It was only a matter of time before someone tried to imitate the innovative way one hacker discovered to unlock garage doors with a simple $30 device, which he revealed at the annual hacking conference Def Con, and now the authorities are warning of the danger.
Back in August, well known hacker Samy Kamkar, revealed a $30 device able to unlock several models of cars and even garage doors. Less than two months following Kamkar’s presentation, authorities have reportedly witnessed individuals trying to break into people’s homes using some form of the device, in Whitestown, Indiana, a town with less than 4,000 population.
The unidentified burglar, or burglars, have allegedly hacked the garage doors of “at least a dozen homes” using their own reproduction of Kamkar’s device, local news stations reported.
Local news stations didn’t name Kamkar’s device, which is dubbed RollJam, but did broadcast a picture of the device during the segment. Police Chief Dennis Anderson described the device as “handheld” transmitter that has the ability of stealing garage doors rolling codes, just like Kamkar demonstrated with RollJam. One of the local stations covering the report heavily implied RollJam when stating on live air, “anytime a thief can get something and they can get into anyone’s garage or home for $30 that would be concerning to me.”
It remains unclear how police were able to determine the use of Kamkar’s device. The Whitestown Metropolitan Police Department denied multiple media inquiries.
Kamkar himself stated he was shocked by the reports.
Kamkar is a well-known hacker who rose to fame nearly a decade ago when his MySpace profile had gained over one million friends within just a few hours thanks to an unknown virus.
What’s particularly striking about the case is that Kamkar never released the technical specs or code behind RollJam, making it impossible for the burglars to be imitating him. Kamkar presented his findings during a live conference, which was later uploaded online.
“I never released a line of code,” Kamkar told Motherboard Vice. “The picture they’re using is from the internet, not one they took, so maybe they’re just putting 2 and 2 together, but somehow getting 5.”
A few months prior, Kamkar reveled another device that required someone to simply modify a kids toy to unlock garage doors, the device dubbed OpenSesame, however it only works with certain, older models of garage doors. Kamkar, who generally releases all the information and code behind his projects, so that others can recreate his findings, only released a bungled version of the code, for the sole purpose that no one abused it.
Given that both OpenSesame and RollJam target outdated techniques that both garage door and car manufacturers use, it’s entirely possible that someone developed their own code-stealing device.
“Most manufacturers don’t really do anything until you demonstrate an issue,” Kamkar said during his RollJam presentation, “it’s only when it’s public knowledge that people begin to improve.”
Hopefully now that burglars may have the potential to rob homes using a measly $30 device, code manufacturers and the public will take notice and initiate change.