Man uses hidden code to access Seattle condo complex raising call box security concerns
by Matt Markovich
12 September 2017

A Seattle condo manager is warning others after security video showed a trespasser using a hidden key code to gain access to his building and case it out.
(Photo: KOMPO News screen grab of security video)

SEATTLE - When Peter Wakim started reviewing surveillance video after hearing reports of a suspicious man prowling the Continental Place Condominums in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood, he noticed something peculiar.

The video shows a white man with long hair extending from his baseball cap, walking into the front entrance, tapping a code on the call box and going right into the lock front door.

The problem? There is no code on the call box to open the front door or one the Wakim and building management knew about. But, it turns out there is one.
“He goes straight to the key pad and his fingers stay on the lower part of the key pad which is not normal behavior,” Wakim said, looking at the surveillance video.

The call box is typically used when a visitor arrives, searches the directory for the resident’s name, types in the residents’ three-digit code, which then rings to their phone. The resident then has the option of electronically opening up the front door.

The only way residents can enter the locked doors of the building is tapping a key fob on an electronic reader, which opens a door.

Around 1:30 a.m. on September 5, closed circuit cameras captured the trespasser quickly typing in a code on the keypad which immediately opened the door.
Wakim, who is a resident and board member for the building, was surprised with what he saw.

“I was confused because we thought we had a very secure building and you needed a security fob to get in,” said Wakim.

The video shows the trespasser walking through the garage, looking at the bicycles, even taking notes about the bikes he saw. He leaves out a garage exit after a half hour, but doesn’t steal anything.

Wakim decided to Google the brand name of the security system and access codes.

“It came up with several sites, all showing the same access code on how to open a door,” said Wakim. "We had no idea this code existed and our door was so vulnerable.”

Wakim and building staff tried the code and it worked. That day, they had a security company come in and change the code.

That night, video shows the same trespasser coming back to try the code again. It didn’t work. He also had several key fobs in his hands, none of them worked.
Wakim said when he was confronted by a doorman, he tried several excuses to get into the building, but the doorman didn’t buy any of them and refused entry.
Security experts have warned of default access codes being posted on the internet.

“You can find a lot of them out there,” said Brandon Gnash, a consultant for Leviathan Securities in Seattle. “People who are in charge of managing these systems that kind of just throw them online for their own reference. It’s too easy to find them.”

Seattle police have reviewed the video and are investigating.

A simple search of the internet reveals many access codes for various security systems. None of them should work if the codes are changed during installation.
“We can't find the manufacturer any more,” said Wakim, who isn’t sure why the code wasn’t changed in his building when the system was installed.

“I’m surprised that it didn't happen earlier and we didn't know about it earlier," he said.

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