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Are wireless home systems vulnerable?

 - 
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tech publication Wired magazine may not focus too closely on alarm monitoring or residential security, but it does devote a good deal of ink to assessing network security threats, no matter what the context.

Just last month a writer for the magazine, Mat Honan, sketched a funny, dystopian picture of the connected home in revolt, commandeered by morally wayward hackers on some perverse quest for Internet notoriety. Identifiable only by screen names evoking bad cyberpunk films from the 90s, these lonesome code junkies are intent on doing everything from dousing homes by activating sprinkler systems to invading your privacy in all the imaginable ways in a home well stocked with network cameras.

The piece, titled “The Nightmare on Connected Home Street,” is meant to be absurd: The narrator is jarred awake at four a.m. by the blaring pulse of dub step music exploding from his connected pillow. The vignette ends, a few hours later, with a bare and awesomely memorable paragraph: “The skylights open up. The toaster switches on. I hear the shower kick in from the other room. It’s morning.”

It’s all just a thought experiment, of course, but the piece is entertaining and well worth a read.

Interestingly enough, about a month later, Wired turned its attention to security again, this time focusing on concerns that, surprisingly, have nothing to do with Internet connected devices. This time, the article dealt with security vulnerabilities related to wireless home alarms, which, according to a pair of researchers cited in the article, could be compromised—the alarms either being suppressed (via “jamming”) or made to deliver false signals. The researchers found identical problems with a number of brands.

The issue, according to the report, has to do with radio frequency signals. While the conversation is understandable enough for a layman, it can drift into the arcane. In sum, the researchers found that the systems “fail to encrypt or authenticate the signals being sent from sensors to control panels," the report said, “making it easy for someone to intercept the data, decipher the commands, and play them back to control panels at will.” Would-be malefactors, the report says, can do this relatively easily.

A vulnerability is a vulnerability, and certainly no security company wants there to be any possibility of a system being hacked. But it probably should be mentioned that while these techniques may come across as elementary to the reading community of Wired Magazine, these methods would probably be, for your run-of-the-mill thief, well above average from a sophistication standpoint.

The researchers cited in the article—Logan Lamb and Silvio Cesare—plan to present their findings at the Black Hat security conference, a computer security conference held in Las Vegas next week. I’m eager to here more about their findings and to see what kind of impact the research could have.

Security threats to wireless alarms?

 - 
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tech publication Wired magazine may not focus too closely on alarm monitoring or residential security, but it does devote a good deal of ink to assessing network security threats, no matter what the context.

Just last month a writer for the magazine, Mat Honan, painted a funny dystopian sketch of the connected home in revolt, commandeered by morally wayward hackers on some perverse quest for Internet notoriety. Identifiable only by screen names evoking bad cyberpunk films from the 90s, these lonesome code junkies are intent on doing everything from dousing homes by activating sprinkler systems to invading your privacy in all the imaginable ways in a home amply stocked with network cameras.

The piece, titled “The Nightmare on Connected Home Street,” is of course meant to be hysterical: The narrator is jarred awake at four a.m. by the blaring pulse of dub step music exploding from his connected pillow. The vignette ends, a few hours later, with a bare and awesomely memorable paragraph: “The skylights open up. The toaster switches on. I hear the shower kick in from the other room. It’s morning.”

It’s all just a thought experiment, but the piece is entertaining and well worth a read.

Interestingly enough, about a month later, Wired turned its attention to security again, this time focusing on concerns that, surprisingly, have nothing to do with Internet connected devices. This time, the article dealt with security vulnerabilities related to wireless home alarms, which, according to a pair of researchers cited in the article, could be comprised—the alarm being either suppressed (via “jamming”) or made to deliver false signals. The researchers found identical problems with a number of brands.

The issue, according to the report, has to do with radio frequency signals. While the conversation is understandable for a layman, it can seem a bit arcane. In sum, the researchers found that the systems “fail to encrypt or authenticate the signals being sent from sensors to control panels,” according to the report, “making it easy for someone to intercept the data, decipher the commands, and play them back to control panels at will.” Would-be malefactors, the report says, can do this relatively easily.

The researchers cited in the article—Logan Lamb and Silvio Cesare—plan to present their findings at the Black Hat security conference, a computer security conference held in Las Vegas next week. I’m eager to here more about their findings and to see what kind of impact the research could have.  

Security threats to wireless alarms?

 - 
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tech publication Wired magazine may not focus too closely on alarm monitoring or residential security, but it does devote a good deal of ink to assessing network security threats, no matter what the context.

Just last month a writer for the magazine, Mat Honan, painted a funny dystopian sketch of the connected home in revolt, commandeered by morally wayward hackers on some perverse quest for Internet notoriety. Identifiable only by screen names evoking bad cyberpunk films from the 90s, these lonesome code junkies are intent on doing everything from dousing homes by activating sprinkler systems to invading your privacy in all the imaginable ways in a home amply stocked with network cameras.

The piece, titled “The Nightmare on Connected Home Street,” is of course meant to be hysterical: The narrator is jarred awake at four a.m. by the blaring pulse of dub step music exploding from his connected pillow. The vignette ends, a few hours later, with a bare and awesomely memorable paragraph: “The skylights open up. The toaster switches on. I hear the shower kick in from the other room. It’s morning.”

It’s all just a thought experiment, but the piece is entertaining and well worth a read.

Interestingly enough, about a month later, Wired turned its attention to security again, this time focusing on concerns that, surprisingly, have nothing to do with Internet connected devices. This time, the article dealt with security vulnerabilities related to wireless home alarms, which, according to a pair of researchers cited in the article, could be comprised—the alarm being either suppressed (via “jamming”) or made to deliver false signals. The researchers found identical problems with a number of brands.

The issue, according to the report, has to do with radio frequency signals. While the conversation is understandable for a layman, it can seem a bit arcane. In sum, the researchers found that the systems “fail to encrypt or authenticate the signals being sent from sensors to control panels,” according to the report, “making it easy for someone to intercept the data, decipher the commands, and play them back to control panels at will.” Would-be malefactors, the report says, can do this relatively easily.

The researchers cited in the article—Logan Lamb and Silvio Cesare—plan to present their findings at the Black Hat security conference, a computer security conference held in Las Vegas next week. I’m eager to here more about their findings and to see what kind of impact the research could have.  

Security threats to wireless alarms?

 - 
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tech publication Wired magazine may not focus too closely on alarm monitoring or residential security, but it does devote a good deal of ink to assessing network security threats, no matter what the context.

Just last month a writer for the magazine, Mat Honan, sketched a funny, dystopian picture of the connected home in revolt, commandeered by morally wayward hackers on some perverse quest for Internet notoriety. Identifiable only by screen names evoking bad cyberpunk films from the 90s, these lonesome code junkies are intent on doing everything from dousing homes by activating sprinkler systems to invading your privacy in all the imaginable ways in a home amply stocked with network cameras.

The piece, titled “The Nightmare on Connected Home Street,” is of course meant to be hysterical: The narrator is jarred awake at four a.m. by the blaring pulse of dub step music exploding from his connected pillow. The vignette ends, a few hours later, with a bare and awesomely memorable paragraph: “The skylights open up. The toaster switches on. I hear the shower kick in from the other room. It’s morning.”

It’s all just a thought experiment, but the piece is entertaining and well worth a read.

Interestingly enough, about a month later, Wired turned its attention to security again, this time focusing on concerns that, surprisingly, have nothing to do with Internet connected devices. This time, the article dealt with security vulnerabilities related to wireless home alarms, which, according to a pair of researchers cited in the article, could be comprised—the alarm being either suppressed (via “jamming”) or made to deliver false signals. The researchers found identical problems with a number of brands.

The issue, according to the report, has to do with radio frequency signals. While the conversation is understandable for a layman, it can seem a bit arcane. In sum, the researchers found that the systems “fail to encrypt or authenticate the signals being sent from sensors to control panels,” according to the report, “making it easy for someone to intercept the data, decipher the commands, and play them back to control panels at will.” Would-be malefactors, the report says, can do this relatively easily.

The researchers cited in the article—Logan Lamb and Silvio Cesare—plan to present their findings at the Black Hat security conference, a computer security conference held in Las Vegas next week. I’m eager to here more about their findings and to see what kind of impact the research could have.  

Talking keypads and panels with Karen Sullivan

 - 
07/30/2014

MEMPHIS, Tenn.—Security Systems News recently caught up with Karen Sullivan, recently named sales manager at Z-Tech Central, to discuss how she handles security at home.

Monitoring in the IP age

Panelists at ESX discuss how central stations need to evolve to prosper in the age of IP signals
 - 
07/09/2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Good advice on running a central station was in no short supply at ESX. The show’s entire lineup of monitoring track seminars covered virtually every aspect of what it takes to thrive as a central station in 2014 and beyond.

ADT closes Protectron acquisition

 - 
Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The ADT Corporation announced yesterday that it has closed its acquisition of Canadian monitoring giant Protectron.

ADT, which executed a definitive agreement to acquire Reliance Protectron in April, acquired the company for total cash consideration of CAD $555 million.

ADT has now officially added 400,000 customers and 31,000 accounts north of the border, worth approximately $11 million in RMR.

ADT, which already has two central stations in Canada, adds four more through the acquisition. Protectron, a portfolio company of investment funds managed by Alinda Capital Partners, has 900 employees. Its customer base is 75 percent residential.

ADT’s plan, as stated at the time it agreed to acquire the company, is to use the acquisition as the platform for a stand-alone business in Canada with a dedicated management team, a move designed to address the country’s specific market needs. In a news release, ADT said it planned to continue to using the Protectron brand under ADT ownership.

In late April, following the acquisition agreement, Lee Jackson, regional VP Canada, said it was too early to say whether ADT would keep all six Canadian central stations in operation. He noted that ADT has yet to determine which resources and administrative functions it will transfer to Canada to supports its expanded account base in that country, now up to 800,000.

The acquisition goes down as ADT’s largest since becoming an independent company, far surprassing its 2013 Devcon deal, according to John Mack, EVP and managing director at Imperial Capital, who spoke to SSN when the agreement to acquire became public. At the time, Mack said the deal signals a return to “growth initiatives [through] high quality acquisitions” and predicted the deal would help ADT’s attrition profile while bolstering its enhanced services sales.

It will be interesting to wait and see if Mack's words prove to be prophetic.

ESX seminar explores new models for customer engagement

 - 
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It’s that time of year: ESX is closing in on us, and my schedule for the show is beginning to take form. I’m envisioning a high-energy, well-paced show, with an array of educational sessions geared to new and important topics, and a show floor conducive to getting the skinny on the trends shaping the industry.

I wanted to use this space to draw attention to a seminar I’ll be moderating Tuesday, June 24 at 3:15 titled “Monitoring: A Quality Customer Touch Point.”

I’ll be talking to Mike Bodnar, president of Security Partners, Tom Szell, SVP at ADS, and Brandon Savage, SVP of customer experience and operations at Alarm Capital Alliance / My Alarm Center about the new means of customer engagement brought on by the rise of mobile apps and interactive services, and how those in the industry can leverage these advances to minimize attrition.  

With Nashville roughly ten days away, I encourage folks (particularly those on the monitoring side) to contact me in the days ahead to arrange a meeting on the show floor. Given the structure of the show, and its emphasis on education, I don’t anticipate fodder for conversation being in any short supply. Industry shows like ESX offer a valuable stage not only for discussing initiatives specific to a single business, but also broader trends affecting the industry writ large. I look forward to chatting.

Investor speculates on Monitronics outlook

 - 
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Greater visibility, broader market acceptance and (for some central stations) more wholesale monitoring accounts are just some of the benefits often mentioned in connection with the entrance of cablecos and telecoms into security.

A recent Wholesale Monitoring study by the Barnes Associates (co-sponsored by the CSAA and SSN) largely attributed the 19 percent growth the segment enjoyed in 2013 to the influence of the new entrants. To be sure, there seems to be a prevailing belief that the rangy, big-money advertising campaigns of such companies can be the proverbial “rising tide that lifts all boats.”

That’s not to say there’s no ambivalence. That was apparent enough in a recent SSN News Poll that dealt with the topic. A number of readers expressed concern about the long-term viability of smaller players in the home security space, given the influx of these major corporations who have already made inroads into the home through Internet and cable, and thus have that previously established “stickiness.”

That ambivalence was also reflected in a recent analysis by Rajiv Bhatia on Seeking Alpha, a crowdsourced platform for investment-based ideas, who discussed what the new market players could mean for Ascent Capital, the holding company of Monitronics. Bhatia acknowledged that the company faces “increased competition” from the large new cableco/telecom entrants, which he says are gaining traction despite unsuccessful forays into the market in the past.

Regarding Monitronics’ business model, Bhatia offered a mixture of encouraging and somewhat cautionary words:

“While management and sell-side analysts believe that Ascent is better insulated from competition via its dealer-only business model, Ascent faces upward pressure on the multiple it pays for its dealer contracts from competitors. Additionally, its growth through its internal channels is weakening.”

Those multiples, he noted earlier, are based on an RMR multiple of 50. Ascent faces “upward pressure on the multiple it pays to acquire contracts,” he said.

With more than 1 million subscribers, Monitronics trails only ADT in terms of marketshare in the alarm monitoring space. It will be interesting to watch what happens to the market presence of both companies as the cableco/telecom ads continue to appear on our television screens.

AES' IntelliStart service making an impact

In addition to the training service, the company launched a pair of "productivity tools" at ISC West
 - 
04/16/2014

LAS VEGAS—Since August 2012, when AT&T announced it will discontinue its 2G service on Jan. 1, 2017, talk about the need for central stations and dealers to protect themselves from the adverse effects of cellular “sunsets” has picked up.  

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