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home security

Fortress Security’s Houston expansion nets customers, techs

The company also plans wider regional expansion across Texas and into Oklahoma
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09/17/2014

ARLINGTON, Texas—Fortress Security, based here, expanded its reach into the Houston metro area this summer, drawn by a strong demand for its services, a slightly larger Houston market and a larger pool of technicians, said company founder and owner Jerrod Smith.

Huntington Capital likes the security space

The PE firm’s $3 million loan to an Arizona door-knocking company is its first venture in the space, but it could make more
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09/15/2014

SAN DIEGO—The $3 million that Huntington Capital, a private equity firm based here, recently loaned to door-knocking company Envision Security marks Huntington’s first foray into the security space, but more such investments could be in its future.

Are wireless home systems vulnerable?

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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 wayward hackers on some perverse quest for Internet notoriety. Identifiable only by screen names evoking bad cyberpunk movies, these lonesome code junkies are intent on doing everything from dousing homes with sprinkler systems to invading your privacy through in-home network cameras .

The piece, titled “The Nightmare on Connected Home Street,” is supposed to seem nearly implausible. The narrator is jarred awake at four a.m. by the pulse of dub step music exploding from his connected pillow. The piece ends, a few hours later, with the 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 thought-provoking and well worth a read.

Interestingly enough, about a month later, Wired turned its attention to security again, this time focusing on vulnerabilities that have nothing to do with IP devices. This time, the article dealt with security concerns 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 among a number of brands.

The issue apparently 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 should probably 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 burglar, well above the norm 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 scheduled next week in Las Vegas. For my part, I’ll be eager to hear more about their findings and to see what kind of impact the research could have.

Vivint creates CSO position, hires federal cyber expert Joe Albaugh

New Vivint CSO Albaugh was security chief at DOT, FAA
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07/30/2014

PROVO, Utah—Joe Albaugh, who today joined Vivint in the newly created position of chief security officer, brings significant cyber expertise, having previously served as chief information security officer at the U.S. Department of Transportation and also at the Federal Aviation Administration.

Viper launches car and home security app

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11/05/2013

VISTA, Calif.—Car security company Viper now offers a Smartphone app that lets customers keep an eye on their homes as well as their cars, the company announced Nov. 4.

Canary affordable home security device still hot sales item

With more than $1.9 million in hand, Canary is preselling its self- install device and is in talks with the ‘biggest monitoring companies’
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09/11/2013

NEW YORK— Canary, a New York City startup that recently raised nearly $2 million through crowdfunding for what it calls “the first smart home security device for everyone,” says so many additional customers still want the device that it launched a more traditional sales campaign on its website today.

Homicide, home security and pro football

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It’s not often that a news story involves a homicide, a home security system and a professional football player, but such has been the case over the past week regarding New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Actually, I should say former tight end, because the Patriots released him today after he was arrested and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player, according to a report from The New York Times. Police took Hernandez from his North Attleborough, Mass. home this morning in handcuffs, according to the report. Hernandez' home security system has provided crucial evidence in the case, the report said.

Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits, was found shot dead June 17, about a mile from the home of Hernandez. Officials have ruled the death a homicide, and The New York Times story says Lloyd was shot five times. News reports say that Hernandez was friends with Lloyd, who reportedly was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancée.
 

Authorities say home surveillance videos show Hernandez was with Lloyd the night he died, according to The New York Times story. Here's more from that report:

 

Prosecutors said home surveillance videos taken from Hernandez’s house show him in possession of firearms before and after Lloyd was killed, that Hernandez was observed picking Lloyd up at 2:30 a.m. on the night he was killed, that a silver Nissan Altima — the same make of vehicle Hernandez had rented — was seen going to and coming from the site where Lloyd’s body was found and that Hernandez was seen exiting his vehicle with a gun at his home at 3:29 a.m., shortly after authorities say Lloyd had been murdered.
Prosecutors added that .45 caliber shell casings found at the scene matched shell casings found in the rental car after Hernandez turned it in.
“The defendant orchestrated the execution,” an assistant district attorney, Bill McCauley, said. Lloyd, he said, was shot five times.
One of Hernandez’s lawyers, Michael Fee, called the case against him “weak” and “circumstantial.”

 

 

 

Kessler and DeMarco: Professional monitoring, strategy bode well for DIRECTV/Lifeshield deal

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I had a chance to speak to Jeff Kessler, research analyst for Imperial Capital, and ESX chairman George DeMarco about the satellite television giant DIRECTV getting into security with the purchase of LifeShield.

Below is a summary of those discussion:

This deal is different from the string of cable companies and telecoms that have jumped into the fray over the past couple of years, Kessler said, for a couple of reasons.

First, DIY is built into the DNA of both DIRECTV and LifeSheild, Kessler said. “They understand each others’ way of working,” and that will make the combination more successful.

Second, LifeSheild, and now, DIRECTV, is using CMS, Protection 1’s professional monitoring arm to monitor security customers.

With the exception of AT&T, which is building two monitoring centers, the other cable and telecom players are not using professional monitoring centers.

“This allows DIRECTV to show off its feathers in front of other cable and telecom players,” Kessler said. Those companies are using “generic customer service organizations to do their initial [monitoring] service, [but DIRECTV has a acquired a company] that uses the largest independent monitoring company in the country with five branches.”

He pointed out that CMS has extremely experienced people answering phones who know about intrusion and life safety, including carbon monoxide. The company also has a group of people who are specially trained in health care for calls related to personal emergency response.

All of this is important, he said, because it will improve the customer experience for DIRECTV’s security customers. Going with a professional monitoring company will help convince customers that they can trust DIRECTV as their security provider because customers believe that the “police will be there in five minutes, or a health specialist will stay on the phone for 35 minutes with a customer,” he said.

In general, the public’s perception about cable companies’ service is not good. This is a hurdle for cable companies who enter the security industry. By partnering with CMS that has “proficiency and experience dealing with customer emergencies, whether it’s security or health,[DIRECTV] is in a better position to succeed,” Kessler said.

Kessler said there will likely more deals like this where an outsider like a satellite or cable company will buy a home security provider. In addition, Kessler expect to see more “partnerships as telcos and cable operators realize the value in having a high-quality partner on the service end of the business.

George DeMarco, chairman of ESX, and former owner of Greater Alarm said DIRECTV’s strategy is pretty straightforward.

“DIRECTV has 20 million customers. If the current market penetration for electronic security systems is approximately 20-25 percent, then their customer database is a gold mine.”

DeMarco said it’s all about finding new, complementary, recurring revenue streams that “boost their ability to attract a greater share of the customer’s wallet. Offering security and home management systems with interactive service capabilities, especially video, gives DIRECTV an opportunity to overlay additional home services for customers, while growing top-line revenues and increasing bottom -line profits.  
 
“With the advancements in product technologies, cloud-based services, and mobile devices, Multiple System Operators (MSO) and telecoms have been eyeing the electronic security industry of late. That said, I believe DIRECTV and other MSOs are looking for ways to augment their current offerings.” 

DeMarco said the those industries’ subscribers are willing to “cut the cord” from content packages because of the impact of Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon’s Prime Service. “In other words, MSOs can increase new phone and broadband subscribers while losing paid TV subscribers. Consumers have more choices today for content and delivery of broadband services. As a result, MSOs are exploring other sources of revenue for growth opportunities and the electronic security industry seems to be the likely candidate.”