Taking Your Student to College? 9 Safety Tips to Review Before They Go

 Campus life can be one of the best experiences in a young person’s life. Making new friends, learning new things, camaraderie, exploration and all the excitement that comes from learning independence. As parents we want our children to be as safe and secure as possible during this wonderful time of life.

Below are a few safety tips to discuss with your student to help ensure all goes well.

1) Take the time to explore. Get to know total campus layout and surrounding areas. Learn the most direct, well lit, open routes (few bushes & trees) to different points on campus. Most campuses have emergency call buttons and/or phones at key locations throughout campus. Take note of where they are located and become familiar with their operation.

2) Use your technology wisely. Check your campus website for safety tips, procedures, and emergency information. Many have free apps like Campus Safe or Safe Trek that can be activated while walking alone and deactivate once you have arrived safely to your destination. This is a great protection when you find yourself in the situation of having to walk alone at night. When using your headphones, make sure you are still aware of your surroundings, both visually and hearing. The key to safety is recognizing a potentially dangerous situation before it happens and taking action to avoid it. 

3Think before you post on social media. It is fun to share moments, pictures and thoughts as we experience college life. However, your posts may be viewed by other people as well. Review the settings on your social media profiles and definitely avoid geotagging your photos. Disable location services and make your accounts private so you can be sure of who is viewing what.

4) Double check that you have emergency numbers programmed into your phone. If you are away at school, ensure you not only have your parent’s numbers listed but also a local reliable family member or friend. It is the first item hospitals and police check if you’re admitted alone because they are able to bypass your passcode in order to access your contacts.

5) Carry some cash. With debit/credit cards the main mode of payment these days, sometimes it is hard to remember to have some emergency cash on you at all times. Perhaps your credit card won’t work, your debit card gets lost, or you lose your backpack. You never want to be stuck in a bad situation because you don’t have the necessary funds to get out of it as quickly as possible.

6) Lock your doors. It is easy to become comfortable and relaxed in the college environment especially when living in a Dorm, Fraternity/Sorority house, or college apartment complex. However, it is sensible to always lock your doors, especially when you’re alone or sleeping. Sometimes this is tough with roommates coming and going but most college crimes happen where access points are unlocked. Take time to hide your technology and valuables when leaving and/or close window curtains and blinds. Consider purchasing a small safe for your ID documents and for storing your laptop, iPad, and other valuables when you’re away. Keep your safe hidden in an unusual place. Bedroom closets and under the bed are the first place thieves look for valuables. If you live on the first floor of a building, make sure your windows lock. If they don’t, you can purchase a jam stick or sliding window lock at the local home improvement store or Internet.

 7) Party Safely. Yes, you probably will be going to a party or celebration .. or two! Have fun but be smart. Never go to a party at an unknown location without a friend or two. Never stay at a party where you have “just met someone who seems nice” after your friends have gone home. And finally, never become so inebriated you lose control. Sometimes it is easy to get carried away with the festivities and common sense goes out the window. Make an agreement with your friends to watch out for and take care of each other as a number one priority! Party’s can turn into dangerous situations if you do not keep aware of your surroundings and the coming and going of the people attending.

8) Make sure you have pepper spray or mace easily assessable to you. Have one located out of sight in your apartment as well as having one easily assessable to you while you are out and about. Fastening these items to a key ring, lanyard, and backpack will ensure they are there when you may need them.

9) Learn how to protect yourself physically. You’ll feel safer and more confident. You don’t need to invest a lot of money or time in getting a black belt to master self-defense; all you need are a few classes and tips from a professional instructor. Classes are often available at colleges and gyms. To make it fun, ask your roommates or a few friends to take the class with you. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is and how much better you feel when you are out and about.

College is an exciting time and a rewarding experience. As busy as you’ll be with learning, meeting new friends and operating with a new level of independence, remembering these nine simple safety tips will help ensure a safe productive school year. 

Protecting Pollinators and Securing NC’s Agricultural Future

The Butterfly Highway 

You have probably heard about how important pollinators are to our state, country and the world. Because we are locally owned and headquartered in Apex, we support the North Carolina Butterfly Highway – an initiative that works to protect these delicate insects that are a critical part of our ecosystem.  

Did you know?

  • North Carolina has a $78 billion agriculture economy that relies on pollinators for crops such as squash, apples, blueberries and strawberries.
  • Global food crops are dependent on pollinators and more than 70% of these crops either require or have higher production because of a pollinator insect visit.
  • There are 174 species of butterflies in NC and approximately 1200 moth species.
  • Monarch butterflies journey through NC during both their spring and fall migrations. Because of the threats to pollinator habitats, there has been a loss of important nectar plants as well as a significant loss in the Monarch’s host plant milkweed, which can affect their ability to fly the long distances as a part of migration
  • There are 13 known bumblebee species in NC; several are threatened with extinction. 

These are only a few facts listed on the North Carolina Wildlife Federation website. Upon review, it becomes immediately clear how important it is to protect these critical insects’ habitat.

In response to this growing need, the Butterfly Highway project was initiated and nurtured by Angel Hjarding in Charlotte, NC and is now a key part of the N.C. Wildlife Federation’s programs.

“We began the Butterfly Highway project with several Charlotte communities that wanted to beautify their environment through planting gardens. Through the project, the communities transformed community gardens, backyard gardens, public spaces and park fragments into new pollinator and wildlife habitats,” said Angel Hjarding. “As we expand this effort statewide, we’ll start to fill in the map and see the connectivity of the Butterfly Highway from the mountains to the coast.”

Would you like to support the Butterfly highway initiative?

There are many ways to become involved. Either through being a NC Wildlife Federation member, donor, volunteer or creating a butterfly/bee space in your community or home. It is easy, fun, beautiful and the responsible thing to do.

For example, to become a designated Butterfly Highway pollinator garden, you only need the following elements:

 Size: No minimum size required as long as the appropriate plants and resources are provided. Even an apartment balcony can provide habitat for pollinators.

Sun: Pollinators and the plants that support them need lots of sun. Your garden should receive at least 6 hours of sun per day.

Soil and water: Various plants have different soil and water needs. See our recommended native plant list for appropriate plants for your habitat type. Most pollinators get the water they need from nectar, but butterflies do love puddling in a butterfly spa!

Shelter: Plants should be planted close together, but not crowded, to provide protection from pests and predators.

Place to raise young: Native bees typically build their nests in the ground and require open patches of soil. Leave space in your garden free of mulch and debris to provide this essential bee nesting habitat. Butterflies lay their eggs on trees and herbaceous plants.

Food source: Nectar plants provide an essential food source for butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators. It is important to provide plants that bloom from early spring to late fall to provide adequate food for breeding and migration. It is also recommended to provide a variety of plants in different colors, shapes and heights that may be attractive to a diversity of pollinators. Your garden should include at least 3 nectar plants that are native to your region. See a list of recommended plants.

Sustainable gardening practices: Many pollinators are insects and are vulnerable to the effects of insecticides. It is recommended to use organic gardening practices to reduce these effects.

If you are interested in learning more about NCWF click here: http://ncwf.org/about/

For more information about creating your own butterfly highway habitat:  Click here.

 

 

Cellular Communicator – What Is It and Do I Need One?

Monitored alarm systems need to communicate alarm signals to a monitoring response center 24/7. Traditionally this was done with a standard wire line home phone. However, over the past several years, cellular technology has progressed to the point where it is more secure than that of the traditional wire line. Additionally, it is more reliable than a digital Internet phone service that requires constant power and is susceptible to network outages and router rests.

Cellular monitoring works by installing a “cellular chip” or “module” into the Control Panel of the alarm system. This cellular device acts as the communicator between your alarm system and the monitoring station – that is why it is called a cellular communicator.

Cellular communicators function much like a cell phone that is specifically dedicated to your security system by communicating via cellular network data channels. In essence, the cellular communicator installed into the Control Panel of your alarm system acts as a connection to the Internet or “outside world”. Because of this, anytime you send a signal or command from your phone or other devices, it uses the cellular service to communicate to your alarm system, prompting it to do something like arm or disarm.

Interactive monitoring allows you to communicate commands to your alarm system no matter where you are. Cellular communicators are dedicated solely to the security system, so they are not shared with any other service.

Some advantages of installing a Cellular Communicator are:

  •                 They are not affected by storms or network/power outages
  •                 Burglars cutting your phone line will NOT disable your alarm system
  •                 Enables remote access/interactive monitoring

For phone line monitored security systems:

  •                 If you get rid of your landline, you will need a cellular communicator.
  •                 If you decide to change digital phone carriers, you will need to reset and reconnect your security system, which requires a service visit and charge from Secur-Tek, Inc.

So if you are interested in higher security reliability and the ease of controlling parts of your security system from your smartphone, a cellular communicator may be the right solution for you.

Give us a call and we can recommend your best security options.

Online Safety – 6 Tips for You, Your Family and Friends

security online

Just as it is a good idea to secure your home, you should ensure your safety online.

With hacks, scams, malware and identity theft, the Internet poses multiple risks.

The good news is, by taking a handful of security precautions you can greatly reduce your exposure to online threats.

 

1) Keep your network updated.

Are the operating systems of your equipment up to date? Check to make sure you have the latest security updates installed. This includes computers, antivirus software and your router.  Check to see if your router uses a WPA2 password. WEB passwords are older and insecure.

2) Change your passwords periodically.

Set a reminder to change your important passwords. Also, be sure to change any default passwords that come with equipment when installed. That includes wireless doorbells, security codes, and routers.

3) Practice email safety.

Malware and scams are looking for a way into your computer.

  • If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t open it.
  • Don’t click on suspicious links, even if the email appears to be from someone or an organization that you know – their email could be hacked, or it could be a phishing site.   When in doubt, send them a separate email or contact them another way and ask if they sent the message. If it is not from them, they will appreciate knowing about it!

4) Research before you download.

That new streaming service or third-party software ad might look good, but a quick web search to verify legitimacy and check user reviews can prevent many headaches later.

5) Check your credit.

Set up notifications so you know if any changes are made to your accounts.

6) Be a Selective Sharer. 

Social Media creates many opportunities to share our personal information online. Be cautious about what you share, particularly when it comes to information that could be potentially used to impersonate you or compromise your passwords and logins.

 

Looking for more security tips?  Follow the Secur-Tek Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SecurTekNC

Leaving On Vacation? Here’s Your Handy Home Security Checklist

 

First – start by creating the illusion that somebody is actually still home!

You can achieve this by:

  • Setting your lights on timers to be set on/off at different times in different rooms
  • Set your radio, sounds system or television to turn on and off; creating the sound of someone at home
  • Leave a car in the driveway – have someone move it from side to side occasionally (close family member, friend or neighbor)
  • If you normally leave a few toys around or hose uncoiled in the yard – do so. The idea is to look like things are as normal!
  • Curtains Closed — or Open?  You may think closing your curtains will prevent people from peering inside your home. However, closed curtains also stop those who aim to help — the police, your neighbors or friends — from seeing inside your house. So, what should you do? Leave your curtains exactly as you usually keep them when you are at home. Remember – you want to create the illusion that things are normal. You should never leave expensive items, like jewelry or computers, out where they are visible from the window.
  • Arrange to have your landscape trimmed. Nothing signals “not home” stronger than an unkempt yard, especially one that is normally regularly manicured.

Run by the post office (or do it on-line) and cancel your mail and newspaper deliveries. Or ask a trusted friend or neighbor to collect them for you while away.

Stow away your valuables and important papers. Lock up any valuable jewelry, deed to your home, title to your cars and small electronic devices. Things that are relatively small and easily transported are the main target of thieves. They want to get in and out fast, carrying as many valuables as possible. If you don’t have a safety deposit box, store these types of items in a fireproof lock box. Great places to put the lockbox are in children’s bed or playrooms, laundry room, garage or kitchen. Thieves will always look in master bedrooms and living spaces where adults hang out. 

Remove Your Spare Key(s)  That plastic rock, above the door-frame, under a mat/flowerpot isn’t fooling anyone. If a criminal figures out you’re away on vacation, it’s likely that (s)he will first check your porch and obvious locations for a spare key.

Don’t announce you are leaving or your whereabouts right before or during your vacation via Social Media.  Many of us enjoy keeping up with friends and family via social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The perceived anonymity of the Internet can encourage us to share personal information without fully realizing that there could be complete strangers viewing our daily musings. So try to refrain from posting those pre-vacation thoughts and plans and hold off posting pictures and statements showing you at fun or exotic location away from home until later. In addition, be careful what you say on your home, home office answer machine, voice mail or auto email response. People trying to reach you don’t need to know that you’re out of town — they just need to know that you can’t respond right now.

For the highest level of assurance – Alert Your:

  • Home Security Company – Double check that your door and window alarms are activated before you leave. Also, leave a house key and the code with someone you trust and provide the police and alarm company with their name and phone number. 
  • The local Police – Call the non-emergency number and let them know of your vacation timing. Often times they will send a patrol car by you home occasionally to inspect the property for abnormalities. Leave them a number where you – or someone you trust – can be reached. 

Right before leaving – to save yourself and the environment – Pull the Plug!  Disconnecting the power to electronics, like computers, routers, televisions, and other appliances can save you money while you’re gone and eliminate the worry. Turning off your garage door opener is also an effective way to keep thieves from opening it with a universal remote. Finally, never leave a portable GPS in your car when parking at the airport. It’ll alert thieves that you’re not home and give them a convenient map to your house.

We at Secur-Tek wish you and you families a safe and worry-free vacation holiday!

For more information about staying safe with a home alarm system while at home or away, call us at 919-387-1800, email  khenke@secur-tek.com or check out our website at  www.secur-tek.com.

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.

Cyber Security: Protect Your Business by Protecting Your Data

Cyber Security is the No. 1 concern for small business owners, according to a recent Business Journal survey. That concern is warranted: many go out of business after a security breach.

According to the Small Business Committee, 71 percent of cyber-attacks occur to businesses with fewer than 100 employees. The Journal’s report estimated that more than half a million small businesses will shut down in 2017 because of cyber security breaches. They also noted:

  • The cost to correct such attacks is often more than $36,000.
  • As a result, 60 percent of such businesses shut down within six months of a breach.

10 Ways to Protect Your Data

Here are the steps you can take to protect your systems:

  1. Educate yourself. Research and learn more about cyber-attacks and what the risks are for small business owners. Here are definitions and examples of some common
  2. Educate your team. If an employee doesn’t realize an email is a scam, he or she might compromise his/her computer.
  3. Be prepared. You have a fire evacuation plan in place for the building. You should also have a plan in place to handle different types of cyber security attacks. According to a 2012 nationwide study of small businesses, 83 percent of small businesses have no formal cyber security plan, and another 69 percent have no plan at all.
  4. Install anti-malware and antivirus protection and run it after any software updates. Many cyber-attacks occur through malware and aren’t noticed until too late.
  5. Update all software. Software updates often correct security bugs or problems. Make sure your team members are updating things or have an IT person handle it for everyone systematically.
  6. Pick up the phone and verify things instead of using emails, especially for credit card information and other financial data and transactions.
  7. Secure your hardware. In many cyber-attack cases, thieves first break in and steal employee laptops and other equipment. The physical loss is harmful, but thieves can also then use that equipment to hack your information. Physically lock items to desks. Keep all server rooms locked and closed when not in use. Make sure your building has a security system, including monitoring and cameras.
  8. Secure your Wi-Fi. Disable the service set identifier (SSID) broadcasting function on the wireless router so others cannot see the network. Also, update your Wi-Fi to the latest encryption standard.
  9. Encrypt your data. Operating systems comes with encryption tools such as BitLocker and FileVault for PCs and Macs, respectively. These tools encrypt everything as long as the system is logged off. Keep in mind that while someone is logged on, a hacker can still get in. Set employee computers to automatically log out after a certain length of time.
  10. Change passwords. Require employees to change passwords each quarter. Passwords need to be at least eight characters, a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Never use personal information or family birthdates.

Protect Your Company

Even with security, you may still be hit with a cyber-attack. Many companies are turning to cyber security insurance policies, just as they rely on insurance in case of an office flood or burglary. The demand for such policies is growing. If you have in-house team members managing security, consider a policy that protects against their errors as well as any packaged software problems.

Business Security

Concerned about security at your company? Give us a call to learn more about protecting your office and equipment.

Avoid Disaster by Testing Your Home Security System

14260888 - home security alarm monitorYour home security system is armed and keeping your home protected — right? But what if a burglar invades your home while you are on vacation and the alarm goes off, but doesn’t alert police or fire? The loud alarm will scare the burglar into quick departure, but the police will not realize the emergency unless your neighbors call.

Why Test Your Security System

While home security systems and their technology are impressive, anything can happen to an electronic device, especially one that runs 24 hours a day. Lightning and power surges can cause problems. Plus, phone, cable, and Internet service providers are always upgrading their lines and equipment. If you have something replaced or changed, or you see digging in your neighborhood, you might later find your system no longer works.

Some homeowners do not arm their systems each day and may not realize something is wrong. Even if you arm the system, you will not be able to tell if the connection to monitoring services is working. That means you won’t know your system doesn’t work until it’s too late.

How Often to Test

Secur-Tek engineers recommend testing your system each month to make sure everything is in order. In addition, if you have crews working in or around your house, it’s important to test the system before they start and after they are done. Even if your Internet provider is “just replacing your modem,” accidents happen. Newer security systems are programmed to send in a monthly test. If you aren’t sure whether your system does this, ask your Secur-Tek team.

How To Test

To test your home security system, call the central station or the office and ask for a test. They will instruct you to arm the system and open up a door so the alarm goes off. They will then verify the signal was received. The test takes less than 10 minutes.

Other Tips

Security systems provide peace of mind and alert emergency personnel when needed, but only if they work — and only if they are armed. We often hear from clients who forgot to turn on the system because they do not use it frequently. Less frequent use also means more false alarms. Once you install a security system, use it every day to get into the habit. It will seem like part of your routine in no time.

Finally, don’t forget to check the fine print on your security contract. Many security providers with monitoring require a three-year or five-year contract and some automatically renew. Review your contract so you know when it expires and when you need to cancel. Contact your Secur-Tek team with any questions.

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.

The Rundown on Doorbell Cameras

47237659 - close-up of woman pressing the button of a doorbell on a brick wall

Doorbell cameras are growing more popular, popping up in many Triangle neighborhoods. But does that mean it’s the right solution for your home? At Secur-Tek, we’ve received more questions about doorbell cameras in recent weeks, so here is the rundown on how doorbell cameras might aid your home security.

What is a doorbell camera?

A doorbell camera alerts you when someone rings your doorbell. You can speak to visitors through your smartphone from anywhere — just as if you are home. In some cases, the camera will detect motion and send an alert to your phone even if the bell isn’t rung. Some will record video for later use.

Why use a doorbell camera?

Doorbell cameras have many advantages for busy people. Most home burglaries occur between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when no one is home. Now that Wake County year-round schools are back in session, it’s more likely that your house is sitting empty for at least a few hours each day. These days, we might not know our neighbors well enough to rely on them for monitoring our porches — and that’s if our neighbors are home at all.

Also, about 33 percent of intruders enter a home through the front door. Many would-be burglars will ring a doorbell first, to make sure no one is home. Burglaries are fast, taking between 90 seconds and 12 minutes, according to the FBI. On top of that, burglaries are difficult to solve; only about 13 percent of burglaries are cleared by police.

Pros of a Doorbell Camera

Those burglary statistics are why a doorbell camera adds another layer of security. With one in place you can:

  • Pretend to be home by “answering” the door.
  • Monitor movement on your porch, whether it’s a delivery person or someone suspicious.
  • Monitor housekeepers entering your home or get an alert when your child returns home from school.
  • Lock and unlock the door remotely.

With some models, you can record video footage of someone if he/she enters your home, making it easier to identify suspects.

How to Choose a Doorbell Camera

Not all doorbell cameras are created equal. Like so many things, the type you buy depends on what you need and how much you are willing to spend. Some things to note as you shop:

  • Video Quality – is it HD and how clear is the image?
  • Mounting Hardware – Some consumers have complained about mounting systems for some of the less expensive models. They have been known to break during the installation process. Be sure yours comes with a solid mounting system.
  • Fit – Will it work for your doorframe?
  • Wires – Hardwired or wireless?
  • Night Vision – Some doorbell cameras offer the ability to record night video.
  • On-Demand – Some cameras let you check the video whenever you want, while others only show you video when movement is detected.
  • Phone Compatibility – Some versions don’t work with all mobile carriers and devices. Make sure yours works with what you have.
  • Contracts – Some of the popular models come with monitoring contracts and may require someone else to install them.
  • Appearance – They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors.

We sell multiple types of doorbell cameras at Secur-Tek. Talk to us about whether adding one to your home security system is the right move for you.

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