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Home Security System Options
December 12, 2013 at 8:36 pm #8859
Thanks for responding to my comment. I do appreciate how the FrontPoint system requires a disarm code to be sent; this is a definite improvement over other self-contained, all-in-one alarm systems which are easily recognized since they have a huge keypad at the front door.
However, since this is supposed to be a forum based on the question “What is the Best Security System?”, I must now include some additional points concerning security issues which you and your readers may have overlooked and missed.
From a strictly “security” point of view, there is no logical reason in exposing the most vital components of your alarm system at or near your front door, which is exactly what ALL self-contained alarm units are doing. You are announcing to everyone, “Look at this HUGE keypad! It is my entire alarm system. Come and attack it”.
If you are trying to educate the general public on which alarm system to purchase, then you should advise them to get a system which has a separate control panel which can be hidden from sight and much better secured from potential attack and compromise.
The design of the alarm system should include detectors and/or sensors which will activate as people approach the hidden location of the alarm control panel, long before they actually find your equipment and attack it.
There is a time factor involved with transmitting alarm signals and the alarm equipment has to “stay alive” long enough to complete the transmission. Unless your security system has “supervision heartbeats” which transmit at timed intervals or “check-ins”, your security equipment can be defeated by a rapid attack which destroys it before a transmission can be completed.
If the alarm equipment has been compromised, or is defective, a missed “check-in”, or “self-test”, is the only way that the monitoring station will be aware of a potential problem.
You have not mentioned if the FrontPoint system has “supervisory heartbeats”. If it doesn’t, then it is just as vulnerable to a very rapid attack as any other alarm system, ESPECIALLY if that attack occurs BEFORE an alarm is triggered.
The FrontPoint system is being marketed towards self-installation by homeowners versus a more expensive professional installation. This is a very problematic situation since most homeowners don’t have the security knowledge necessary to properly design an adequate alarm system for their residence, nor do they possess the skills necessary to install a more complex, professionally designed, hard-wired alarm system if they were given the components in a box.
Homeowners also grossly under-estimate the budget necessary for a “complete alarm system” and end up with inadequate security coverage. Most alarm companies are pushing “cheap, inexpensive systems at only $30.00 per month” BECAUSE homeowners are “shopping price”, not “shopping security”.
The alarm industry has responded to this consumer demand by providing cheap, inexpensive, self-contained, wireless alarm systems with HUGE keypads which are very easy for a typical homeowner to install and afford.
However, where has the SECURITY gone?
FrontPoint is trying its best to “correct” an obvious design flaw with the improvements that you mentioned, in that their self-contained wireless alarm systems transmit an alarm signal as soon as an entry door is opened (rather than at the end of the entry delay as with other alarm panels). Please correct me if I’ve misunderstood your description.
However, this improvement in design can still lead to a false sense of security if additional considerations are not properly taken at the time of installation of the FrontPoint wireless system by the homeowner.
Let’s consider a front door which has a large window in it, through which we can see the keypad (since it has been installed close to the front door to easily disarm the system). An intruder can smash the glass and then reach into this opening to attack the self-contained keypad because the door contact has not been opened. In this example, the self-contained keypad requires additional security because of the close proximity of the glass window inside the front door.
Cutting a large enough hole in the front door will also allow an intruder entry to attack a self-contained keypad whose only “protection” is the front door contact.
If you scoff at what you may now consider to be “the very slim and rare probability of these types of entry attacks actually occurring”, you really aren’t taking the design of your home alarm system very seriously, are you?
The ability of an alarm system to “survive long enough to complete its transmission” should be one of the deciding factors necessary in determining “What is the Best Home Security System”.
Since you are referring your readers towards FrontPoint because of their customer service and the ease of installation of their product, here is my suggestion regarding your readers’ SECURITY:
Any good alarm system will have the ability to add on extra keypad(s) as necessary for additional entry/exit points in the residence. I STRONGLY ADVISE hiding the FrontPoint self-contained keypad inside the home in a very secure area. This keypad would probably never be used to arm/disarm the system and would only be rarely accessed by the homeowner; rather it will be used strictly as a control panel/communicator, as is the case with the alarm systems that I recommend to my clients.
Additional keypads would then be installed at all necessary entry/exit doors, and it is these keypads which will be used to arm and disarm your system.
For additional security, stay away from wireless key fobs which can disarm your home alarm system with a simple push of a button. A thief who steals your home keys will now have a convenient way to disarm your security system without having to enter a 4 or 6-digit access code.
Start thinking about SECURITY, not convenience and low cost! Typically, you usually get what you pay for.
December 12, 2013 at 8:39 pm #8860
Also, you cannot guarantee to “secure” these all in-one-keypads by simply “pointing a motion detector at them” while they still remain out in the open, in plain view on a desk and prone to attack. I’ve already mentioned that there is a time factor involved in successfully sending an alarm message to the monitoring station, and these all-in-one units need to stay alive long enough to complete the job.
Since you are not a security professional with a complete understanding of how alarm systems work and how they are used in the home, you haven’t factored in that most, if not ALL, of the motion detectors which are in the residence will be AUTOMATICALLY BYPASSED at night if the homeowners arm their system using the STAY mode of arming. This effectively KILLS the motion detector which you have “aimed at the main all-in-one keypad” sitting on the kitchen counter and it now becomes the homeowners’ responsibility for “securing” the main all-in-one keypad unit while they are sleeping!
The promotional video on the FrontPoint web-site shows the homeowner placing the all-in-one main keypad unit on a kitchen counter. If there is a motion detector in the kitchen, it will typically be “bypassed” at night to allow the homeowners access to the fridge for a “midnight snack”.
Where is the SECURITY that is supposed to be supervising the most important and vital piece of the FrontPoint all-in-one system?
If the glass patio door in the kitchen has a contact on it, the glass window can be shattered and direct access is now available to the all-in-one unit sitting on the kitchen counter (since the motion detector is inactive at night in STAY arming mode). A glass breakage detector in the kitchen now becomes a REQUIRED COMPONENT of this home alarm system in order to properly supervise the all-in-one keypad sitting on the kitchen counter.
Although you may think this scenario difficult to imagine, (how’s a criminal supposed to know all this?) this is an example of a badly designed and poorly thought-out security system installation. If this situation never occurs to you, your family or friends, GREAT!
But – if this event DOES happen to you, in YOUR home while you’re sleeping – isn’t this EXACTLY the type of circumstances that you’d expect your home alarm system to be properly designed for, AND to work flawlessly and react to?
When I design systems for my clients, I always assume that the potential criminal attempting to break into their residence has all of the knowledge of security systems that I do. Therefore, I design security systems that professional alarm installers CANNOT defeat in under one minute, which is more than enough time for a wireless radio or cellular communicator to complete its transmission.
In addition, I factor in that a criminal is desperate enough to shatter a patio door while the homeowners are sleeping. I take the SECURITY of my customers very, very seriously.
Since you are insistent on promoting FrontPoint’s all-in-one, self-contained wireless main keypad unit with cellular communication, (since it is an easy product for a homeowner to self-install and you have been happy with client reviews on the customer service offered by FrontPoint) I have recommended to you that this type of self-contained, all-in-one main keypad be securely HIDDEN, and that other “regular keypads” be installed at the entry/exit points.
Once you start to closely examine the SECURITY ISSUES, you will immediately realize that the all-in-one keypad should ONLY be used for its communication purposes and not be openly accessed by the homeowner to arm/disarm their systems.
Furthermore, in keeping this discussion geared towards “What is the Best Home Security System”, this forum must closely examine and openly discuss how criminals will attempt to attack and defeat residential alarm systems, including the FrontPoint self-contained product which you are recommending to your readers.
Homeowners who want to save money by self-installing their own security systems MUST be able to understand how to counter-measure the criminal techniques used to defeat alarm systems.
Poor conceptualization and lack of understanding of alarm components leads to under-designing (insufficient alarm detection equipment) and poorly installing (improper placement of key system elements in an exposed area of the home, making them vulnerable to easy attack and defeat) what could have been a decent alarm system, thereby reducing its security effectiveness to near-zero.
FrontPoint is responding to consumer demand for “ease of self-installation”, “low cost”, “good customer service” and I applaud their efforts. However, to properly secure your home, you will require more alarm detection devices than provided in the basic “starter kit”, which I’m sure that FrontPoint will gladly provide if the customer ASKS FOR IT.
“The BEST home security systems are never cheap, and cheap home security systems are never BEST.”
There is a great need for further education on understanding how alarm systems work, how to properly design and install a competent home security system, how to stack the odds in your favor that your alarm will not be easily or quickly attacked and compromised by a criminal and how to use the equipment and its many features to your advantage. I’m pleased to see that your forum is trying to address these concerns, which is why I have offered you and your readers my professional advice.
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