The original “self opened-and-closed” garage door revolutionized garages and car storage in 1918.
It was a fully mechanical system with no electronic parts, as electronics were not yet in common household goods. A U-shaped bar was set into the driveway, which turned other mechanical parts to make the door open. The original automatic garage door opener had no particular security safeguards, save from manually locking the door.
During World War II, new technology was invented that was used to remotely detonate bombs. Using a simple transmitter and receiver, this new remote control was adjusted to work on garage door openers. Originally, these garage door openers only worked on one unchanging radio frequency. This wasn’t a problem at first, but as more and more people owned automobiles, more and more houses were built with radio frequency- remote controlled automatic garage door openers. Suddenly, opening one garage door caused people to open their neighbors’ garage doors as well. The evening rush hour became quite interesting in cozy little neighborhoods.
In order to rectify the opening of multiple doors in range with the push of a single button, automatic openers underwent a change. Dip switches were added to the transmitters and receivers. Though they had to be set in advance, these wireless systems offered 256 code options. This meant that it was reasonably unlikely for neighbors to have the same code, and the opening of all the neighbors doors along with one’s own ceased, though they admittedly did not provide high security.
Because these codes are sent using radio frequencies, it was possible for persons with bad intentions to use frequency reading devices and capture a code to a given house simply by using the device at the same time a homeowner opened the garage door. This was particularly terrifying, as by this time, most garages were built onto the houses and offered interior access to homes. To address this security issue, automatic door openers began using rolling codes.
Openers with rolling codes automatically program a new code into the transmitter and receiver every time the remote is used to open the door. This means that it is not possible to capture the code with frequency reading devices, as the code is different every time. For a while, these openers were allowed to operate using government radio frequencies between 300 and 400 MHz. In 2005, the United States Department of Defense needed more available frequencies, and so remote openers now use 315 MHz frequency. This keeps the military’s Land Mobile Radio System (LMRS) from accidentally interfering with garage openers and resetting the codes.
Now that the codes are protected, other security concerns have arisen. External keypads are a convenient feature of many modern garage door openers, but they do present a weak point in home security. It is important to keep keypad codes secret and to change them occasionally. Many new remote openers feature vacation lockout. This feature shuts off the receiver so that it cannot be accessed when the homeowners are away for extended periods.
Many garage doors also have manual mechanical locks that can be used. Some have keyed entry, but many must be locked and unlocked from inside the garage. Of course, many home security companies offer ways to add security to garage doors, including monitoring. It is also a good idea to lock the interior entry door so that if a thief does make it into the garage, they are still denied access to the inside of the home.
The best resource for ensuring proper automatic garage door opener security is a professional door installation and service company. Ask about security before settling on a product and installation. If the representative is unable to help, find another company. If concerns still arise, talk to a home security firm about adding an extra layer of security to the garage entry.