Showing posts with label Personal Security. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Personal Security. Show all posts

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Deviant Ollam Is Thinking About Doing A Smartphone App

Update: It looks like a Twitter user brought up, Haven - The Guardian Project's physical security app developed by Edward Snowden.

Welp, it looks like @DeviantOllam, the physical security penetration tester and trainer, is looking to do a hotel room security app. If he can check off all the boxes and can provide some more features, I'd be all in.
What would I be looking for in a physical security smartphone app?

  1. Various ways to notify users of an event. Push alerts to my other devices would be great, as well as home AI integration with Alexa or Google Home.
  2. Motion sensor sensitivity and detection range settings that are user-friendly. Other apps do this but they don't walk you through these settings.
  3. The ability to choose between cloud storage or phone storage.
  4. The ability to use a tilt sensor for drawer openings.
  5. Noise detection.
  6. Customized annunciation. I like customized audio messages for various intrusion-related alerts.
  7. Integration with a door stop physical device. When bumped by a door, it would set off an alert. Great for closets in hotels.
  8. The use of your phone's flash as a strobe when an intrusion has been detected.
  9. Using a combination of alerts to determine the nature of your alert. I may want to know if the maid came into my room but I'd really be interested to know if they entered that closet I placed the door stop at.
  10. Remote SMS alarm disarm.
What would you want to see?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Product Review: Sighthound

One of the first topic areas that caught my eye was video analytics. As a video surveillance monitor for a lot of my career in physical security, I felt I had a good grasp on why most surveillance systems fail to detect bad guys as much as they should. If you're a physical security professional, you know where that weak link is as well - the monitors. Yup. It took me less than six months looking at video screens most of my day to understand most irregular events fail to go noticed or are properly assessed. This happens for a variety of reasons:
  • Monitor fatigue. This happens when a monitor stares at a screen for too long and either falls asleep or becomes easily distracted. We're humans and no one likes gazing at an empty parking lot for hours on end. So, the mind begins to wonder and bad things can happen. If you'd like to learn more about monitor fatigue, this is a great resource. - (I know it's Wikipedia but as a primer, it's not too shabby)
  • Monitors are expected to recognize irregular events in a huge ocean of regular benign events. That parking lot I mentioned before could have 400 cars in it and thousands of people coming and going. If mixed in with benign events, irregular events can appear to be okay and fit with the norm. This explains why some folks can get robbed right in front of a camera and no one notice.
  • There are too many "rules" to remember and act upon on too many feeds for a single monitor. Sometimes, with human monitors, too much video is just as bad as driving into someone else's headlights.
Where else are all these problems more demonstrative than in a home security environment? I have friends who have 6 or more cameras on a home and they call themselves "monitoring" those feeds constantly. No, you're not. What I find most often is the direct opposite - they're monitoring one or two cameras, maybe. The others go either unwatched or constantly recording over each other. So what's the solution to ensure all the feeds are being monitored and reporting and recording events as they occur?

Sighthound is a software application that acts as a monitoring platform with an embedded analytics package. You can not only monitor your feeds from various cameras but you can also have those feeds report only when "rules" are broken which include:
  • A person entering a zone.
  • Someone leaving a zone.
  • Motion inside a zone.

The feeds can be viewed remotely. You have to pay for that feature, though, there is a trial version which includes this for 14 days. Given recent issues with Internet of Things being exploited for DDOS attacks, I highly recommend changing whatever default passwords that are on your cameras, ensuring the firewall on your router is working, and updating the firmware on the device. If you can run a scan to see what ports are open on your machine using the scanner at and close them, if possible. Also, check out routing the camera through a DNS provider like DynDNS.

I digress. While you can have the software email you or send a notification to the smartphone app, you can also have it do a myriad of options through IFTTT. The possibilities are almost endless from there. Oh and perhaps the most creative option and one I particularly like is the ability to execute a command should an event be triggered. For example, you could set it to send you a snapshot of the event and then shutdown your computer. Why is that cool? If your PC is full-disk encrypted, then you have just ensured a key mitigation piece is activated. You also have a picture or video of the event and can determine if you need to respond further.

What I like most about Sighthound is how quickly it responds to events. Almost 5 or 10 seconds after an event, I received a notification of the event and was able to view a snapshot. That's pretty cool when you consider how costly an enterprise system can be offering the same service.

There are some things I'd like to see it offer in the future:
  • Security options. I'd like to password protect my remote feeds. This maybe here already and I just missed it. If so, I feel like this is kind of an understated feature.
  • More event triggers. It covers the basics but I'd like to see triggers for things noise detection with those cameras that offer audio in their feeds.
  • Possibly some interoperability with other devices. I'd love it if it could network with other sensors through the home and capture those events as well. Some proprietary device systems already do this but I'd like to see something that would allow me to work with events involving a smoke detector and my camera.
Overall, I THOROUGHLY love Sighthound. It has tremendous potential and is extremely affordable. I hope this is a new movement within the home security surveillance sector. I'd like to see less machines that can't or won't cooperate with other devices to successfully mitigate potentially dangerous events. It isn't perfect but I find it is certainly a great step in that direction.

As of now, I haven't reached out to the Sighthound team for an interview. I will soon, though. I'd love to hear what more they have to offer.

If you know of any other physical security applications or devices you'd like me to review, contact me via the "Contact Me" link above.

How To Get Your Family Interested in Security

A question I get asked sometimes is "How do I get my family interested in security?" The question, surprisingly enough, comes from security professionals who are passionate about what they do but find that their families either don't share their affinity for our trade or are rather lackadaisical about upholding mitigation techniques. Come on. Don't kid yourself. Your family could probably care less about security too. Your spouse probably says "That's why I have you, Mr./Mrs. Security Dude. That's your job." Yeah, I roll my eyes too.

As I stated in my previous podcast, you could pay $10,000 for the world's greatest door lock and have your entire mitigation ruined by a spouse or absent-minded child who forget to lock the door. It happens more than we like to admit. I also surmise it's why some of us are so passionate about security awareness training at work. Given that we view them sometimes as the "weak" link, let's look at how we can get them better at not just maintaining mitigation but also becoming independent security stakeholders.
  1. Chill out and recognize who you're working with. You don't get to always hire friends and family. So, we're stuck with people who wouldn't know the difference between a padlock and deadbolt at times. And....why should they? "That's what you're here for" is a phrase I've heard countless times. Recognize the role you've taken as the security person of the house and how that has enabled them.
  2. Don't scare them. We know things about the world in which we live that our families should never be exposed to. It's kind of why we do what we do, right? But ignorance isn't always bliss. In sales, I learned a term called "finding pain". It's a term used to describe learning what someone's personal security nightmare is and then exploiting that to get them to buy a proudct you sell to alleviate that "pain". Sounds pretty awful, huh? But it works. Do the same with your family. Ssssssssssllllllllllooooooowwwwwwwllllllllyyyyyy. This is where you explain to them how they could lose things they care about very easily if mitigation isn't there to stop the bad guy or at least aid in getting their valuables back or replaced. I have found explaining value and risk in its most basic and pure form has been very helpful with getting children on early as stakeholders. It takes a lot of time and patience but it is well worth it.
  3. Invite them along to do a risk survey of the home. This sounds like something a bit too intense for your home but it's really not and rather easy to do.
    • Give each person an area they're responsible for like their rooms or designated work/play areas.
    • Have them inventory all of the items in that area they place value on. Tell them to ignore easily disposable items and clothes (absent something truly expensive).
    • Also have them include photos of the most expensive items and to include any serial numbers if possible in the inventory.
    • Give them value parameters. I make mine rather simple - irreplaceable, replaceable but painful to lose (cost too much or would take forever to get back), replaceable with very little to any pain. For smaller children, this could be a challenge so I encourage you to explain this a bit more in-depth and accompany them throughout the process.
  4. Do your vulnerability assessments with them. We've identified things of value and the amount of pain it would create getting them back if it were possible. Now, have them look at all of the ways someone or something could make that risk a reality. For kids, you're going to have be patient and listen to every "ninja scenario". With boys, you'll hear this threat profile thrown around a lot. Get used to it. Explain the difference between a likely exploitable vulnerability and one's that will probably always remain vulnerabilities (Bad guys cutting a hole in your roof). Get out a map or overlay and have them articulate the vulnerability.
  5. Address threats. Be sure to caution them to stay away from "thinking like a wolf" mentality. Most often, your family is a mix of really good people. So have them look at likely threats instead. With smaller kids, explain that because it's "likely" doesn't make it real. A bad guy could walk down the street and decide to randomly steal your kid - that doesn't mean every stranger is the bad guy. Explain that because we don't know every person who could be down the street means we can't exclude all of them as potential bad actors for certain crimes. This is also a good time to explain that most violent crimes occur when victims already know their attackers. If we know all good people, then we can reasonably say our probability of meeting harmful attackers is minimal. Crimes of opportunity can be more difficult to simply dismiss because the likelihood exists that you could be a victim of a stranger. Thus we have to mitigate that threat, as well. Discuss any sort of special security issues you face (i.e. any jilted lovers, enemies from prior jobs, stalkers, etc.). 
  6. Buy door and window alarms from the Dollar Store and have them work through a variety of home security projects. My absolute favorite activity to do with children is building "booby-traps" with these Dollar Store gadgets. I have them take a map and examine their likely avenues of approach, chokepoints, and areas of final denial. Then, I talk about how the gadgets serve one purpose only - detection. Afterwards, we mark where the gadgets are on the map. Finally, it's time to deploy them. An old trick I learned was fishing line attached to magnet on the "alarm" and securing the sensor/annunciator to the object it's resting on. When the bad guy trips the wire that's wrapped around another object and attached on the other end to magnet, it will then yank the magnet from the sensor it's resting on and sound the alarm. Trust me. Kids love this activity.
  7. Go over "secret" codes and how the alarm system at your home works. Sounds pretty basic but you'd be surprised how easy it is to get them on-board by having them understand how the control panel works. Maybe, you don't share the activation code but you can show them how to work the duress code and how to call for help. I like the idea of a "secret" code that's for everyone in the family only, as a way of building into the family a living duress code system for everyday use.
  8. Next, go over contingency plans. Where do we go? What do we do? Who do we call? What are our "actions on contact"? Again, we're not making everyone in the house Jason Bourne but are making everyone in the house prepared for other events than just a house fire. Having a plan and even rehearsing that plan are absolutely key to having a comprehensive home security program.
  9. Address access control. Growing up in my house, my mother would call this "Don't you let anyone in my house I didn't invite". Yeah, it was that serious. It's almost as if she was grooming me for this trade. Explain the rules for allowing people into the home. BE VERY FIRM HERE, ESPECIALLY WITH SMALL CHILDREN (WHO SHOULDN'T BE ANSWERING THE DOOR ANYWAYS).
  10. Teach them situational awareness. This can be very challenging for some members of the family. Be patient and make it fun. I like to start with memory games by asking questions like "What was the color of the car outside as we pulled up?" or "What kind of hat did the guy walking down the street have on?" Do this enough times and you'll be in amazement with how fast they catch on.
Your experiences with this will certainly vary. I've had a lot luck here but I would be seriously remiss, if I didn't disclose that it's been challenging. The key is patience. Take your time. Understand the lay of the land. Most importantly, make this about us rather than about something you do.

Let me know if you have any ideas of your own.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

KiteString - A Web App That Could Save Your Life

I'm all about the use of automated tools as force multipliers in security. Whether you're protecting your home or office, you can always benefit from having an automated tool to help you out. Just remember the biggest vulnerability begins with the user. The folks at KiteString have done an awesome job of creating a wonderful web application that could actually save your life.

KiteString is a check-in service, wherein you create a list of contacts, a check-in phrase (optional), and a duress word (also optional). You also supply the service with your estimated time of arrival to your location. When you fail to check-in via text, the app will notify your emergency contacts.

Who can benefit from a service like this?

  • Victims of domestic violence
  • Stalking victims
  • People concerned with overt threats against their lives (witnesses in criminal cases)
  • Parents of children who travel or who are mobile
  • Senior citizens who need to notify their children should they not arrive somewhere
  • Security enthusiasts
  • Private investigators
When coupled with tools like Tasker, Guardly, Locale, and now, KiteString, the possibilities are endless what you can do with respect to emergency notifications. I'll be doing some side projects with this service to see what else you can do with other tools working in conjunction with KiteString.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Opinion: Your Gun Is An Equalizer


Folks, it is no secret I love guns. I love shooting them. I love learning about them. I love talking about them. That being said, I also recognize their limitations in the hands of the untrained and the overzealous. However, I came across this article while perusing my emails this morning and it has me FIRED UP! That's right. I'm pretty upset with this.

I'll address a few points made in the article:
  1. The author attributes a quote a female professional boxer and concealed carry holder, Christy Salter Martin made in an article in The Atlantic. She says, “Just putting a weapon in the woman’s hand is not going to reduce the number of fatalities or gunshot victims that we have. Too many times, their male counterpart or spouse will be able to overpower them and take that gun away.” It is no big secret as well that I was a police officer in the military for a number of years and am now a criminal defense investigator currently. My stepfather successfully defended a woman who used a gun against an abusive husband in 1992(?). She had no trouble leveling the gun at her husband who was facing her and pulling the trigger. I have known several women also engage their husbands and strangers with guns with great efficacy. Women have had guns for quite some time and a many of men who thought they could overpower them and take their guns are now six-feet deep wishing they hadn't tried. 
  2. The author claims to be a lifelong shooter and has since changed her former stance on believing having a gun could help her defend herself because a professional boxer told her and the rest of the world how she got shot with her own gun. Let's get something straight. Being a professional boxer is a difficult occupation and I'm taking nothing away from that. Ms. Martin was stabbed and shot in a brutal attack by her then-husband. The details are pretty gruesome. In no way am I disputing Ms. Martin's claims of her attack and why she feels the way she does. She has earned the right to have such an opinion. However, I would suggest her attack supports my supposition her attacker may have had an advantage over her because he had a knife. Contrary to what you've heard, bringing a knife to a gun fight against an under-trained gunslinger is not a bad idea. Ask any police officer how long they keep their gun out before actually pulling the trigger in any lethal situation and you will be amazed by how staggeringly short the time is. If I recall from training I received as a military law enforcement officer, your reaction time with someone wielding a knife is very short. This article explains it better than I can. However, being a professional boxer and a concealed carry permit holder does not in any way make you an expert on whether all women should have guns in their home. 
  3. The author provides no source for a quote about data she uses to substantiate her point. When I mean she used "no source", I mean she didn't bother to cite a single source of where this report came from. She didn't bother to say the quote came from the article Ms. Martin had written. Read for yourself: "A recent study found that women with access to firearms become homicide victims at significantly higher rates than men, and 84% of all U.S. females account for all the firearm victims in the developed world. Chilling stats, wouldn’t you say?" No, ma'am. What's chilling is your seeming lack of integrity. Since grade school, all writers have had it planted in their brains to cite sources. Yet, you can't name one for your reader to check your facts except Ms. Martin's article? You even quote the President of National Rifle Association without giving us one place where he is seen saying it. At best, this is just laziness. At worst, this is an industry website doing very dangerous fact-checking. Chilling, indeed. 
  4. Both articles fail to acknowledge the impact which proper training could have. Seriously, not one mention from someone who had successfully completed a weapons retention course who used the techniques taught was cited. How about the reluctance of some female victims who may have been afraid to pull the trigger? How about a report on the totality of circumstances? What other tactical advantage did the attacker have? I'm not victim-blaming. I'm just asking for more factual data which provides more context than just numbers. 

Here are my thoughts:
  • Having just a gun as your means to defend yourself is foolhardy. Seriously, if you own a gun, you should also be equipped with knowing how to retain it in any confrontation just like any police officer would. Cops don't lose guns in fights for a few reasons - good holsters, good training, and a proper survival mindset. I have long felt concealed carry holders can be quite irresponsible in this way. Many of us are good people who just want to protect our homes, families, and our neighbors. As I have also said in the past, good guys are terrible for thinking how bad guys think. They believe just drawing the gun will make any person stop the action of attacking them or others. They fail to equate for the determined bad guy who doesn't care. In that situation, good guys often fail to pull the trigger for a variety of bad reasons. I also believe this lack of competence in weapons retention has contributed to many high profile shootings to include the shooting of Trayvon Martin. I firmly believe had George Zimmerman been better trained to hold on to his weapon and knew how to adequately defend himself with other tools than a gun, perhaps (and that's a big "perhaps") Trayvon Martin would still be alive. 
  • If you're the publisher of an industry magazine or newsletter, particularly one in security, you have a duty to ensure you report all of the facts and to properly cite them. Doing so, ensures your readers who are supposed to be professionals in the field can check your references and dig further into the material. I do it here. Am I perfect? No, I get it wrong sometimes. I sure did when I first started this blog. Then again, I'm not being paid to cite facts. You are, though. Doing this lets us readers know if you are a source we can trust. Based on what I have seen thus far in both the article and credentials of its staff, I will no longer trust Security Today.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

VIDEO: Using NFC Tags In My Car

I decided to do this project because I felt I had a few security vulnerabilities with respect to my vehicle. There are plenty of things I can do to perhaps prevent an attack on myself in my vehicle. That is a fool-hearty goal at best. Prevention of any crime is difficult to measure. We assume crime is prevented by the things we do but we have no idea as to whether the threat ever went away. Our best course of action, then, is to think about mitigation. In other words, we seldom plan for WHEN the attack or emergency will occur. In this scenario, I felt I a great mitigator would be the use of a discreet mechanism alerting authorities and other concerned persons if I found myself in an emergency. I felt NFC (near field communication) tags would be best, since my phone is an integral part of my travels in my vehicle. Placement of course was key, so I positioned the tag just below where I keep another tag that commands my phone to turn on my map an increase its brightness. The duress tag alerts the authorities and tweets out a duress message to friends and followers on social media. As you can see from the video it is place in a way where I can't accidentally activate the duress command. Imagine a scenario where the phone is mounted on the phone holder while I'm carjacked. The bad guy asks for the phone and I have an opportunity to grab the phone and place it on the tag for a second to activate my duress. I stall the attacker until the authorities arrive. I set the phone to activate the duress with the screen locked out when activated with no speakers on and only the microphone working.

Here is the pic of where my tags are located inside my vehicle:

A couple of great links to where you can buy some tags.

There are also a number of apps to use. I use Trigger. See the link below to download it from the Google Play Store:

The thing about NFC tags is they are very inexpensive and relatively easy to implement. Almost a perfect security tool when properly used.

To learn more about NFC tags:

Be sure to check out my blog for my DIY security projects and security related topics -

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

10 Ways to Mitigate The Risks and Issues Associated With Theft From Motor Vehicles

When I was stationed in England, one of the most pressing issues we faced was theft from motor vehicles. It seemed like everyday I received a report a US service member had something stolen from their vehicle. What amazed me was not the item stolen but the simplicity required in helping prevent and mitigate the issues surrounding these thefts. Here a few simple things you can do:

  1. If you leave it on your car seat, it WILL get stolen. There's no question in mind if you leave something of any value in your vehicle in plain view, it is not a matter of if but when it will be stolen. Take your valuables and secure them. If it has to remain in the vehicle, place it in your trunk. If you can take it inside, take it inside. NEVER EVER leave valuables in your car overnight. Period.
  2. Remember when I said "anything of value"? Well that also includes your GPS. The most common things most people forget to take in their homes, at the end of the day, is their detachable GPS unit. Take it inside. If you have to leave it in the car, lock it and the mount you use in the trunk. Also ensure your window doesn't have the infamous "GPS markers" - the residue left when the mount's suction piece is disconnected from your window. This is a "tell" that you have stuff of value possibly still in the vehicle.
  3. Limit things that tell everyone that you routinely store valuable things in your vehicles. If you're a cop, limit the "Thin Blue Line" or FOP stickers. It tells potential thieves that on occasion (perhaps today) you leave a gun or other department-issued gear in the vehicle. If you're in IT, now might a good time to take the ethernet cables and the old router boxes and leave them in the office or at home. Again, this tells thieves the wrong thing.
  4. Park your car in a lighted area in plain view of you and other pedestrians, passing motorists, and police officers. Most people think if they hide something, then thieves are less likely to attack. That is not the case always. Chances are you're not near as good as hiding stuff as you think. If you can't move the car to a well-lit area, at least consider moving it somewhere closer to your home.
  5. Your locked door means nothing. People normally laugh when I say this. I suspect this has to do with the fact that they forget that most thieves prefer easy methods of entry. If it's on the front seat and they want it, they will choose the path of least resistance - your windows.
  6. Get an alarm but actually go outside and turn it off when it annunciates. One of the biggest mistakes people make is they hear the car alarm go off but take a quick glance out and immediately turn off. What your car alarm is saying every time it goes off is "Hey you! Someone who is not you just touched me - as in I think someone is trying to steal stuff" It's a pain in the butt for sure to go out every single time. However, I'd rather know I actually went out and saw for myself rather than find my stuff gone because I deactivated the alarm with a visual inspection.
  7. Make securing your car a part of your nightly security routine. I do it every single night. I check all of the doors and windows in my house. Once I'm done there, I arm mine and my wife's vehicle, ensuring the doors are locked. This has to be done. 
  8. Buy insurance for all of your stuff. Seriously. Buy insurance that covers loss of stuff from your vehicle. Remember, it's not a matter of if but when your stuff will get taken.
  9. If you're parked in a public garage, practice all of the steps above AND consider parking near cameras. Thieves often hit public garages and lots because they believe they'll have some privacy (i.e. areas to hide and do their business). You rob them of that privacy by placing the vehicle some place where natural observers can see them and where there are cameras. If the garage is manned, consider parking the car nearest where the attendants are at. Also, always take your parking passes, gate keys, and ticket stubs with you.
  10. If you're in a business that requires tools in your vehicles, be extra vigilant when taking the vehicle home with you. Seriously. Of all the vehicles that get attacked, work vehicles are targeted the most. Why? You're more likely to have expensive stuff.
If you're a law enforcement officer or security manager charged with preventing these crimes, I recommend the following site to assist in helping you. -

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dude, You've Got Mad Pickpocket Skills

I have seen a lot of criminal acts in my 30-something years of being on this blue rock. Occasionally, I find myself amazed by how ingenious and brazen certain criminals are. This story out of China is one such case. A lady was innocently riding her bike when a pickpocket jogs next to her. As he gets closer to her, he uses chopsticks to retrieve her phone from jacket. That's right - chopsticks. You have to see it to believe it.

Yup. That's what you call a smooth operator.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Top Ten Ways To Protect Your Car and Those Shiny New Rims

So we've talked about how you can protect your home and your office. What haven't gone over and should is how to secure your car. This is perhaps the most frequent place people become victimized by criminals. There are a lot of reasons for this.  So let's go over a few and talk about how we can mitigate those issues and secure your car and the property inside of it.
  1. People leave too many valuables in their cars. I can see my wife reading this and giving me the "Oh really, Einstein" look. Why? Because I'm guilty of this at times. We leave everything ranging from laptops with sensitive information to cash inside our vehicles. Let's be frank. The only thing the lock on your car is good for is keeping amateurs out of your car. If a thief wants in your car, he can break a window and get inside. I tell you this so you will get out of the habit of thinking you've "secured" your belongings by simply locking the doors. This is a good start but irrelevant if the thief can and will choose another entry point. You should always move your belongings to somewhere safer than your vehicle when you can.
  2. If your car has cool gadgets and gizmos, hide it from public view when possible. I can always spot a car that will be broken into and the demographics of its owner. 16 to 24 year old males who drive "suped up" cars with racing stickers are great targets for thieves especially during the summer. Why? Because victims like leaving these cars in public view during the summer so everyone can see them. What's worse is these cars are often parked in public lots overnight with no natural observers which makes them a prime target for criminals. Park your car in a garage or in an area where it is well-lit and can be seen fully from the sidewalk. I don't suggest hiding it in the rear of the lot. That's the area thieves pick first because they feel either these cars are abandoned or the area provides a cover and concealment for their activities.  At home, try not to park your car on the street. Get it as close to your  as house possible and lit by a motion-sensitive light source.
  3. Buy an alarm or security device for your car. These are helpful for a variety of reasons. However, you have to respond when it goes off. Letting the alarm go off and resetting it without visually verifying the nature of the alarm is a recipe for disaster. People realize car alarms are often very temperamental  The problem is so do thieves. If a thief has an interest in your car and its belongings, he may set it off to see what you do. If you don't go outside and just reset from inside, he/she will assume you thought it was a false alarm and treat the alarm as false (which you will). I suggest before buying a car alarm that you do some research. Start by "Googling" the exact title of the alarm system and words like "bypass", "hack", or "review" along with the alarm system's title.  You'll be surprised how many car alarms are advertised in being the "best in the market" yet are cracked by amateurs daily.

  4. Roll up your windows. In the summer months, it is breathtaking how many cars are left with windows wide open. I know it's hot but I'd rather be hot and have a car than to be hot with no car walking to work. 
  5. Fill up your tires. People laugh when I say this but I have a good reason. The broken windows theory in crime prevention says criminals pick buildings to burglarize and commit crimes near with broken windows because they communicate a lack of citizen vigilance in the area. The same can be said of cars that don't work. People leave vehicles in dilapidated conditions with flat tires and are surprised when their car is broken into. Filling your tires with air may communicate to a potential thief the car works when in fact it doesn't. At the very least, it says the car has an owner who still cares and is still in the area. That being said, try to locate the vehicle in a parking space that is well-lit and observable from the sidewalk or close to your home as possible.
  6. If you have a truck, get a cover that secures with the tailgate.
  7. Convertibles should be covered whenever parked. I always find it hilarious when someone parks a convertible with the top down and loads of shopping bags are in the back. Seriously. Put the bags in the trunk and cover the top.
  8. If you have to leave things in your car overnight, use your trunk. Thieves can't steal what they can't see. Lock your stuff in the trunk. You'll thank me later.
  9. Never leave your ID or sensitive information in your car overnight. This includes the REGISTRATION AND TITLE of the car. Nothing like having a car stolen only to have the thief sell it someone else with a title. Worse yet, get a loan on the title of your car as collateral. Ouch. Oh yeah. I forgot - TAKE YOUR KEYS WITH YOU!!  Loads of people forget to do this and get their cars and stuff stolen. Be careful where you leave those keys like in gym lockers where thieves love to search for credit cards and keys to cars they can break into while you work out.
  10. Always remember to take your ticket stub when parking your vehicle in a garage. Also, try to use a garage that is manned. Most people forget to take their stubs with them. If a thief breaks into your car and takes it, he will have to go through a lot of red tape (hopefully) to get out of the garage. This is something he won't want to chance. If you leave the stub in the car, that obstacle is removed. You also want to keep your car in garages and lots that are manned for the length of your stay.
You might also consider buying a mini-van. They were listed by the National Insurance Crime Bureau as the Top 10 vehicle type stolen in only 5 states and D.C. while trucks were number 1 in 23 states. They may not be sexy but they rarely get stolen. Just saying.

Here's an awesome report by the NICB on how to prevent car theft:

Here's a guide from the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing on Thefts of and From Cars From Streets and Driveways

This video below is a great place for suggestions on keeping your truck secure:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Top 12 Awesome Way To Beef Up Your Home Security

As a continuation of my home security article previously, I decided to publish a list of tips to upgrade your home security. Have a look and let me know what you think.

Here are my suggestions for beefing up your home security:

1. Get to know your neighbors. Seriously. I know they're annoying and their kids tear up your yard. But they're "natural observers". They'll take greater interests in you and who is at your home. They may also alert you to suspicious activity and call the authorities. There also great for mail pickups when you're not at home.

You laugh but your nosy neighbors could be the best security system you have.

2. Be seen throughout your neighborhood. A person who is active and occasionally walks outside is unpredictable. When terrorists were planning to hit military bases, they chose Ft Dix in New Jersey over Dover Air Force Base. Why? Because Air Force cops don't follow a patrol "pattern". They were literally seen everywhere.

3. If you get a home security system, understand what it's there for. It sounds an alarm and calls the police. The burglar is still inside and may have already planned on that contingency. Does that mean don't get one? No. Get one. Just understand it may not stop a burglar from hitting your home. When you shop for one, understand the technology behind it and understand false alarms do happen and your locality may penalize you for them.

4. Buy a new lock on any newly constructed home. Don't install the lock yourself. Call a reputable locksmith. Next ensure you have a good door. What does that mean? The door should solid if wood and metal if not. There should very little spacing between the lock, the door, and the wall. Ensure you put a good lock on a good door.

5. Don't buy dummy cameras. They're useless and most pros will recognize it as such. Buy a real camera instead if you want one.

Either buy a camera system that works and one you monitor daily or don't get one at all.

6. Fences are bad and good. They can be a useful barrier if they are locked and not easily scaled. That being said, they can prevent natural observers from doing what they do best - observing and being a visual deterrent.

Getting a fence that is too high can be just as bad 
if not worse as getting a fence that is too short.
7. Don't advertise that you have a gun. What that says to a burglar is "I'll wait until I know you're gone and look for your guns to steal". Remember resale is $200.

Signs like this DO NOT keep bad guys away. 

8. Don't buy "no trespassing signs". They never stop a burglar. Ever.

9. If you have a sliding door, get it replaced by actual swinging doors or get a very sturdy lock for them. Ensure the slide is properly mounted to the floor.

This is a VERY sturdy deadbolt lock.

10. Check your windows. How long has your lock been there? Is it crusted over by paint? Is it rusted? Is it flimsy or accessible easily from the outside? If so, it's time for a new lock and a new window.

This lock is keeping NO ONE away. Consider getting a new window if needed.

11. Take expensive product boxes to a recycling center. No ifs and or buts.

Look. Someone got something really nice recently.

12. Don't advertise you're going out of town except to those who NEED to know. By need I mean, it is critical to sustaining your livelihood (they need to pick up mail, approve vacation time for your job, babysit your kid, etc.). The post office can collect your mail if needed. Here's a link -

Six Ways Burglars Get Away With Your Stuff

Recently, I was asked to compile a list of way burglars break into homes. The idea behind this list is twofold:
  • Demonstrate common burglar/intruder methodology 
  • Show the futility in modern home security risk analysis 

Here's what I wrote:

Burglars act as most attackers do. What does that mean? They approach your home the same way any operational threat (bad guy) would whether they are hackers or home invaders. The first thing they do is reconnaissance. This could be as simple as a drive-by or a pretext to get inside of the residence. Some burglars use social media to get an idea as to when you'll be away and/or get an idea as to what kind of loot you have. Not all do. Most common thieves attack venues they know are not secure. Many times it's an inside job (disgruntled employees, relatives, friends of the family, etc.).

This man robbed an East Village Apartment he had been showing
for a real estate company he  was working  for at the time
What are they looking for? It depends on their expertise. Most amateurs will stay away from places with an alarm system, if they don't know the code. Professionals are savvy enough to either bypass the alarm or know the code. Stickers and signs can be counter-productive. They advertise to a bad guy you have something worth protecting. They also look for natural observers (nosy neighbors, kids playing at all hours, your activity, your interaction with your neighbors, mailmen, police who regularly patrol the area, and street traffic). They look for flimsy window locks and screen doors. They look for what's accessible from their point of entry. They look for cameras (sometimes - depends on expertise). They look for mail delivery. They also look for large product boxes. These advertise "we just bought a lot of expensive stuff" to prospective thieves. They look for moving boxes. This signals you just moved in and probably won't have an alarm set just yet. They look for proximity to neighbors and relative noise.

They won't all approach your home like this guy.....

Once they have all their particulars in order, they prepare a kit. Some guys already have one for every job. It'll consist of a crowbar or other heavy wedge. They'll have screwdrivers and hammers. They may have lockpicks. They'll have large bags and will likely use a van or other large vehicle. A pro may use a minivan. No one ever suspects a minivan.  

Burglary tools found on an alleged burglar.
You'll notice there are several lockpicks and door wedges.

After they have their kit and transportation, they may decide on a crew. Some guys have one and some don't. They also fit the profile.

Next begins the approach. They'll check doors and see if the door is loose. If there is sufficient spacing, the door has movement. What does that mean? Remember that crowbar? Some guys will also have a master key. When homes are often constructed, the construction company buys standard locks for every house they build in a development. Many times those homes have a key or specialize tool they use to set the lock. This key/tool is like a master key and can open most locks in that development. It's the reason many lock companies have steered away from this. Homeowners should immediately change the locks in any new development. They may also kick the door in. If they do this, the job is really rushed and time is of the essence more so than if they go in quietly. They may look for windows if the doors are not able to be breached. They stick to first floors. Second floor windows can be tricky. You don't have the benefit of leverage and your visibility to those natural observers is greater. If the windows fail, they go for sliding doors. In places like Florida, this is easy. Most people don't engage the slide lock and rely on a bar to keep the door from being pried. If they have time, they can try to wedge the door off the slides. There's also breaking the glass. That's why they look for items that within reach if that becomes an issue.

Sliding doors are a popular point of entry for most burglars
Once inside, the job is easy. They go for ANYTHING. Inside jobs always hit the things you hide or are personal to you. Though nothing is safe. If its in a safe, great. However, if the safe can be easily picked up, they'll just take the safe. They'll look for guns. Guns are an easy $200 in a gun buyback program. They'll also grab the usual stuff - TV's, games, jewelry, etc. Any identity stuff is also HUGE. They'll move this stuff into the vehicle. From there, they'll depart the scene and try to sell your goods.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sovereign Citizens and Law Enforcement by SPLCenter

This Southern Poverty Law Center video was created to help law enforcement agencies better prepare for encounters with "sovereign citizens." In the case of two West Memphis, Ark., police officers, Brandon Paudert and Bill Evans, a routine traffic stop of father-and-son sovereign citizen duo Jerry and Joe Kane in May proved fatal when son Joe, 16, leaped from the car firing an AK-47, cutting down both officers. The Kanes died in a shootout with police an hour later in a Wal-Mart parking lot after wounding two more officers. SPLC estimates that as many as 300,000 people may consider themselves sovereign citizens — and the number is growing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Police and ex-burglar working together......

Reformed burglar: Jason Fleming, 32, who broke into more than
150 properties, 
is leading an anti-crime campaign with Police Constable Andy Pickerin
Having spent 1/3 of my career in England, there are moments I truly miss it - in particular their attitude towards crime prevention.  I found a fine example of this in a Daily Mail (UK) article.  It seems a burglar went around scouting out new places to rob.  During his burglary scouting trips, he would note all sorts of things like houses and cars that were easy to rob and which tools would be necessary to gain access to them.  If you're wondering how the cops got a hold of it, that's simple - he dropped them while burglarizing a home.  As you can imagine, the police caught this latest Darwin Award recipient and he's been sentenced to two years imprisonment as a reward for his diligent work.

What makes this a crime prevention masterpiece?  It seems like the local cops weren't just satisfied with just arresting this perpetrator.  No, they saw a "teachable moment" as we Americans like to say.  They magnified the note and began posting it while conducting face-to-face meet-and-greets between local citizens and a "reformed burglar".  So what did they talk about?  He mention the vulnerabilities these residents had such as unlocked vehicles and doors which led into tool sheds or gardens and how he tempted had he still been engaged in his previous profession to pay them another visit.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Boss, I swear those guys weren't there when I did my advance...

Check this site out. All you have to do is click on a picture of your favorite celebrity and voila! You can find out which hotels they have been spotted at in the past. Not as bad as GawkerStalker. Just goes to show you should spend a significant part of your advance online. If I have enough online data and other open source intelligence, anyone can figure out your principal's probable location. A poster at TacticalForums was kind of enough to provide the link to the hotel site.

And you thought you had a sh*[email protected]$ job!!

I just read a report, titled "The Safety of the Volunteer", on the safety and security of Peace Corps volunteers . It was written by the Peace Corps Office of Safety and Security and provides some interesting statistics for 2007. One should keep in mind the Peace Corps does have a global mission which is to say these crimes were reported in various locales to include many Western countries. Of course, the report was leaked by the world's most notorious leaker - WikiLeaks. Check out these stats:

Global Composite of All Physical Assaults (2007)

Type Of Incident Number of Incidents Percentage of All Physical Assaults
Aggravated Assault 36 47%
Major Physical Assault 15 20%
Other Physical Assault 25 33%
Total 76 100%

Rape/Attempted Rape Profile

Gender: Female
Age: 20s
Ethnicity/Race: Caucasian (71%)
Time in service: 7-12 Months (43%)
Relationship of Assailant: Friend/Acquaint. (33%)
Motive: Sexual Activity (95%)
Medical Attention: Yes (86%)
Location of Incident: Volunteer Residence (43%)
Occur at Vol. Site: Yes (76%)
Weapon Use: No (67%)
PCV Accompanied: No (76%)
Time of Occurrence: Early Morning (midnight-5:59 a.m.) (48%)
Number of Assailants: One (81%)
Day of Week: Weekday (57%) Weekend (43%)
Alcohol: Volunteer - Yes (52%), No (38%)/Assailant - Yes (52%), Unknown (43%)
Intention to Prosecute: Yes (43%) No (33%)

These statistics just prove that crime can follow you anywhere and to never ever let your guard down!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Off-duty Taser's

Ladies and gents,

As I was perusing Amazon, I wanted to see if they had any of the personal use Tasers. Well, it turns out they do. They're called "TASER C2 - Black Pearl Personal Protector". They price around $350.oo and are small enough to fit in a map case or combat purse ("handbags" for the ladies). For those of you who haven't seen one of these in action, I've attached a video clip of their infomercial.

I know when this first came out there were some in our industry who had their trepidations about this. Once law enforcement began to use this, more and more people began to see the "pro's" of having one of these in their arsenal. Personally, I believe a Taser should be used in accordance with strict "objective reasonableness" standards. There are several consequences for not following these guideline both civil and criminal.

I suspect as more of these "personal use" Tasers are manufactured, we in the security industry are going to see more of them as well. I caution all security managers and project coordinators to consider certain risk assessments before you proceed and buy a few for your agency. If your folks aren't properly trained and selected, you could be faced with some serious problems. We have to caution our people this weapon is a weapon and not a toy. It should also be used as a last resort due to its potential lethality. There have been deaths which some attribute to the Taser, but we won't cover that here as it's a whole other topic.

Now, that I've mentioned the "cons", let's talk about the "pro's". of owning one of these for both personal and professional use. Imagine your wife or other loved one going on a jog when an attacker approaches them with an edged weapon. This weapon is capable of stopping that attacker and buying your wife and significant other some time to escape. On a professional note, a guy in HR called to report a disgruntled former employee still on the grounds swinging a bat and breaking things. You've tried verbal judo along with a show of force with no results. By the way, there was a school shooting about 10 miles away and the cops are tied up. You have to get this resolved soon. I can tell you once a "bad guy" see this being pulled out and being deployed their disposition changes. I imagine mine would too.

I'm no fan of the MP3 version, but I do think some people have taken this the wrong way. Taser incorporated that feature for the consumer I mentioned above who follows an active lifestyle. Many women are abducted or raped by strangers while jogging/walking along isolated paths. I do believe the MP3 feature would take away some situation awareness though.

I plan to post a poll to get your impressions of this product. Please, feel free to share your ideas now.

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