pivot downward, releasing the door-arm from the trolley. (See figure 7.) Now the door can be lifted freely by hand.

Alternatively, the release-lever can be retracted from a few feet to either side of the door’s center with a flat metal rod. It has to be a lot stiffer than a hanger though. The rods used to fasten chain-link fencing to fence-post work well for this purpose.

Solution

As for preventing unauthorized access to an authorized remote (vulnerability #1), this can be achieved by having key-chain remotes instead of visor-mounted remotes. If you wouldn’t leave keys lying around visible inside your car, then you shouldn’t leave a plainly-visible garage-door remote on your car’s visor either. You can easily carry a key-chain remote with you and keep it in your pocket, greatly increasing your awareness of exactly where that remote is. So that’s what I recommend doing.

I spoke to a professional garage-door installer about vulnerability #2, regarding pulling the release-lever from outside of the door. He knew of no way to address this vulnerability. I searched for products that prevent tools from being used to operate the release lever, but I found none. So I developed my own solution.

On another two-car garage, I rendered this attack unsuccessful by mounting barriers along the top of the door. The purpose of the barriers is to prevent the insertion of tools that can be used to pull the release-lever. For maximum effectiveness, I chose to fasten an 8-foot barrier on the wall over the doorway and an additional, overlapping barrier on the door itself, the full width of the 16-foot door.

For the wall I used a single 8-foot piece of 3/4” angle-aluminum, which is being fastened to the wall in figure 8. For the door I used two 8-foot lengths of 1” angle-aluminum. In figure 9, one of these has been installed but the other side of the door is still bare. Note that the washers were placed between this barrier and the door to align it properly with the wall-mounted barrier. Also note that, in the testing phase, the pan-head screws on the wall-mounted barrier snagged the door-mounted barrier. So the holes were counter-sunk and the screws were replaced with flush-head screws. Then the second door-mounted barrier was installed as seen in figure 10.

The coat-hanger only works well when the attacker has relatively unobstructed access at or near the horizontal center of the door. With these barriers installed, I was unable to insert the hanger within four feet of the center. I was barely able to insert it from five and a half feet away! As for the flat bar, it has worked well when the attacker had unobstructed direct access from four feet away or so. But with these barriers, I was unable to insert the bar anywhere along the entire width of the door.

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