Home Automation Systems Easily Hacked via Powerlines

X10 and Z-Wave home automation systems do not support encryption, according to researchers, and can be easily hacked via powerlines.

The X10 jammer was designed by researchers to hack home automation systems through power lines. (Photo courtesy of David Kennedy and Rob Simon via
Jason Knott · August 10, 2011

Two researchers at DefCon in Las Vegas showed how they can hack into automation systems that run through powerlines.

According to, the hackers showed how, using a sniffer device connected to the broadband network via an electrical outlet, they could manipulate 15 different neighbors’ lights, HVAC and security systems that communicate via the powerline because those communication signals are not encrypted.

The hackers also showed how they were able to track the movements of 15 neighbors with automation systems inside their homes via their motion sensors and cameras, as well as jam signals for lights and alarms.

“None of the manufacturers have implemented really any security whatsoever on these devices,” says Dave Kennedy, one of the hackers. “It’s such an immature technology.”

According to, the hackers spent two months researching and designing their open-source tools to conduct the hacks. The hackers focused on x10 systems because that protocol “does not support encryption.” They were also able to hack Z-Wave devices because the device they looked at did not have the AES encryption incorporated properly.

The hacking tools are being released to the public as the X10 Sniffer and the X10 Blackout, which jams signals to interfere with the operation of lights, alarms, security cameras and other devices, according to It may only be a matter of time before these devices are in the hands of burglars.

  About the Author

Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at

Follow Jason on social media:

Jason also participates in these groups:
LinkedIn · Google+

View Jason Knott's complete profile.

  Article Topics

Security · News · Powerline · X10 · Z-Wave · All Topics
CE Pro Magazine

Read More Articles Like This… With A Free Subscription

CE Pro magazine is the resource you need to keep up-to-date on the latest products, techniques, designs and business practices. Subscribe today!

Subscribe Today!