Can Your Devices Spy on You? Tips for Stronger Security and Privacy

Smartphones, apps, and devices such as Amazon’s Alexa/Echo and Google’s Home are all making our lives easier (or at least more fun). After all, you can play games, check the weather, see what your friends are up to, and go shopping, track packages, and set reminders — all with the click of a button or a voice command.

But the more devices we allow into our lives, the more we increase our security risk. Many of our home security customers are asking about security and privacy. Here are some ways to protect yourself:

Smartphones
Some people don’t mind digital eavesdropping. Others would prefer Facebook not to listen in all the time, which it does. If this bothers you, the best thing to do is uninstall the app completely. However, you can also disable any app’s use of your microphone using the following steps:

iPhones/Apple:
● Go to “settings”
● Choose the app you want to change
● Turn off the microphone

Android
● Go to “settings” and select “personal”
● Choose “privacy”
● Then choose “permissions”
● Finally, choose “microphone” and turn it off

Home Devices
Home devices such as Google’s Home or Amazon’s Alexa/Echo record conversations after you activate them with the code words, “Ok Google” or “Hey Alexa.” They listen for your voice query, then upload it to servers, where it is analyzed so the appropriate response can be delivered. While the data passed between the device and the servers is encrypted, there are some other security concerns, including:

● The microphones are always listening unless you mute them.
● The devices don’t differentiate between people, meaning someone else can use your voice device to make changes to your security system if you have that set up.
● The recorded voice queries are stored on cloud servers. That data is used to create more targeted advertising.
● Your device’s location is shared.
● Data may be shared with third parties.

Using these devices means sharing your information. But you can make some small adjustments to make them slightly more private:

● Mute them when not in use. On the Echo, a physical mute button is located at the top of the device. On Google Home, use the touch panel on top to mute.
● Delete old recordings. For Echo, you do this through your Amazon account. Click “Manage my device” to delete your history. Note: Amazon warns this will result in a lower-quality experience. For Google, go to the My Activity dashboard to manage everything.
● Don’t connect sensitive accounts to home devices.

Home security questions? Contact us to learn how we can make your home more secure.

VOIP AND DIGITAL PHONE SERVICE MAY INTERFERE WITH YOUR SECURITY/LIFE SAFETY SYSTEM

13767649_sWe would like to inform you about the potential impact that new types of phone services may have on your security/life safety system.  Commonly referred to as “VoIP” (Voice over Internet Protocol) and “digital telephone service,” these new phone options are rapidly growing in popularity.  These technologies allow you to make telephone calls via a broadband connection instead of using a traditional, “landline” phone service.  The benefits include enhanced features and lower costs compared to the traditional service. Typically, these new types of phone services replace your landline service.

It is important that you are aware that these new services can adversely affect your electronic security/life safety system.

In almost all cases, your security/life safety system relies on proper operation of the telephone line, and its associated special security wiring, to reliably communicate alarm signals to the central station. There are several important things to consider before making the decision to use VoIP or digital telephone service:

  • With a self-installed VoIP service, such as Vonage or AT&T’s CallVantage, your alarm system may lose its connection to the telephone service, rendering the system unable to send alarm signals to the central station.  VoIP technology may also cause your alarm signals to get scrambled as they are sent to the central station.
  • With digital telephone phone services offered by your cable provider, your system may be unable to consistently and reliably send alarm signals to the central station.  This technology may also cause your alarm signals to get scrambled as they are sent to the central station.
  • In addition to the security system’s battery back-up equipment, VoIP and digital phone services may need additional battery back-up equipment to maintain communications in the event of a power failure.

Either way, there is significant risk that your security/life safety system will not be able to communicate an emergency signal to the central station.

We encourage you to check with Secur-Tek, Inc. before making any changes to your existing telephone service. If you have already made the decision to switch to VoIP or digital phone service, it is extremely important that you contact us after you have the new phone service installed and Secur-Tek, Inc. will arrange a service call to properly test your system and check the wiring.

For the utmost reliability, there are new security communications solutions available that use digital wireless transmission or the Internet to reliably send alarm signals to the central station. These services allow you to take maximum advantage of cost savings from VoIP or digital telephone services while maintaining, and even improving, the reliability of your security/life safety system.  We would be happy to discuss these options with you.

If you have any questions, we encourage you to contact Secur-Tek, Inc. at 919-387-1800.

 

4 Amazing Security System Features You Should be Using

Home security systems are getting better all the time, and not just in keeping your home safe from burglars. Today’s security systems can also monitor many more things about your house, from water leaks to who’s at home.

Here are four features you’ll want to try:

Water Sensors – Remember that time you came home from vacation to find your laundry room flooded? What a mess. Avoid that situation from now on by installing environmental sensors in your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and basement. These detectors notify you when floods, leaks and extreme temperatures occur so you can take action and prevent serious wall or floor damage. Leaks also account for 10,000 gallons of water wasted annually — in one household.

Pet Friendly Sensors – People with pets at home often worry about their alarm system going off when Fido jumps onto the couch. While that used to be a problem, today’s motion sensors can be set to detect the difference between an intruder and your furry family member. Animals up to 100 pounds can move around your home without tripping the alarm. Plus, home security systems can help you keep an eye on our four-legged friends, alerting you to smoke, carbon monoxide, or other problems. Systems can even tell you if outdoor gates or kitchen cabinets are open.

Video – Video is becoming very popular and it’s easy to see why: you have eyes on your home 24/7. You can see who is at the door, when your kids get home, and keep an eye on babysitters or other in-home employees. For pet owners, a live video feed gives you the chance to check on Fluffy from your desk or phone. You can even get a text message, email or video alert when your dog walker or pet sitter arrives or if they didn’t show up.

Light Controls – Your home security system offers a way to program lights for different situations, including an off-and-on scenario while you’re away to make the home appear lived in. Forgot to turn off a light when you left? No problem. What’s also fun about this control is the ability to instantly turn off or on indoor and outdoor lights from your office computer or smartphone. You’ll never have to arrive at a dark house again.

Check out many more fantastic features of our home security systems or contact us to learn more about setting up your home automation.

Business Security Systems Need to Protect Inside and Out

Business owners all strive to keep their businesses safe. Installing security systems, cameras, and access tracking are all part of burglar prevention for your business.

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But what about protecting your company from inside threats? According to a recent study, 20 percent of employees would sell their work passwords to a competitor.

“The research by identity management company Sailpoint, found that of those who would sell their passwords, 44 percent would do it for less than $1,000, and some for less than $100. This is made worse by the fact that 65 percent admit to using a single password among applications and 32 percent share passwords with their co-workers.”

Less than $100. That could be all that’s standing between you and a hacker who takes down your business. While we all want to believe the people we hire are good, moral employees who would not do something like that, we simply do not know what people have been through, what life situations may drive their behavior.

Business security systems that keep intruders out are important, but just as vital are your internal security procedures. Take a look at this checklist of things to review to keep your data safe:

  • Employee access – Secur-Tek can help you control access to the business itself, and to certain rooms. But what about who has access to your important data? Of course employees need to have a certain level of access to data, and programs to do their jobs. Maybe you already track who has access to what while they are employed with you. But what happens after that employee leaves? The above survey found that more than two in five employees still have corporate account access after they leave their job. Do you have security procedures in place to revoke access or change passwords?
  • Uploads to the cloud – Well-meaning employees may be uploading data to the cloud using various storage programs. While it’s useful to backup information in case of a crash, be sure to confirm which information is uploaded where. If you don’t have a secure server set up, your data may be at risk.
  • Downloads – In large companies, employees are supposed to check with the IT department before downloading any software or installing anything. Studies show this does not always happen. Employees get impatient with the extra layer of process. As a small business owner, you may not have an IT department, or may not have oversight of what your team downloads. But one wrong program means a virus or malware or spyware, putting your business at risk. Make a list of approved programs and check all the computers in the office on a monthly basis. While this sounds big brother, your employee is not the one whose business is at risk.

Secur-Tek works to keep your business secure from the outside. Be sure to consider what security measures you take inside your company to keep it safe.

7 Ways to Tighten Your Home Security for the Holidays

Every year at this time you’ll read stories about the increase in home burglaries while homeowners are away. Studies show that increase is not always fact. Instead, many factors affect burglaries in different communities and when they occur.

21908228_sStill, it’s smart to play it safe with home security around the holidays. After all, you may have extra valuables inside after buying all of your gifts, and you may be absent more often as you attend holiday parties or head to grandmother’s house.

According to FBI data, in 2010, there were an estimated 2.1 million burglaries in the U.S. Victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.6 billion in lost property, an average dollar loss of $2,119 each. In the Raleigh-Cary area, including Franklin, Johnston, and Wake counties, there were 628 burglaries per 100,000 residents in 2010.

Keep your holiday gifts and your home safe this season with a few simple measures:

  • Light your home. The strings of Christmas lights may bring good cheer, but they don’t keep burglars out. Mount exterior lights on your home, out of reach. These can be put on a timer or used as motion detectors. Put indoor lights on timers.
  • Burglars don’t want to spend all day trying to break in. Keep your doors and windows locked and install deadbolts on exterior doors, making it tougher to gain entry.
  • Check your doors. Your lock might be amazing, but if your door is weak, a strong kick will give a burglar easy access. Make sure your door is solid wood or has a solid wood core. You can also consider a fiberglass or metal door.
  • Trim the shrubbery. Don’t make it easy for burglars to hide behind bushes as they work to open a window. Keep the landscaping trimmed so it’s easier for a neighbor to spot the suspicious person standing outside your home.
  • Install a home alarm system. More than 90 percent of burglars say they would avoid a home with an alarm, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Effective alarms don’t just make noise, but alert emergency services. Many insurance companies offer a discount on homeowners insurance if you have an alarm.
  • Hide and lock your valuables. Once inside, a burglar doesn’t want to take too long. He or she knows to check the desk and the bedroom for important documents and jewelry. Put your important papers and expensive items in other locations and hide them well.
  • Heading out of town? Be sure to:
    • Have your mail held, or have a neighbor pick it up.
    • Schedule deliveries. Packages are at risk this time of year sitting on your front porch. Try to time deliveries so that they don’t arrive when you are out of town.
    • Leave blinds in their usual positions so it appears you are home.
    • Ask trustworthy neighbors to keep an eye on your home. Letting a few people know you are gone will help keep them on alert for something amiss.

Questions about home security? Give us a call: (919) 387-1800.

5 Technology Upgrades to Home Security

Control4 Door locks

Home security has come a long way since the invention of chain link fences and guard dogs. Today, technology has made it possible to keep an eye on your home 24/7. Whether you’re looking for the latest cool tools in home security or just want an easier way to keep your home safe, here are 5 technology upgrades to consider:

  1. Door locks – Forget to lock the door? If you have an electronic door lock, it’s no problem. You can remotely lock it from anywhere. Electronic door locks work with your entire home security system. In addition to locking the door from your smartphone or tablet, electronic door locks track the history of opening and closing and can send you text message alerts if you want. You can also give visitors an access code that only works during certain times of day, making it easier to keep your home secure when working with household staff. Plus, no more digging around for your keys!
  1. Remote monitoring – Keep an eye on your home from anywhere with videos and photos of what’s going on. Home security systems now offer streaming security camera feeds, the ability to arm and disarm from anywhere, send alerts, and more.
  1. Cameras – Speaking of streaming, home security cameras are no longer for the super-rich mansion owner. Cameras are inexpensive and easy to install. If you don’t want to check the life feed, you can save it for later if you need to — a nice option if your home is burglarized or if you need to check up on working crews.
  1. Home Sensors – Your home is so smart, it knows you’re coming. Home sensors can open and close the door for you. They also work as part of your home security, for motion sensing when you’re away. They’re smart enough to work off of winks or waving and can be controlled from your smartphone or tablet.
  1. Garage systems – Some people may recall the large, brown button to open the garage door. These days, many people use a button in their car to open the garage. The latest systems not only open the door when you want, but give you remote control from your smart device, allowing you to let people to enter when you are not home. It can also track how long the door has been open. Systems today also have motion sensors to protect those jetting through the door as it’s closing.

Secur-Tek can help you install a Control4 Home Automation System to help with these areas and more, including lighting, sound, intercom and more. Contact us today to find out more.

5 Tips to Avoid Home Security Scams

Home security is an important part of your peace of mind. That’s why scammers will often prey on people with fear tactics.

39670032_sHome security telemarketing calls were the second most common telephone scam in 2014 — second only to credit card scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers will call someone and offer a free home security system. The caller will also mention several burglaries in the area, hoping to push the resident into action.

Don’t fall into the home security scam trap. Follow these five tips to find a legitimate home security company to protect your most important asset:

  1. First, if you ever receive such a call, don’t agree to anything right away. This gives you time to make an informed decision.
  2. Keep your guard up. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No business can afford to offer you free home security. To get the free alarm, you may have to sign a long-term and expensive contract for system monitoring.
  3. Research a company before making a large purchase. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the company has any complaints against it. Ask friends and family for recommendations, and it’s OK to ask the company for references.
  4. Choose local. Triangle, North Carolina residents have many local options when it comes to home security. Choosing a local company makes it easier for you to check them out. Local business owners know they have a reputation to uphold within the community.
  5. Read any fine print before agreeing to anything. Most home security companies have contracts. Be sure you know what you are signing.

Other Security Scams

Some home security companies will send salespeople door to door. If you already have home security, they may tell you they are there to upgrade your current system or that your security company has gone out of business. Secur-Tek and other legitimate North Carolina security companies will not send another company to your door. Your home security company will inform you by mail if something has changed with your current system.

  • It’s best not to invite salespeople inside your home; it is much harder to get them to leave once inside.
  • Never let such a person into your home without checking his or her identification.
  • If you feel uncomfortable and the person will not leave, call the police.

Questions about home security? Contact us and we’ll be happy to help!

Four Reasons to Rely on 24-Hour Security Monitoring

Affiliated Central - Monitoring Center

Whether you’re fast asleep in your own bed in Raleigh or away on an international vacation, it’s important to know your home security system will work the way you expect.

One expectation most people have for home or business security systems is a response to the alarm — no matter what time it occurs. This 24-hour security monitoring means authorities will be notified as needed when the alarm is activated at your home or office.

Monitoring isn’t just to alert the police or fire departments. Here are some other advantages to making sure 24-hour monitoring is part of your security system:

  • True Protection — Some homeowners assume a burglar alarm making a lot of noise is enough protection. In truth, like car alarms, home alarms are often ignored by people nearby, who assume it is going off by accident.
  • Other Home Issues – While not as urgent as a fire or break-in, a gas leak can cause serious problems in your home. Monitoring systems can be set up to alert you in case of a gas leak or to let you know your freezer is no longer on — indicating a power outage.
  • Assistance — Monitoring systems can also notify people that you need assistance in case of a fall or other personal accident.
  • Sleeping Easy — Monitoring means someone is always keeping an eye (and ear) on your home or business. Many security system clients say knowing someone is there offers peace of mind, making it easier to sleep at home and while away.

How Monitoring Works
Secur-Tek works with Affiliated Central to monitor your home or business. The team at Affiliated Central is CSAA Five Diamond Certified and uses the most up-to-date technologies including live digital video. The company has installed a redundancy system for its telephone and automation, ensuring dependability.

Secur-Tek, Inc. does not require a long-term monitoring contract when you have your home or business connected to our monitoring services.

While most security companies offer 24-hour monitoring, some companies may consider it an add-on feature. When contacting a security company to keep your home or business safe, be sure to confirm you are receiving the service you deserve.

Business Security, Monitoring, and Customer Service

One Stop ShopSecur-Tek provides state-of-the-art business security and home automation services to residential and commercial customers in Apex, Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Chapel Hill, and central North Carolina. We provide commercial customers of all sizes with everything needed to minimize risks and keep businesses safe. You can focus on running your businesses while we provide the security expertise and systems you need. We can provide your business with fire protection systems, access control, burglar alarms, security cameras (CCTV and video), and background music.

Fire Protection – Alarms, Smoke, and Sprinkler Waterflow Detectors

Even if you have fire insurance, it’s far better to prevent a fire than to have one, make an insurance claim, and try to rebuild from the ashes. Many businesses never recover from a fire. You can get protected against total disaster with our fire code compliant fire detection systems. Manual pull fire alarms, supervised smoke detectors, and waterflow monitors all work together. Manual pull alarms are like the ones in many public buildings—once pulled the horns go off and the fire department is alerted. Supervised smoke detectors allow a fast response before the fire gets out of control. Water is a fire’s worst enemy but it’s not always your friend. Waterflow monitors minimize the water damage and flooding that happens when sprinklers go off; water can cause more damage than fire.

Access Control Systems

You can get access control systems to monitor your business. You can monitor your property (onsite or remotely) and employees and keep unwanted people from causing trouble. Locks with passcodes or keycards will let authorized people in and keep the bad guys out. Our software can be loaded onto the PC you already have. We have a wide variety of solutions and price points so let us know what you need and we’ll customize a solution just for you.

Burglar Alarms and Monitoring

Burglars are always a danger to your valuable inventory and business property. Our burglar alarms and systems let you know when someone is in the wrong place at the wrong time. You can get reports of exactly when your burglar alarm is armed and disarmed as well as who is accessing it. This is perfect for knowing when your business opens and closes. You’ll know if someone disarms the alarm late at night or before regular opening hours.

CCTV Security Cameras and Video Storage

Burglars aren’t the only source of theft. Shoplifters and even employees can be a major problem. Protecting yourself with camera monitoring is smart because it discourages theft; stealing is a lot less appealing to thieves if they know they’re being watched! Security footage is indispensable when you need evidence to show a judge. Camera evidence is hard to deny and will help to convict a thief and protect your business from theft, false claims, and other liabilities. We can set you up with 1 to 100 CCTV cameras, PC-based systems, and remote monitoring. One of our most popular packages is Honeywell’s 4-Camera Internet system—you can even monitor your business on your phone!

Business Background Music Source

Having a safe and secure business is important and it’s also key to provide an environment that makes customers want to spend money. Background music helps you control the mood and image of your business. We can supply all the relaxing and professional background music you need—perfect for offices and stores that need to convey professionalism.

To learn more about how your business can benefit from using security and home automation services, contact Secur-Tek at 919-387-1800.

Home Security – Systems for Every Budget

First AlertAs a homeowner, the notion of safety and security is one of your top priorities. No one wants to come home to find that they have been burglarized. People who have had this awful experience say they felt their lives were completed violated, as some stranger had gone into their private home and rummaged through their personal belongings.

One way to bring you some peace of mind is to install a home security system to protect your home. There are different types of security packages available that offer various levels of protection. Some systems not only protect the home and notify you of any unwanted entrance or breach, but can alert you if there is a fire or other dangerous situation at the house. Motion detectors can also be installed. In most circumstances, they are effective even in pet-friendly homes.

Other options for home security can include health safety. For example, if you have an elderly family member, a system can be set up to alert you should that person leave the house or get out of bed.

Home security systems today use advanced technologies to protect your property and your loved ones. Alarms are sent to the authorities as well as to you via cell phone. You may have the option to view your home (through the cameras installed) via the Internet from any remote location.

There are many choices out there to accommodate your comfort level.

For more information on home security, contact Secur-Tek at 919-387-1800.