Protect your Home when Traveling

When you go traveling, I’m sure you make a point to protect the various things you bring with you—including your laptop, children, even spouse. But what about something you left behind? Your home? Is that being protected too?

1BBefore Leaving

  • Don’t wait till the last minute to arrange kenneling for your pet.
  • Tidy up the exterior of your house including mowing the lawn. Overgrown grass, unmoved rubbish and dormant toys/tools make a house look unoccupied. If you plan on traveling long enough for the grass to get overgrown, arrange with a trusted adult to mow your lawn.
  • Don’t leave your car outside.
  • Put your snail mail and any paper delivery on vacation hold.
  • Give spare keys to a trusted adult. This person should also know the “safe” word for your security system should they be in contact with the monitoring center.
  • Hopefully you have a reliable neighbor who will promptly remove any flyers in your door or on the knob.
  • Here’s something you probably never thought of: A burglar casing your street on trash pickup day may notice the one house whose trash cans aren’t at the curb. Hmmm…maybe those people are away on vacation? So have a neighbor bring your trash cans out on trash day—with trash in them—and then bring them back in.
  • Get rid of food that may spoil while you’re away.
  • Make sure the locks on your windows and doors work.
  • Set up an automatic timed lighting system. Open curtains or shades enough to reveal this to anyone passing by, but not enough for someone to be able to see your valuables through your windows.
  • Put as many valuables as you can in a fireproof, waterproof safe.
  • To prevent water flooding problems, switch off the water to your dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Make sure all appliances and electronic items are unplugged to avoid fires.
  • Lower the thermostat but no less than 60’.
  • Give the garbage disposal one last run, because if there is food waste in there you may come home to a swarm of fruit flies.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors and home security system work.
  • And don’t forget to turn your alarm system on before you embark on your trip.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

How Hackers are Hacking Smarthomes

“My house was hacked!” Had you said this 25 years ago, people would have thought a burglar vandalized it with an axe. Say it today and nearly everybody will know what you mean: A thief or prankster “broke” in to your house via its connected-to-the-Internet gadgets.

4DIf something’s connected, like your refrigerator, the possibility of hacking exists. All of these smarthome gadgets make it to market without a lot of attention on security, leaving them with “back doors” through which hackers could enter. This creates a larger “surface area” for potential cyber invasions.

In January 2014, connected refrigerators were actually sending out spam e-mails. So don’t think that all of this is just hyped up anxiety. And unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve already heard about the man who hacked into a baby monitor and yelled obscenities through it. A hacker could infiltrate through any vulnerable device in your house and use it as a launching pad to get into your e-mail account and redirect your web traffic to them.

Though nothing is ever 100 percent secure, the issue boils down to how important it is for you to control your home’s thermostat or coffee pot while you’re away, which means adding one more “smart” thing to your house, increasing its surface area of potential attack.

Smart gadgets are especially vulnerable to attack because they may not be replaced for many years, such as a smart washing machine. This means the appliance or device needs to have a long-term ability to receive security updates.

To combat security threats, makers of smart gadgets and appliances need to have security in mind from the beginning of manufacturing. They need to set up a monitoring system for these products for as long as they are in use, so that the smart washer is just as protected in its 15th year of use by the homeowner as it is in its first year.

Though the smart coffee pot may come across as a status symbol of a tech-savvy person with money to burn, some smart devices can save money such as a system that monitors water usage and can even identify which pipe has a leak.

The homeowner has to do a risk/benefit analysis and just perhaps forego the coffee pot and the smart egg container that tells you when you’re down to your last few eggs. To check if your kids are sleeping you may just have to do it the old-fashioned way: walking to their bedroom and peeking in.

When making an investment in smarthome devices make sure to check out the reviews, do your research to see if anyone has experienced security issues. And make sure to update any software of firmware over the lifespan of the device.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Winter Vacation Home Security

Planning a trip? Thinking of having your snail mail and newspaper delivery placed on a vacation hold so that thieves casing your neighborhood won’t see a pile-up of these items?

2HWell, there’s a better option, because what if…just what if…a crook works for the post office or newspaper company and keeps track of all of these vacation holds? They’ll know for sure you’re gone and will rob you, or at least try to. Have a trusted adult retrieve your mail and newspaper.

Next up for protecting your possessions is a rule that cannot be said too often: Never post your travel plans on social media! The number of people who do this daily is alarming, and this includes posting while on the vacation as well, putting up photos of the beach and boasting about the weather, scenery, etc. A thief reading this is like a dog watching you put steak in his bowl.

Another tactic is to install timed lighting devices so that your house isn’t perpetually dark, or perpetually lit up, which looks almost as suspicious.

Are you still continuing to put off getting a home security system? For as little as about $10/month your home can be monitored, but more provisional systems are still reasonable at $30 a month. The system should alert law enforcement if someone breaks in. Complement the home security with video surveillance. Today’s systems allow you to access them remotely.

Additional Tips for Home Security While You’re Away

  • Lock up all your valuables in a safe.
  • Deactivate the garage door opener.
  • Set up automatic timers that turn lights on and off.
  • Inform the police and a trusted neighbor of your travel plans.
  • Record a message on your voice mail that implies you’re home but busy.
  • Ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway.
  • Have your grass cut to prevent overgrowth while you’re gone.
  • Make sure your car, if you’re using it to travel, is equipped for the long trip.
  • Load up the car under the cover of night or inside your garage so that nobody sees you’re prepping to be gone.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Know your Options for Self-Defense

Most people don’t give good hard thinking to their capabilities in a physical assault situation. You need not be built like an MMA fighter to know effective self-defense.

1SDAn ounce of prevention is worth a pound of safety.

Attackers look for unsuspecting targets. Walk and park only in well-lit areas. Never park right beside a van. In the parking lot, always keep your biggest key poking out between two fingers; it makes a great weapon.

If a thug demands your wallet or purse, hand it over. Your life isn’t worth that designer handbag. But what if it’s a situation where you must fight for your life?

The second he touches you or you can’t get away, holler in your most primal, pissed-off voice, “Get the F— Out of Here!” Sound like thug, not a lady. Push at the offender. The vocal noise alerts nearby people, and it, and the shoving, tell the offender you’re not easy game.

You have only a few seconds to scare off the attacker. You must inflict pain on the attacker, or be hurt by him or her. So go for the eyes, ears, nose, neck, knee, leg and of course, groin.

Strike a vulnerable body part from where you’re at, rather than moving in closer; kick a knee rather then stepping in to pull the ears. Upper body strikes are done with the hand: its outer edge, a palm, a knuckle hit or a tightly clenched fist. Don’t think for a single second that scratching the attacker’s cheeks will scare him off, use those fingers to poke an eye.


  • Poke, gouge, stab or dig long nails into. Ever got accidentally hit in the eye? It’s disabling for several moments. Imagine what full-out, angry poking or gouging would do.


  • Drive a palm upward into their nose. Put all your body weight into it.
  • Do the same with your elbow if the attacker is behind you; go for the nasal bones.


  • Aim for the sides, where major blood vessels are. A knife-hand (outside ridge) at the side of the neck will stun him long enough to let you escape. An elbow strike, with body weight behind it, to the neck can knock him out cold.


  • Even the biggest guy can be brought tumbling down with a strong kick to the knee. Drive your foot into the side of the knee, which is more vulnerable as far as losing balance.


  • Hit it with your hand open or closed. Use your knew or elbow. Kick it with your feet or even your head. Just hit it hard and often.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Top 5 Home Burglary Prevention Reminders

Imagine coming home seeing your side door open and some of your stuff on the ground. You wonder what’s happening and think maybe your stupid irresponsible roommate dropped something. But as you look closer the door is smashed and inside the house looks disheveled. Then the sinking feeling of “I’ve been burglarized” sets in. That’s was me.

It was the early 90’s and I had bought my first home at 20 years old. It was a “3 decker” and me and a few friends lived on the first floor and I rented out the rest. It was more of a “frat house” than it was a home. We even gutted a refrigerator and had a keg on tap 24/7/365. Then one night we had a few people over, and they brought a few people we weren’t familiar with.

After an evening of being stupid we headed to bed. Next morning to work. After work reality set in. When I saw what happened, I immediately knew who did it. It was one of the friends of the friend that came to my flat the night before.

Being the “take things in my own hands” 20 years old I was, I went to this person’s house with the police and recovered my stuff. Right after that, I got a home security system.

#1 Secure entrance ways: Burglars often go right through your back or front door. They first ring the bell or knock on the door to see if you’re home, and if you don’t answer they jiggle the doorknob. Lock your doors. Sometimes if the door is locked they will use a crowbar to force it open. Install solid core doors that can’t easily be compromised. Install heavy deadbolts that go deep into the jam with 3-4 inch screws that go into the door’s frame. For sliding glass doors, install an additional wooden dowel preventing the door from being opened from the outside. Make sure your home security alarm has open door sensors.

#2 Windows: When a burglar encounters a locked door they may look for unlocked windows. Lock your windows. As an extra layer of security install a wooden dowel on top of the window to prevent it from being opened. Install window film that prevents the glass from being broken. Install glass break sensors to compliment your home security system.

#3 Lighting: Lighting on the exterior is an effective way to keep the bad guy away. The benefit of additional lighting helps your neighbors to see suspicious activity at night. Include timers on indoor light to give your home that lived in look.

#4 Home Security Systems: Most people install a home alarm after the home is burglarized. Don’t wait to be a victim of crime before you smarten up.

#5 Security cameras: Compliment your alarm with surveillance cameras. I didn’t get cameras until they were affordable. If I had got them years ago, it would have saved a lot of heartache. Today they are inexpensive and easy to install.

Oh, and what happened to the guy who broke into my house? He was arrested and was in and out of jail for the next 15 years. Last time I saw him was when he was on the front page of the Boston Globe because he had cut a woman’s head off.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing home security and identity theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover

Robbers Put Gun To Baby’s Head During Home Invasion

WOW!!!!! Like the baby is going to cause any threat to the pig home invaders.

This happened in Pee Dee which is a region of South Carolina in the northeastern corner of the state. “Pee Dee” who knew? Seems it was named after an Indian tribe. Makes sense.

Anyway reports: “Just before 3 a.m. on a Friday, a woman says she heard someone knocking at her front and back doors to her apartment. According to police, the woman cracked open the door and that’s when four masked, armed men forced their way inside. They made the woman and her baby lie on the floor.  At one point, the robbers put a gun to the baby’s head.

The men demanded money and the woman’s purse. The robbers then put a gun to another woman in the home who was upstairs. They stole $10 from a glass vase and left.”

10 bucks. That’s $2.50 each for the masked invaders. They can each by a bag of Munchos and a Snickers.

Rule #1:  You tell your kids not to talk to strangers; therefore, do not open your door to a total stranger, especially at 3 AM and ESPECIALLY IF HE IS WITH 3 OTHER GUYS WEARING MASKS!!!!!!!!!!!

Rule #2:  You are better off not answering the door at all, keeping the doors locked as they should be and call the police especially at 3AM!!!

Rule #3:  If you have a home security system (which you should) you can always set off the panic alarm in this instance and a call will be made to the police department along with a blaring siren that may deter the masked invaders.

Rule #4:  Learn from this incident. It is much better to learn from others mishaps than to learn from your own.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing home invasions on the Gordon Elliot Show.

High Tech Alarm Systems Are Much More Than Home Alarms

So I have the new ADT Pulse system. It’s pretty amazing. I’ve had a “plain old” system for the past 15 years, which has been upgraded 3 times. The standard home alarm system covers monitoring, doors, windows, motion and glass.

This system has all that plus wireless cameras inside, remote controlled thermostats, remote controlled/timed light controls, flood sensors in the mechanical room and laundry, full web access to the cameras, an iPad looking touchpad that controls it, an iPhone app to control/monitor its cameras/stat it from anywhere, and a web dashboard that lets you control every single aspect of each control to inform you of activity or to set up a “reaction” to an incident.

This home alarm system is very simple and easy to program and once you dive into the system it give you a tremendous amount of “awareness” of the goings on in and around your home and it does it automatically.

I haven’t spent a lot of time on the programming just yet, but just by default the basic settings will alert you via text and email whenever anything happens. You also have the ability to turn all these same alerts off.

It has no less than 5 ways to turn it on and off including a wired keypad, iPhone app, Touch pad, computer and remote control on the keychain for deactivating before the garage door goes up. The Touch pads sit in bedrooms/office/kitchen and has a live video feed tuned into kids rooms or the entrance way. There’s also a big green or red icon on the touch pad letting you know if it’s set or not. Mine is mostly red because it’s set while we are home. The touchpad definitely give you more control with, than without. It allows very simple setting of the home alarm so it’s mostly always on and you know it which reduces false alarms.

What I like most is the inside cameras. I have one in the little people’s room who are too little to tell me they don’t want them there. There’s also one in the kitchen, family room, office, entrance way, mechanical room and basement/garage. All of these spaces have a light switch in the room that I can control remotely to turn on so I can see what’s going on at night.

More visibility, more notification, more functionality, easier controls means more security. I LOVE THAT!!!!!!!!!

Oh, and when ADT installed this thing, the sales peeps and installers couldn’t have been more courteous and more professional. They weren’t run of the mill-off of craigslist-contractors, these were employees of the largest alarm company on the planet and it showed they do serious quality control over who their employees are. You don’t see that so much anymore.

It was a very impressive parade of professionalism.

I’m going to do a few posts regarding my experience with ADT Pulse as I dig deeper, so stay tuned.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing Home Security on NBC Boston.

13 Year Old Hides Under Bed During A Boston Burglary

The Boston Globe reports: The girl sent a text message to her father, said Police, and then called the police as she hid under her bed while the unidentified man stole three laptops, a large amount of change estimated at about $500, an iPod, and possibly some jewelry.

“The little girl did a fantastic job staying calm and calling us, letting us know what was going on, we had direct communication with her.’’

She must have watched this video of me on Montel saying that exact thing!

“The man had gained entry by kicking the side door of the two-story home off its hinges, and by the time they responded, the suspect had fled,” police said. “The intruder never knew the girl, who was not injured, was under the bed,” police believe.

First, never leave a 13 year old home alone. Maybe a 13 year old is perfectly capable, but still, that doesn’t work for me. If it’s legal in your state to have a 13 year old home alone, then at least discuss home security tips, which in this case maybe someone did. She did well by hiding and making the call with her mobile.

At least install a home security system with home security cameras as another layer of protection with signage outside. Do you think a sign outside that denoted the house was alarmed would have helped? If it did, I bet the guy would not have broken in.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing Home Invasions on Montel Williams.

Home Invaders Face The Death Penalty

There is no shortage of news reports clear across the country on home invasions. States like New Hampshire are responding by including home invasion as a qualifier for the death penalty.

Couple pistol-whipped during Tulsa home invasion

Oklahoma: “A husband and wife were pistol-whipped early Saturday during a home invasion robbery. Three males in their teens wearing masks and gloves broke into the home at about 1 a.m. and demanded money. “When the victims told them they did not have any money, they were pistol whipped.” The robbers left with a big-screen television, a cell phone and cash.”

LI couple victims of terrifying home invasion

New York: “A Long Island family was the victim of a terrifying home invasion, which had echoes of the horrific Connecticut home invasion-turned-triple murder. Two intruders, one carrying a gun, forced their way into the family’s home. The couple was bound and blindfolded with tape.”

Man killed in phoenix home invasion

Arizona: “A man has been killed in a Phoenix home invasion. When officers arrived, they found a man, in his 30s, dead inside the home from an apparent gunshot wound. His mother and nephew were also in the home but were not hurt. An unknown man forced his way into the home and shot the victim while inside. He then fled the neighborhood in a vehicle.”

Home invasion bill expands death penalty

New Hampshire: “A bill that would expand the state’s death penalty to include individuals convicted of “heinous” crimes like the 2009 home invasion that left a mother, 42, dead and her daughter severely injured.”The governor has always been supportive of the death penalty in particularly heinous crimes.”The governor feels people have a right to feel safe in their own homes, and expanding the death penalty bill to apply to these cases could act as a deterrent.”

Regardless of the politics of this issue, I’ve never felt a “penalty” or the law is a deterrent against a crime of violence. Violent crimes are committed because the perpetrators are mentally ill or predators by nature. Consequence is of little concern to these types. A deterrent is a home security system, signage and home security cameras.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing home invasions on the Gordon Elliot Show.

Stolen Laptop Contained Prostate Cancer Research Data

News9 in Oklahoma reports “An Oklahoma couple is urging thieves to return a stolen computer they say has the power to save millions of lives. The couple stopped at Panera to grab a meal before heading back to the lab. When they finished, they found their car windows broken and the laptop gone. Unfortunately, most of the data was never backed up, a mistake Shin said could be a major setback in the fight against cancer.”

OMG!!! Frankly, sometimes it is the smartest people that lack the most common sense!!!

In 2003, an estimated 1.5 million laptops were stolen worldwide. Today, that number has climbed to 2.6 million. That’s a 70% increase in just a few years. That’s one stolen laptop every 12 seconds.

Protecting a laptop from theft begins with backup up the data on it. While backing up data isn’t protecting the laptop from theft, but in the end, that is really all that matters. Laptops today are as little as $300.00 and the data on it could be worth millions. And in this case, it is worth lives.

I use a laptop and there isn’t any data on it other than movies. The laptop is used to access my PC where my data is stored and backed up.

Either way for $5.00 a month you can get unlimited backup that syncs your data in the cloud. In addition, backup your data on local drives. I use the Western Digital MyBook drives and have all my data backed up twice and automatically synced with Goodsync.

My data isn’t cancer research, but if I lost all of it, I’d want to die.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing self defense on Fox Boston.