Garage Door Opener Mystery
August 12, 2018 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Why did my garage door opener open 1 foot in the middle of the night?

I have a Chamberlin garage door opener - installed about 4 months ago and has worked fine. Yesterday morning I had the garage door open for about an hour about 1 foot so that I could water a plant from the hose bib that's inside the garage. After that, I reeled in the hose and closed the garage door. I was in the garage multiple times during the rest of the day and evening and was outside on the street in front of my garage and did not notice it open so I'm assuming I did actually close it.

In the middle of the night, my dog woke up and was barking madly at something. I didn't hear anything but he woke up first and then we both went back to bed. I don't know what time that was but after 1:00 am.

This morning when I went down to the garage, it was open to the same 1 foot or so that I had had it at yesterday. I looked on the garage door app and the history shows the garage closing at 11:41 yesterday and then no activity until 3:43 am when the status says "Garage Door Opener was Stopped" and then the same thing at 3:47 am. I closed it after I discovered it open at 7:57.

So what happened? I feel pretty confident that I closed it after I watered yesterday and the app history shows that. Was someone messing with my opener at 3:30 in the morning and if so why would they just open it 12 inches? Twice?

Obviously I'm a little creeped out. Nothing seems disturbed in the garage.
posted by otherwordlyglow to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
I don't have an answer, but if it were me, I'd start by changing the app password just to be safe.
posted by cestmoi15 at 10:23 AM on August 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I hadn’t thought of that but the password for the app is my fingerprint! There is a password for the exterior keypad to the garage that I’ll change.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:35 AM on August 12, 2018

I assume this opener is part of the "Internet of Things That Shouldn't Be on the Internet" (IOT)? There are bunches of possibilities when you find your garage door open, even if it isn't connected to the internet. For instance, an important design feature is that the door not crush someone, so with some openers if you can muscle the door up a fraction of an inch, it will open up the rest of the way. That would leave it fully open, but it's an example of the kind of "local" issues that might happen.

When you have an opener that is on the internet, 8 billion strangers now have access to it. Plus you have whatever buggy software the vendor is running on their web site. And whatever buggy software is running in the IOT device. And *all* software is buggy. And most IOT firmware will never be updated...

My wild-ass guess (based on thirty years in software) is that there was some bug on the web site that "replayed" the inputs you used to open the door a foot the evening before. This is because it seems unlikely that an attacker would randomly choose to replicate what happened the previous evening and the fact you found log entries. (Of course, some hacker may have found a way to replay existing commands, too). Will it happen again? Who knows?

I know nothing about your home security situation--whether you are in a high-crime area or have suspicious neighbors keeping an eye open, whether you have an attached or detached garage, etc. But I would not place a lot of confidence in your opener keeping your castle inviolate. Having said that, of course we have to recognize that if someone wants into your place, they *can* get in. More and better locks are no panacea. But bad IOT locks are whatever the opposite of a panacea is. And sadly, they're very common. Here is the first article I found about IOT locks online.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 10:38 AM on August 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

My garage door opener button sticks halfway sometimes which causes the door to randomly open and close.
posted by rebeccabeagle at 12:24 PM on August 12, 2018

Update: just got into my car, which was parked in front of my house. Glove box and center console were open and rifled through and yes, remote opener is missing. So it seems that someone got into my car, stole the opener, attempted to use it, and then maybe was scared off by my dog?
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:56 PM on August 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Wow, that's a huge security flaw. You really dodged a home invasion there!
posted by agregoli at 8:33 AM on August 14, 2018

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