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Why security in movies is not always realistic

by Andy Clutton

What happens in movies or TV series may never happen in real life. In fact, when it comes to break-ins, robberies, or hacker attacks, movies are full of completely unrealistic things.

Often, the highly specialised technicians are not even involved in the filming process to provide proper guidance. That’s how the audience is getting lost in a distorting reality while the experts are painfully confused about such fakes. For instance, the viewers believe some powder can detect IR rays that protect the Holy Grail. Or, they think a burglar can connect a wire to the Ajax keypad, read the password, and hack the security system.

Ajax Systems has analyzed probably the most popular movie break-in — hacking a security system through a keypad to deduce it is performed in three main steps:

  1. Finding a keypad
  2. Gaining physical access or intercepting a radio signal
  3. Hacking the system through third-party software.

So, what is wrong with each step?

Step 1: Finding a keypad

The first move in any intrusion attempt is gathering information. When movie intruders enter a building, they know exactly which direction to run and where to look for potentially hackable devices, even if they are on the other side of the wall. While it may seem simple in theory, it is actually quite difficult to distinguish between wired and wireless devices in practice.

To determine the exact location of the wired keypad, an intruder must use a high-powered multiscanner to find the right cable hidden in the wall. However, the multiscanner does not identify what kind of cables these are — related to a doorbell, door intercom, or electrical wiring. And with thick walls, a multiscanner can be fully useless.

If the keypad is wireless, searching for cables hidden in the wall won’t help. Intruders can try to scan the radio signal to detect the location of the wireless device. Still, the device is allotted a short time frame to exchange data with a hub using the TDMA technology. The rest of the time, their communication modules are inactive. To an intruder, it may take dozens of minutes to pinpoint the signal’s source. And even then, there’s no guarantee that the detected signal source belongs to the intended device. In addition, it might not be an Ajax device, as other devices also use Ajax frequencies.

However, to catch the radio signal, intruders use a code grabber. A special device intercepts the signal transmitted when the system is armed or disarmed. But still, it is impossible to hack an Ajax device in this way due to the signal encryption and a proprietary communication protocol.

Read the full blog here

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