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Location Apps make it easy for Thieves

If you’re using the app Strava for example, your bike could get stolen, says a report on the manchestereveningnews site. Strava, like many other location apps, isn’t the badguy here.

Bicyclists in Greater Manchester are being warned that Strava’s tracking could lead thieves to their bikes and even homes. That’s because it’s already happened. One man had two bikes stolen after Strava tracked his ride and led the crooks to his garage.

It’s easy to see how this happens. The users simply post their location activities, often to and from their homes and they broadcast this data via the apps and social sites.

Why do people have this app in the first place? Cyclists and runners want to share route information and compare times, says the article. The application is a social media venue for cyclists and runners.

The aforementioned man had made his bike model and home address public on his smartphone without using privacy settings. The brazen thieves broke into his garage, perhaps overnight, and took only the bikes even though there was other loot present such as valuable tools. Hmmm, it can’t be coincidence. Bikes can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Strava has security settings to set privacy zones. USE THEM. The victim recommends starting your tracked route a few hundred yards from your home to throw off any potential thieves. And end the tracking a few hundred (or even more) yards from your house as well.

A spokesperson from Strava explains that the privacy settings are easy to use. How much of the user’s information gets out there can be constrained. Many people don’t bother with the security settings of applications and just dive into these tools without a second thought.

But assume that there’s always someone else spying on the personal information that’s being made public by a naïve user.

A privacy zone means that you can set up cyber barriers around your house so that thieves will not be able to see where your start and finish locations are.

As for the man whose two bicycles were stolen out of his garage, he has since purchased a new bicycle (and the stolen ones were very pricey, by the way—something that the thieves certainly knew once they saw the publically-shared model number). But don’t wait for your property to get stolen before you realize the importance of any app’s security settings.

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

How Water Leak Sensors protect your Home

Ever wonder how a water leak sensor actually works?1S

  • Water comes into contact with the sensor. The sensor makes and electrical contact and send a signal.
  • The sensor transmits a signal to a central station of sorts (kind of like how if extreme heat or a needle comes in contact with your skin, your sensory nerves will send a signal to your brain).
  • Once the signal reaches the “brain” of the water leak sensor, an alarm will sound.
  • A more advanced system includes a phone call from a base monitoring center to alert you to the leak.

Where might water leaks occur?

  • Appliances like the dishwasher and washing machine are among the many sources of potential leaks.
  • Obviously, a hot water heater can leak.
  • A leak can also emanate from the plumbing of a toilet.
  • Roofs leak all the time.
  • Your neighbor in your apartment/condo may spring a leak.

Though a water leak may sound like a minor nuisance, it can actually be very costly if unchecked. A worst case scenario is an untreated leak causing mold to proliferate in the house’s walls and floors. This mold can cause serious health problems. Water leaks could ruin wood and carpet as well.

Placement of Water Sensors

  • High quality water sensors can be placed anywhere you’d like. The device may be only three inches long, depending on make and model.
  • Beneath the dishwasher
  • Floor of the basement
  • Under the bathroom sink
  • Drip pan of the washing machine
  • Drip pan of the water heater

These are just suggestions; review your house for any possible location where there could be a water leak.

Water damage is never to be underestimated. It’s the No. 1 reason for insurance claims. We’ve all heard about basements getting flooded—not from storms but from pipes that burst.

And it goes without saying that sooner or later, an appliance is going to have a puddle of water forming nearby it.

It’s smart to get water leak sensors set up in your house for yet another reason other than prevention of damage: a lower rate on your homeowner’s insurance. See if your insurance will offer you a discount if you have water leak sensors.

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

How to secure your Apartment

I love that show, “Forensic Files.” Every so often there’s the case of a person who was found murdered in their apartment due to some forced entry. Which brings me to the topic of apartment security.

1HNew Apartment

  • Don’t delay in doing a walk-through of the entire premises, including the laundry room (where a crime can occur after a creep spots a vulnerable-looking woman enter the unlocked room).
  • Take note of any portals through which a burglar could make entry. This includes trees and trellises that lead to a window.
  • Take note of where the lit and dark areas are.

Doors and Windows

  • I can’t begin to tell you how many episodes of “Forensic Files” deal with an intruder getting in through an unlocked door or window—and this includes during the day when the victim was home. Keep them locked!
  • However, we all know that intruders will use force to break through a locked door or window (though if you’re home, you’ll have time to call 911 and perhaps make an escape through the back of the apartment—a plan you should already have in place since Day 1. If you’re on the second floor, have a foldable ladder always ready to make your escape.). Sounds crazy, but it’s good for fire escape too.
  • Hopefully your landlord will permit you to replace what’s probably a cheaply built door strike-plate with a strong one with two-inch screws, as this will make it very difficult to kick open. Press your landlord to allow deadbolts on all the doors, even if you must pay for them.
  • Make sure the window locks are very difficult to get past, even if you must pay for revisions. Landlords typically won’t do things like this; if the lock merely “works,” that’s usually good enough for them. This includes sliding glass doors.
  • Put Charley bars or anti-slide devices in the tracks of sliding doors.
  • No matter how mesmerizing the night crickets or ruffling leaves are, you must never go to sleep when the windows are unlocked.

Miscellaneous

  • Make sure no valuables are visible through your windows.
  • A landlord won’t pay for a security system. Hang on every doorknob a sensor (available online and fits in your palm) that, when the door is opened, emits a loud beep.
  • Install your own home security system. They are relatively inexpensive and some can be moved to another apartment.
  • Use timed lighting devices to make it appear you’re home when you’re out.
  • Every time you leave your apartment to get mail, empty rubbish or go to the laundry room, lock your door!

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

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 BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Everything You need to know about Door Security

“I don’t need to lock my doors all the time; this neighborhood is very safe.” And I have some land in the Caribbean I’d like to sell you.

1BBurglars know that every “safe neighborhood” has a certain percentage of fools who think they’re immune to break-ins. And thieves would rather intrude upon a home with lots of nice things—and these homes are usually in “nice neighborhoods.” Hello?

Big mistakes:

  • Leaving doors unlocked
  • Keeping doors locked—but the lock system sucks

I hope you don’t fall into either of the above categories.

What you see on TV is true: Locked doors CAN be kicked open. Builders of homes don’t have the future resident’s security in mind. They cut corners whenever possible. You can bet a new home has a crappy door lock. And an old home, for that matter. Any determined thief could get past these doors even when they’re locked.

But there’s hope. Lots of it. First of all, keep your doors locked. Even if the lock isn’t too great. After all, many times a thief will give up after learning the door is locked. Many burglars are very impatient and want a quick, quiet job. But since you can’t read the mind of the next crook who prowls your neighborhood, it’s best that you get optimal door security.

 First-Line Door Security

  • The door frame on the lock and hinge sides should be reinforced.
  • Think “door reinforcement” Metal plates reinforcing the door jam is fundamental to door security See Door Devil.
  • Wood doors should be solid hardwood all around.
  • Getting a peephole.
  • Don’t answer the door. Don’t feel you must answer the door every time someone’s there. It’s not a crime to ignore the visitor. If you’re not expecting anyone, it’s safest to just ignore them. It’s extremely unlikely that they’re about to die from dehydration or hemorrhaging; assume whatever they want is not a matter of life and death.
  • If you have a door that’s not visible to people passing by, this door especially needs optimal security.
  • A steel-clad door should have 24-guage steel and a wood lockblock core.
  • Hardened steel deadbolts are a must and should have a five-pin tumbler. Associated screws should be as long as they come for deadbolts. Deadbolts should have wrap-arounds.
  • Consider a vertical deadbolt or multi-lock deadbolt for maximal security.
  • Another layer of maximal security is the grade of door hardware, whereas grade 1 is the highest; grade 2 is moderate; and grade 3 is so-so.
  • Beware of flimsy screws!

Adjuncts to Door Security

  • Use a door brace (metallic pole that has one end fitting under doorknob and the other end securely on the floor, out at an angle, to prevent the door from opening).
  • A door stop or wedge will probably not stop a brute-force push-in, but a door stop can be equipped with an alarm that will trip if someone tries to push their way in.
  • Don’t bother with the door chains that you so often see on TV. We’ve all seen it: The bad guy is on the other side of the door while the apprehensive woman is speaking to him through that small opening. He then pushes on the door and breaks the chain. This can really happen!

Robert Siciliano is a home and personal security expert to DoorDevil.com discussing Anti-Kick door reinforcement on YouTube. Disclosures.

12 Simple Smart Ways to secure your Home

Burglars actually peruse social media to see who’s on vacation. In fact, 69 burglars were interviewed by Edith Cowan University in Australia, and perusing social media kept coming up as a way to find victims.

3BKeep your cyber mouth shut till you return. Here are more tips:

Get to know your neighbors. This way they’ll be more inclined to ask a stranger, who’s loitering around your yard, what they’re doing there.

Don’t show off. Like anyone else, burglars are attracted to the niftiest house on the block. Keep a low profile, consider how a new outside decoration might attract the wrong kind of attention

Apps for your smartphone. There are so many ways you can use your mobile device when away from home to keep tabs on your house.

Advertise your home security system. Burglars are repelled by the alarm company signs, decals and stickers on the property.

Hide valuables in clever places. Put small jewelry boxes inside an old Starbucks bag. Or stash money inside an empty cereal box in the pantry.

Don’t let mail pile up. And put your mail and newspaper delivery on vacation hold when you travel.

Close your curtains, blinds and shades. It’s shocking how many people leave them open at night, making it so easy for burglars to see what’s inside, including the 105-pound adult occupant. Even in broad daylight, a burglar casing the area will be brazen enough to step right up to a window and peer inside.

Make your place look like someone is always home. Use timed lighters. Keep the lawn mowed. Arrange to have someone park their car in your drive when you’re traveling. Mute the ringer on your phone.

Never leave the garage door open. Not only can a thief see what goodies you have in your garage (yes, burglars steal “garage stuff” for resale), but they can potentially get into the house through the laundry room door.

Don’t leave empty boxes for trash pickup that reveal you have brand new pricey items. Break down the boxes.

Don’t let shrubs grow around doors and windows where they can conceal a prowler. But do plant thorny bushes close to windows.

One minute. That’s how long the average crook needs to get into a house. Keep your doors and windows locked with top-notch devices.

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

Basics on How to prepare for a Disaster

Situations that could put your routine or an entire city on hold include:
1M

  • Tornado
  • Hurricane
  • Flood
  • Blizzard
  • Power outage
  • Contagious illness

Your house should already be equipped with supplies for staying inside the house for at least a week, but ideally for two weeks.

  • Keep a newer pair of walking footwear stored—to be used during a disaster (you may have to do a lot of walking). You never know.
  • Prepare a first aid kit.
  • Have a box just for flashlights, battery operated lights, extra batteries and a battery radio. Put a battery tester in their too.
  • A Sterno Stove will warm food (available where camping supplies are sold).
  • Designate a section of the pantry for emergency foods (canned items, chips/munchies). With this supply keep a manual can opener and a lighter.
  • If your climate includes cold, have thermal underwear, gloves, hats and scarves.
  • Designate a contact person who’s not local. Every family member should have this person’s contact information memorized.
  • Each person needs one gallon of water per day (not all to drink; clean water is needed for brushing teeth, washing hands, etc.). Store in gallon-or-less containers. Don’t store water in milk containers. Fifty five gallon drums are available too, with a hand pump.
  • Keep a section designated for the following: sanitizing wipes, synthetic gloves, N95 masks, trash bags, paper towels and plates, and plastic eating utensils.
  • Photograph or take videos of all of your important possessions for insurance purposes.
  • Make copies of all crucial documents and put in a fireproof, waterproof safe.
  • Send copies of the above to a trusted person who is not local.
  • Use a cloud service for computer data backup.
  • Know your neighborhood’s emergency plans—if they even exist. If they don’t, organize a meeting to create them.
  • Know alternate routes in your city to important destinations, since a disaster could close off one of the routes.
  • Another tool to have on hand is a bicycle—you may need to do a lot of riding if the roads are blocked off or the gas supply has stopped.
  • Backup generator with fresh gas can power small appliances or even a heating system in a pinch.

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

Secure your home for the holidays

The holiday season is ramping up. And so are burglars. Even if you don’t get very festive, burglars may still target your home. Your dark, unlit home among all the dazzling festive homes will stick out like a sore thumb. Whether you have 10,000 decorative lights on or none, here’s what to do: 3H

  • Keep all possible entrances (even the second-story window next to the big tree branches) locked at all times with high quality locks in excellent working condition.
  • Put reinforcements on your doors so that they can’t be kicked open.
  • Put security film on windows so that blunt force is less likely to penetrate the glass.
  • Don’t let deliveries accumulate outside or your mailbox.
  • Use automatically timed lighting devices to avoid a dark looking house.
  • Keep blinds/shades and curtains closed at all times. I understand you want open windows to let in the light; you’re not a vampire. But at least when the sun begins setting, close things up so that burglars casing your place can’t see your valuables or you struggling with pushups.
  • If you don’t have a big dog, put a little “evidence” on the porch or front stoop that a big dog lives inside, but don’t make it look staged. Ask a friend with a large dog if they have any toys they no longer need that that indicate a large breed, such as one of those huge tug-o-war ropes.
  • Don’t let shrubbery growth act as a hiding spot around entrances.
  • Never load or unload gifts or big purchases from your car unless you’re inside the garage with the door closed.
  • Never boast on social media about your big-ticket items.
  • Back up your data. If all else fails and your devices such as laptops or desktops are stolen, make sure you have set up cloud backup to protect your data. Whether theft or fire, having a cloud backup ensures that your information is safe offsite.
  • Get a security alarm system for the house.

Robert Siciliano is an expert in personal privacy, security and identity theft. Learn more about Carbonite Personal plans. See him discussing identity theft prevention. Disclosures.

15 Home Safety and Security Tips

There’s always a perfect time to assess your home’s safety and security. Do you employ all of the following practices?1H

  1. Make sure your house’s roofing is fire resistant. If not, get it remodeled.
  2. Not only should you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, but you should also regularly inspect them for lint and dust buildup. Plus, they should all be integrated, so if one goes off in the kitchen, the ones in the bedrooms and even basement get triggered.
  3. If your mailbox isn’t one that locks, get one, so this way you won’t be leaving outgoing mail with sensitive information sitting in an unlocked box.
  4. If you need an extension cord for an outside appliance, make sure it’s one that says: “Suitable for Use with Outdoor Appliances.”
  5. Never leave any stickie notes on your door saying you’ll be back in a few minutes…even if you’re expecting a delivery.
  6. Know that if there’s a power outage, the food in your freezer will last for up to 48 hours. Have a backup generator or only stock up on dry/canned goods.
  7. When you’re done using an oily rag, set it outside to dry, then put it in a metal can with a lid. An oily rag is flammable even when not in contact with a flame.
  8. If a battery is non-rechargeable, don’t try to charge it, as this could make it explode.
  9. To repel an intruder from getting in through your windows, plant thorny bushes around them.
  10. If you have a home security system, display the company’s decals on your windows and signs in your yard. If you don’t have a system, you can get these items online; display them anyways.
  11. When you get a snowfall, clear a path to your door, and better yet, shovel the driveway—even if you’re not going anywhere, as this will make burglars think someone is home.
  12. Before leaving on any extended errands and especially travel, set your home phone’s ringer to mute so that an incessantly ringing phone doesn’t get a burglar’s attention that you’re not home.
  13. Before leaving town, put a vacation hold on your mail and newspaper, and tell a trusted adult of your travel plans.
  14. Before leaving for a trip, arrange with a trusted person to have them park their car in your driveway.
  15. While you’re enjoying your vacation, avoid posting about it on social media. Burglars peruse social media to see who’s not home.

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

20 Home Security Tips

Angee, the new Kickstarter campaign that raised over $250,000 already, will revolutionize home security in more ways than one. Meanwhile, get going on these 20 home security tips: ANG3

  • Keep all doors and windows locked at all times. Yes, on hot summer days it’s tempting to keep windows open, but at least be very discriminate about this.
  • Keep the garage door closed at all times, even on hot days. But if you’re positive that leaving it slightly open cools the rest of the house, limit this to about four inches.
  • Reinforce doors with door jamb reinforcements.
  • All doors should have high grade deadbolts.
  • All first-story and basement windows should have Charlie bars, rods or gadgets that prevent horizontally-sliding windows from being slid open.
  • The address numbers for your house should be big and easy for first responders to see.
  • Though you may not care what your grass looks like when not cut, burglars do. That’s because a lawn that looks like it hasn’t been cared for in a while makes burglars think nobody’s been home for weeks…
  • And speaking of which, burglars also notice if paper delivery has been accumulating, or the house is always dark in the evenings. If you’re away a lot or don’t use much lighting when you’re home, use automatic lighting devices.
  • Never put a note on any door outside that says you’ll “be back in a few.”
  • Before you go out on errands, put the phone’s ringer on mute so that burglars don’t hear unanswered rings.
  • Before dusk approaches, close curtains and blinds. A favorite way burglars case houses is to look inside when it’s dark.
  • Never smoke when drowsy and always rinse butts before tossing them.
  • Never hide spare keys near your front door; a burglar will find them. Give to a trusted neighbour or other adult.
  • Put valuables in a safe—preferably a big one (small safes are often stolen without being picked open on the spot).
  • Doors should have peepholes. Never open the door if you can’t tell who’s there and are not expecting anyone.
  • Have a smoke alarm on each floor.
  • Devise a fire escape plan and then regularly drill the family in it.
  • Always turn off hot things like curling irons when you’re not using them.
  • Never leave anything burning while you’re outside the house.
  • Flammable items should be kept away from the house. This includes dried up leaves and brush.

Robert Siciliano, personal and home security specialist to Angee. Learn more about Angee in this Video. Support Angee on Kickstarter. See Disclosures.