How To Defeat a Security Alarm: Crash and Smash Attack


One of the reasons I love being a security professional is the never ending chess game we get to play with criminals. We invent a new security measure and they try to figure out how to defeat it. They invent a new security system attack and we try to figure out how to stop them and/or catch them in the act. The “Crash and Smash” attack is one commonly used by burglars to defeat security alarms. Here’s how it works.

  1. The burglar kicks in an entry door. Entry doors are doors that the security alarm allows you to use when you come home. Rather than sounding the alarm right away, when you open an entry door the alarm starts beeping and counting down for 30, 45 or 60 seconds giving you time to walk to your keypad and disarm the alarm system. Unfortunately your security alarm can’t tell the difference between a burglar kicking in the door and you walking in as usual, so it treats the burglar just like you and waits 30 to 60 seconds before the alarm goes off. Residential doors are surprisingly easy to kick in unless you have a reinforced door frame.
  2. The burglar uses that 30 to 60 second entry delay to quickly search your house for the alarm panel. This isn’t always easy, but it’s very doable. As a security alarm professional when I am doing a home security assessment I can usually find the main alarm panel in the first or second place I look, which is often necessary because many homeowners don’t know where their alarm panel is. First I check the basement and if it’s not in the basement then I check the closets. If you think 30 to 60 seconds is too short to find your alarm panel think again. Try this – time yourself coming in the front door and running to your alarm panel. Chances are you will get there in 10 seconds or less. That leaves you at least 20 seconds to destroy the alarm panel.
  3. The burglar destroys the alarm panel before the 30 to 60 second entry delay countdown runs out. Security alarms don’t call to alert the police until after this entry delay countdown has run out and the alarm siren is going off. If the burglar successfully destroys or disables the alarm system before that 30 to 60 second entry delay countdown is up then the alarm will not call and alert the police! At this point your security alarm is useless. Is your alarm panel in a locked metal box? It doesn’t matter! All they have to do is tear the metal box off the wall or simply cut the wires coming out of the metal box that go to the phone line. Even if you have a wireless cellular GSM based security alarm there are still wires connecting the alarm to the cell phone communicator. Even if the cell phone communicator is locked inside the metal box they can still destroy the wireless antenna, which due to the laws of physics can not be inside the metal box or it would not be able to communicate with the cell phone tower.

That’s how a crash and smash attack works. The crash is when the burglar kicks in the entry door. The smash is when the burglar smashes or disables the alarm panel before it calls out for help. The result is the burglar has rendered your fancy security alarm useless and can spend all the time he wants in your house because the cops haven’t been called.

The good news is has developed a clever method to detect this form of attack called “Crash and Smash Protection”. Rather than waiting for the entry delay countdown to finish, crash and smash protection sends out a signal immediately as soon as the entry door is opened saying “an entry door has just been opened, stand by for for a disarm confirmation”. If the security system doesn’t follow up by sending a disarm confirmation signal within a few minutes then assumes a burglar has destroyed your alarm panel and issues a crash and smash alarm signal to the central station who will then follow the normal burglary alarm protocol and dispatch the police if necessary. The video below illustrates how this works.’s crash and smash protection is relatively new and most burglars aren’t aware of it yet. Most alarm systems don’t have it. ADT doesn’t have crash and smash protection. That’s right, if you have an ADT security alarm then you do not have crash and smash protection. Therefore many burglars faced with an system will assume they have successfully disabled your alarm by smashing it when in reality the police have been notified of the crash and smash alarm and are on their way.

Eventually burglars may invent a new attack to defeat’s crash and smash protection but we don’t see it happening in the near future. You can have the upper hand by using with crash and smash protection instead of outdated systems like ADT which are vulnerable to a simple crash and smash attack using nothing more than swift kick to an entry door and a baseball bat to the alarm panel. So goes another round in the never-ending chess game between criminal and security professional. It’s your move bad guys!

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Written by Ryan Boder

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