Security Reminders for New Home Buyers

This is the time of year when families look into options for new homes and neighborhoods. This is a life-changingdecision – you and your family want to live somewhere comfortable, convenient and safe. With all the things to think about when considering a move, safety and security arenear the top of the priority list. Below we have outlined a few items to consider when assessing whether a neighborhood and home is the right fit for you and your family.

Thoroughly check out the neighborhood:

The feel and safety of the neighborhood is a key consideration when buying a home. You can always change and adjust the security features of the home itself, but you can’t control or change the neighborhood environment. Take the time to find out local area crime rates – info on the most recent crime activity and break-insisassessable online. Sex offender registry and public/police records are also easily accessed. Noting the proximity to Fire, Police and Rescue stations helps in figuring response times.

It can often be interesting and enlightening to stop by or call the local Police station to get additional information on the particular area you are considering.

In addition, an area with friendly neighbors who get to know each other and take pride in their neighborhood offers a sense of security. If you are seriously considering a home, knock on a potential neighbor’s door, introduce yourself and get their perspective on the safety, friendliness and police presence in the area. Neighbors can have a strong influence on the happiness and well-being of your family.

Take special note of the lighting and landscaping:

Often times we look at a property during the day or early evening. Take time to check outthe streets and the home you are considering late at night or early morning and notice if there isadequate street and sidewalk lighting. Check to see how well the entry, walkways and window areas are lit. Some of these things you can fix quite easily (like adding motion sensor lighting) but some are much more of a challenge.

Landscaping can really enhance the image of your home; it also affects the safety of the home. Overgrown or poorly placed bushes can block out lighting and give potential burglars a perfect cover from being noticed, especially when located near doors or windows.

Check doors and windows:

This may seem obvious, but the doors to the exterior need to be carefully inspected. They should be built out of metal or with solid wood cores and have deadbolts. Sometimes the most aestheticallypleasing decorator doors offer the least amount of safety from intrusion. Glass panels in or next to the doors offer burglar’s easy access.  Replacing the external doors is doable but take the cost of replacement into consideration when thinking through your offer as this is a fairly expensive item. Note, replacing security sub-par doors should be done before occupancy for ease of mind and convenience.

Mechanical systems and appliances:

These items directly impact the safety of the home and should be thoroughly inspected before deciding on purchasing a home. A faulty electrical system puts your home at risk for fires. Gas appliances or fireplaces that don’t function properly increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Get a home inspection to verify that all mechanical systems meet current building codes and function properly.

Home and property security system:

Having a home and property security system can help give you peace of mind when moving to a new area and home. If a system is already installed, you can have it upgraded and activated as soon as you move in. Make sure to check out the window and door sensors for proper functioning. Test the location of the motion sensors to ensurethey are properly aimed and positioned for maximum benefit. Security systems are an economical and effective method for ensuring your new residence will offer you the safety and security your family deserves.

 

If you have moved into a new home or will be moving into one soon, give us a call at 919-387-1800 to evaluate your home security and give you a quote on installing, upgrading or monitoring.

 

 

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.

DARK, COLD DAYS OF WINTER – BRIGHTENED BY HONEYWELL’S TOTAL CONNECT

When the days get shorter, do you dread pulling into the driveway of a dark, cold home? Have you ever thought about how nice it would be if your cheery, warm bright home welcomed you instead?
It’s possible – you can experience increased convenience and safety without wasting energy — with a Honeywell Total Connect “smart home”.
As we move into fall and push our clocks back, it seems that getting home in the dark is the norm. Wouldn’t it be nice to turn select indoor and outdoor lights on or off automatically every time you arm or disarm your security system? You can do that with Honeywell Total Connect! Even better, you can tell your system to turn a set of lights on 30 minutes before you get home from work and another off an hour after you’ve gone to bed. You can program schedules for ambience, or security, and control your lights from any remote location.
If you are on the go, a “smart home” enables you to stay connected to your family, pets and property 24/7. You can receive real-time alerts (e-mails, text messages or video alerts) of important events such as a child arriving home from school, a pet leaving the house, a parent taking their medications or any recent system or sensor activity. It’s like having mobile control of your home in the palm of your hand!
And your system can help avoid some of life’s hassles and mishaps. Like when you’re at work and your kids or parents forget their house keys, or maybe you need a neighbor to pick up an important package and take it inside so it’s not on your porch for hours? Imaging unlocking the door from the comfort of your office with your smartphone or PC. As an enhanced security option, you can view camera feeds from your Skybell Video Doorbell on touchscreens, televisions, tablets, smartphones or PCs and keep an eye on your kids, pets, screen visitors at your entranceway and view activity occurring around the interior or exterior of your home whenever and wherever you want.
Finally, when your home enjoying a movie and you notice your child is out with the car and it is getting late, calm your worries with Honeywell Total Connect Tracking Services. This puts you in the driver’s seat – letting you know where your vehicles are and where they’ve been 24/7 – anytime, anywhere, from any web-enabled smart device! You’ll have real-time GPS location information at your fingertips – a great way to keep tabs on teenage drivers, elderly loved ones, or even assist in recovering missing vehicles and monitor or recover lost or stolen valuables. You can even get email or text alerts when vehicles exceed speed limits or predetermined geographic boundaries.
When your life is demanding, our Honeywell Total Connect system can help ease your mind and reduce the stress and worry of everyday life!
Call or contact the experts at Secur-Tek for more information or an estimate on a Honeywell Total Connect system for your home.

 

 
 
 

It’s October – Take a Bite Out Of Crime

October is National Crime Prevention month. The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) encourages everyone to join the effort to “Take A Bite Out Of Crime®.” In 1984, A Presidential proclamation designated October as Crime Prevention Month. Since then, NCPC has been working with local law enforcement, government agencies, civic groups, schools and businesses to help spread the word about crime prevention and personal safety. The NCPC and your efforts can create safer, more caring communities and promote the importance of public vigilance to combat crimes.

For those of us living in Wake County, the Wake County Crime Prevention Unit is a fantastic resource for all sorts of information, classes, events and local news.

The Wake County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Unit is a proactive program that provides the public with information to help identify and minimize the risks of becoming a crime victim. These programs teach citizens how to enhance security and safety for themselves and their neighborhoods.

The Crime Prevention Unit also offers classes that teach citizens how to report a crime and what information is important to gather before calling law enforcement. They also help organize community watch programs where communities work as a team to observe activity in their neighborhood.

The Crime Prevention Unit has programs for children and adults. If you are interested in additional information about the Wake County Crime Prevention Unit and their programs check out http://www.wakegov.com/sheriff/divisions/Pages/crimeprev.aspx and click the services button on the left side of the page. While you are there, review the News and Events or sign-up to be connected through Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

12 Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe After School

School is starting up  –  is your child arriving home alone? If so, check out our home safety checklist!

Many kids stay by themselves after school; it’s important for parents to feel that their child is safe and secure when they are home alone. To help you and your child prepare so you can both feel better about it, we have compiled the following checklist. This comprehensive checklist has been compiled from many sources, including The Red Cross, Parent & Child Magazine, and Scholastic.com.

Being prepared is key to safety and feeling secure. Take the time to review and implement this plan with your child for a safer, happier school year!

Have an emergency plan. Practice an emergency plan with your child so they know what to do in case of fire, injury, or other emergencies. Write the plan down and make sure they know where it is. Even if you believe it to be common sense, review the sound of the alarm and what to do if it goes off. S/he should get out of the house immediately and then call 911 from a neighbor’s house. Review the emergency exits by drawing a map that outlines the best pathways to safety from each room in the house.

Post relevant phone numbers. Have numbers for a trusted neighbor, your cell and work number and other emergency numbers in a prominent location. If children have approved access to smart phones or tablets, download the free Red Cross First Aid App so they’ll have instant access to expert advice for everyday emergencies. 

Place flashlights in assessable locations. Let children know where the flashlights are. Make sure that the batteries are fresh, and that the child knows how to use them. 

Inspect your home thoroughly for any safety risks.

    • Make sure that all of the smoke detectors are functioning properly.
    • Remove or safely store in locked areas dangerous items like guns, knives, hand tools, power tools, razor blades, scissors, ammunition and other objects that can cause injury. 
    • Make sure potential poisons like detergents, polishes, pesticides, lighter fluid and lamp oils are stored in locked cabinets or out of the reach of children.
    • Make sure medicine is kept in a locked storage place or out of reach.
    • Install safety covers on all unused electrical outlets.

Always check in. Make it a rule that your child calls a parent (or another adult that you designate) or leaves you a message as soon as s/he gets home. This can be the first step in a daily routine that includes homework, a snack, and some downtime.
 

Make the phone (almost) off-limits. Your child shouldn’t answer the phone for just anyone, so set up guidelines. If you have a land line with caller ID, tell her not to answer the phone if she doesn’t recognize the name or number. If you don’t have caller ID, tell him that she should let every call go to voice mail. If you child is old enough to have her own cell phone, use the same guidelines.

Don’t leave the house. Your child should not leave the house unattended unless cleared with you first or there is an emergency such as a fire. Make sure that he is aware of the risks of leaving home.

Take the same way home. Have them take the same route to and from school every day. If your child walks, review each street that she uses. If she takes a school bus, make sure that she takes it every day, even if she is offered a ride from a friend. Knowing her route allows you to predict how long it will take her to arrive home, and to trace her steps if there is ever a problem.
 

Caution children:

    • Not to talk about being home alone in public or on social media.
    • Never tell someone on the telephone that the parents are not at home. Say something like “He or she is busy right now. Can I take a message?”
    • Lock the doors; if the home has an electronic security system, children should learn how to turn it on and have it on when home alone for extra protection.
    • Never open the door to delivery people or service representatives. Ask delivery people to leave the package at the door or tell them to come back at another time. Service representatives, such as a TV cable installer, should have an appointment when an adult is at home.

Lock the doors. If the home has an electronic security system, children should learn how to turn it on and have it on when home alone for extra protection. Security systems with remote access, like Honeywell Total Connect, allow parents to be notified and view activity in the interior or exterior of their home for extra peace of mind.

Keep them busy. Although a child needs some downtime to rest and rejuvenate, your child will be less likely to get into­ trouble if he’s occupied with homework, practicing music, and chores. Review what they have accomplished and give them feedback when you get home. Reinforcement is key to getting things done!

Practice first aid. Keep a first aid kit handy and review it with your child. Help her distinguish between a true emergency and a minor one that she can handle herself.

Consider enrolling older children in an online Red Cross babysitting course so they can learn first aid skills and how to care for younger family members. Babysitting Basics is geared towards children aged 11-15 while Advanced Child Care Training is well-suited for those aged 16 and up. 

 

We at Secur-Tek, Inc hope this checklist is helpful and wish you and your family a safe and productive school year. If you have any questions or needs concerning your home security or automation needs please give us a call!

 

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.

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.

 

How to Prevent Packages from Being Stolen Off Your Porch

Packages left on the porch are vulnerable at any time, but ‘tis the season for a few more brown parcels to appear at your doorstep. The demand for online shopping is constantly increasing, and last year carriers delivered more than 600 million packages this time of year. Whether you’re ordering gifts online for family or receiving them from friends afar, you’re more likely to have packages sitting pretty on your porch this month.

A 2005 report from insurancequotes.com estimated that about 23 million Americans have experienced porch package theft. Many find out about it later. After all, you may not know a package was delivered until you realize it never arrived. One media outlet reported last year that organized “Porch Pirates” follow UPS and FedEx trucks and then steal packages shortly after the truck delivers it.

8 Tips for Package Theft Prevention

Protect your packages with these security steps:

  1. Customize delivery. If the ordering system allows you to choose the time of delivery, select a time you know you’ll be at home.
  2. Install a doorbell camera. Not all package delivery teams ring the doorbell, but if they do, you’ll be able to see the person dropping the package off. Now that you have delivery confirmation, you can try to get home sooner to pick it up. Some doorbell cameras also turn on when there is movement on the porch, so you could see someone trying to steal the package as well. You can also install a regular camera with motion-sensing and recording features so you can monitor your porch and use the recording to prove the theft.
  3. Deliver decisively. Have the package delivered elsewhere. If you’re not home much, consider having the package delivered to your office or a friend or neighbor’s house for safekeeping.
  4. Hold the post. Have the post office or carrier hold the package. Request UPS, FedEx and the Postal Service to hold packages at their facility for you to pick up later. UPS has created a service called Access Point that enables you to choose an alternate delivery location in your neighborhood.
  5. Neighborhood watch. Alert a neighbor that you are expecting a package and have him or her keep an eye out. If you won’t be home for a long time, he or she might be willing to hide the package for you. If you use Nextdoor or a similar neighborhood app you can let neighbors know if something has been stolen from your porch so they can keep an eye out.
  6. Hide your valuables. Talk to your postal carrier about packages. Is there an easy place for him or her to hide them? Some carriers will place them on the back porch if requested.
  7. Be aware. Talk to family and friends who may be mailing your holiday gifts. Ask them to let you know when they send things so you can watch for it.
  8. Light it up. Install outdoor lights. Your package is more likely to be stolen during daylight hours, but night falls early this time of year. Outdoor lights with motion or light sensors are a good way to keep people away from your home in general.

Heading out of town? Check out our 7 ways to tighten home security for the holidays.

Is Your Wireless Security System Safe?

54163030 - information security online privacy protection conceptWireless has made life easier in many ways. You can print something from your living room using your wireless printer. Your wireless phone means you don’t have to buy a 30-foot curly cord and drag it around the house. (Remember that?)

Security systems are wireless, too. While wireless has made life easier, it also makes our homes and devices more vulnerable and not all security systems are created equal. Here is what you need to know to keep your family and valuables safe.

How Wireless Works

Wireless security systems use radio frequency signals sent from your door or window sensors. Those sensors trigger an alarm if breached. According to a study done by two researchers, most systems do not encrypt or authenticate the signals sent from those sensors. That means a hacker could trigger false alarms or even block the signal, preventing the alarm from sounding and preventing the system from alerting fire or police officials. Some alarms come with anti-jamming measures, but hackers have found ways around those, too.

How to Protect Your Home

You really do get what you pay for in security. Inexpensive, DIY systems are vulnerable to hacking. Lyric Systems by Honeywell offers 128-bit encryption. It’s more expensive, but more secure. Any system you choose needs to have encrypted signals. Some alarm systems broadcast on multiple channels, making them tougher to jam. Ask your security team about these options. 

Another option is to install a wired system. Some security experts point out that thieves can cut the wires, but in some residences, the wires are difficult to access, making this a more useful approach.

Don’t buy a used system or used cameras. The previous owners may be thieves who retain access to those devices.

Change usernames and passwords. Anytime you buy an out-of-the box system, a new wireless router, or anything, you MUST change the username and password from the default. While this won’t necessarily prevent all hackers, you might as well make it a little tougher for them. As Forbes found, one security company mailed systems to people with the default login of username “admin” and password “admin.” Because those businesses never changed their login information, it was easy to guess and access their system.

If you have something to protect, such as valuable jewelry, electronics, or art, invest in a good security system installed by Secur-Tek. Our team can recommend a system that fits your security needs.