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How to Conduct a Small Business Security Audit

business security auditIs your small business secure? Are you sure? Businesses experience ten times more burglaries than households, yet many company owners consider their business more secure than their home. Businesses are also likely to be repeatedly re-victimized, with 17% of burgled businesses representing 69% of incidents.

It’s easy to miss security flaws that leave a company exposed. Focusing on the day-in, day-out needs of the operation can push security by the wayside. Here’s an outline of a basic small business security audit that will highlight issues to address. You may find that it reveals some surprising things that need your immediate attention.

Take a Tour

To set the stage for a thorough security assessment, you first have to step back and look at your business objectively. Physically tour your property as if you’re a visitor, auditor or even a criminal. If it helps, take along a trusted friend so you can see what an outsider would see.

As you walk around, think about vulnerabilities. What valuable things stand out? What’s shiny and new? What’s old or broken?

Make a list of physical components like:

  • The size of the land and adjacent roads
  • How many stories and rooms the building has
  • Whether there are shared walls and/or adjacent businesses
  • The locations of outer stairwells and ladders to the rooftop
  • How many windows and doors there are
  • The locations of storage and outbuildings
  • Where vehicles are parked and the condition of parking lots
  • Where money, safes, and inventory are located
  • Where alarms are located and their central point of access
  • Security features that may or not be in good working order

Also, take a closer look at your technology-related property, including:

  • Company phones, mobile phones, laptops, and tablets
  • Computerized systems
  • Cash registers
  • Servers and memory storage
  • Surveillance equipment, cameras, and speakers

Assess Your Access

Your physical assessment will lead you to think about access at all levels. Thieves don’t just climb in a window – they also creep into your data through cyber attacks. Customers, vendors, suppliers, and delivery drivers can compromise security through day-to-day access to your property. Employees may be tempted to sneak into private zones and information – in fact, one-third of business bankruptcies are the result of employee theft. Is your access too lax?

Think about these point of access:

  • Your website
  • Credit card processing
  • Inventory delivery and management
  • Company computers and mobile phones
  • Software installation and maintenance
  • Any equipment that is part of a network
  • Who has access to your Wi-Fi, if you have it
  • Building maintenance and security personnel
  • Docks and delivery points
  • Confidential information, like client records
  • Intellectual property, copyrights, trademarks

Examine weak points where criminals could slip in unnoticed. How are your employees’ computers and laptops secured during non-work hours? Who has keys to the room where your servers are kept? Do ex-employees still have access to the building, your website, or other cloud-based systems?

Audit Your Alarm System

Assuming that you have an alarm system of some kind on your building, as part of your security audit you should take a look at the system and make sure it’s up to the task (if you don’t have an alarm system, then getting one should probably be one of your top priorities).

Here are some questions that you ask yourself about your alarm system:

  • Is the alarm monitored by a reputable alarm monitoring company?  Un-monitored alarms that don’t alert the police when they are triggered won’t do you much good, and neither will a sub-par alarm monitoring company.  You should be using a monitoring company that has the Five Diamond Certification from the The Monitoring Association, a premier industry trade group (Dynamark Monitoring has this certification).
  • Is the alarm monitored wirelessly through the cellular system?  Alarms monitored through a landline can be disabled by cutting the phone line, a fact that burglars are well aware of.  The industry has been moving away from this method of alarm monitoring for years, and if you are still using it you should strongly consider changing to wireless alarm monitoring.
  • Are there contacts on all possible points of entry including all doors and windows?
  • Was the system installed by a security professional?
  • Is there a procedure for testing the alarm on a regular basis?  Who is responsible for testing it, and is that test actually being done?
  • Are employees who have a need to use the alarm trained on how to arm and disarm it?

Determine Attitudes and Habits

When you’ve taken the time to look at your assets and access points, it might become clear that your company has certain areas that seem riskier than others. Perhaps your outbuildings are secured tightly with locks and alarms, but lots of people have access to your office’s computer server room.

At this point, it’s important to evaluate the prevailing security attitudes and habits in your company. Here are some questions to ask:

  • What is the overall attitude toward security here?
  • Who is responsible for our security program?
  • Do we enforce security policies? How?
  • How recently have we developed/updated our emergency plan (fire, tornado, power)?
  • What are the local police, fire, and ambulance response times to our location?
  • Do we have monitoring equipment like CCTV cameras and intruder detection?
  • Who is trained on using our security systems?
  • Who is allowed into our buildings? And how do we identify intruders?
  • Do we have restrooms, vending machines, or other areas for public use?
  • How do we handle deliveries and packages?
  • Do our employees know how to report security threats?

Identify and Prioritize Weaknesses

All of the previous steps come together to allow you to build a picture of your security weaknesses. List them and begin to prioritize. Maybe the risk of a flood is fairly low, but you’ve had repeated instances of vehicle vandalism. This means it’s less urgent to work on your disaster plan than it is to get a CCTV security system for your parking lot.

As you identify weaknesses, look for effective ways to address them. Consider adding some of these security solutions:

  • Lighting, including motion detectors and powerful flood lights.
  • Physical barriers like bollards, tire strips, gates, and fences.
  • Warning signs.
  • Guard staff and routine checkpoints.
  • Key cards and other forms of electronic locking/tracking.
  • Video doorbells.
  • Alarms of all types – fire, intrusion, tamper, motion.
  • Restricted and monitored access points – windows, doors, docks, lockers, safes.
  • Cameras and wired or wireless security systems – keep in mind that businesses have been slower to adopt wireless systems than homeowners, meaning wired business alarms can often be disabled by burglars.

Finally, after your audit is complete, it’s essential to build a new company culture of security. The best security equipment in the world is useless if your employees aren’t using it correctly.

Develop a company-wide plan that lays out specific security procedures. Hold people accountable for security breaches. Train new employees on the rules, and continue to educate everyone about the plan on an ongoing basis.

Ready to do a small business security audit? Partner with a reputable provider like Dynamark Security to make sure your new plan is secure on all fronts.

How to Prevent Security Cameras from Being Hacked

You’ve probably heard some of the stories appearing in the news this year about widespread hacking attacks using the Internet of Things—in other words, devices other than computers that are connected to the internet, such as appliances, TVs, and security cameras.

As a home security company, we want to arm you not just with the technology to protect your family but also the information you need to keep yourself safe.  To that end, here is a summary of what you need to know about hacking attacks against security cameras to keep from becoming a victim.

Ways That Security Cameras Can Be Hacked

So, how are hackers doing it? Don’t make the mistake of thinking they need physical access to a camera system or personal device. Most hacking is done through remote attacks, where hackers find vulnerabilities in networks and security software. From there, they can make a device act as they wish – accessing files and photos, downloading viruses, looking for passwords and other sensitive data, and generally wreaking havoc.

There are now so many types of hacking attacks, experts have divided them into categories. For example, brute force attacks are trial-and-error attacks that involve guesswork. So if someone wants your password, they can use software that tries to guess your password by submitting large numbers of guesses—up to thousands every minute.

Data breaches are another type of attack. They involve illegal access of sensitive information like credit card numbers, bank account numbers, passwords, and personal information. These can be small-scale or headline-making events – just ask a company like Target, which dealt with one of the largest data breaches of all time and eventually settled a class-action lawsuit for $10 million.

After a data breach, hacker’s next step is sometimes a masquerade attack. Stolen passwords and other sensitive information allows hackers to impersonate people.

Data breaches are especially hard to protect yourself against, since they don’t target you as an individual but rather the companies you do business with.  One thing you can do, however, is not use the same password for multiple applications—that way, if your login credentials are compromised in a data breach at one company you do business with, criminals can’t use the information to access your accounts at other companies.

Why Do Criminals Target Cameras?

Why do hackers want access to security systems and phone cameras? To see long, boring shots of people walking in office hallways? To see dozens of silly selfies? You might think that as long as you don’t use cameras to take racy photos, there’s no reason a hacker would be interested.

However, cameras can provide a huge amount of sensitive information. For example, a camera inside a business might be in the right spot to see credit card numbers as people remove them from wallets for payment. Your home’s security system might show you entering the password to get in, as well as the times you’re usually not home. What if someone’s watching?

How to Determine If Your Camera Has Been Hacked

It’s difficult to tell if your camera has been hacked. Look out for slowness and a system that doesn’t act like it should. Does your camera suddenly take 20 seconds to activate? Keep an eye on the indicator light too. If a LED light normally only activates during use, a light that comes on at other times could indicate a hacked camera. Also, if possible, look at your system’s screen that shows the processes running. A maxed-out system might be hacked.

How to Protect Your Cameras From Hacking

The best way to ensure nobody is accessing your cameras is to prevent them from doing it in the first place. That begins with choosing the right kind of security cameras and getting them professionally installed. Here are some more protective measures you can take.

Don’t buy used equipment. When you buy used cameras and devices, they could come pre-loaded for hacking and spying. Never purchase tech gear from strangers, and don’t trust that devices have been reset to factory settings or wiped.

Use complex passwords and change them often. It’s a hassle, but it’s one of the easiest ways to foil hackers. Passwords should have a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. They should be changed any time you suspect they may have been compromised—for example, if you get a notification that a company you do business with has been the target of a hacking attack that resulted in a data breach.  Also, in the case of a business, passwords should be changed any time an employee who knows the passwords leaves the company.

Keep software up to date. Allow automatic software and security updates to take place.  In you have a business, put someone you trust in charge of making sure your security camera software is up to date.

Secure wireless systems. Ensure your wireless network is secure. Make sure the WiFi access is only available by password to known devices. Use a dedicated network for large systems. Look into newer, more sophisticated equipment that comes with signals that transmit on various channels and are resistant to jamming. For maximum security, you could even opt not to connect cameras to the internet. Some businesses maintain closed systems that are only accessible within buildings, by in-person users.

Keep an eye on users. It’s also important to be vigilant about monitoring who has access to your cameras. For personal use, this can mean not allowing friends and acquaintances to use your cell phone, home security system, and WiFi. If you are having someone take care of your pets or watch your house while on vacation, consider changing the password after you return. For a business, it means you should keep a tight roster of who’s allowed to access your system.

Protect Your Phone’s Camera Also

Finally, a few words about cell phone cameras. The companies that develop them take great care to guard against hacker exploitation, but every phone is still vulnerable. The Apple iPhone is perhaps the best-protected phone on the market because it’s extremely difficult to hack. Android phones using out-of-date software can be exploited through security flaws.

Curious if your phone is vulnerable? Google “hack phone camera” to see a frightening list of instructions and software anyone can use for camera hacking.

Keep your phone secure by using a screen lock password, making sure its software is up to date, avoiding suspicious apps and links, staying off unsecured WiFi services, and paying attention if your phone is suddenly slow, or its battery is draining faster than normal.

And of course, always ensure your personal and business safety by partnering with a reputable security company.

How to Interpret Crime Statistics

interpret crime statisticsUnderstanding crime data isn’t easy. Friends, news stories – even mayors and police chiefs – often present crime statistics in an oversimplified way that allows easy conversation. But it’s important to understand the forces at work behind crime stats to have a truly accurate picture of what’s really going on.

New York City crime rates are a classic case of tricky numbers. Over the years, various officials have claimed responsibility for lower overall crime rates, lower homicide rates, lower violent crime rates, and many other measures of success. In 2015, New York City’s commissioner tweeted and talked about record-low crime rates. But an investigation found crime rates were actually up over the previous year. How is this possible?

As it turns out, the New York City commissioner, police chief, and watchdog agencies were all using slightly different methods for tracking and reporting crime stats. For example, the commissioner’s office routinely excluded victims of gunshot violence whose clothing – but not bodies – were pierced by a bullet. This type of cherry-picking leads to juicy sound bites but doesn’t present an accurate picture of the data. Here are some factors to consider when learning how to interpret crime statistics.

More Neighbors, More Crime?

You might assume that an upscale, gated neighborhood would have less crime than a rougher neighborhood nearby. But when it comes to crime data, assumptions are often incorrect. The size  – or more specifically, the population – of the neighborhood is important. Perhaps the gated community is huge and having more people simply means more potential criminals and crime victims. At the same time, it’s not safe to assume that a larger community will always seem to have more crime than a small one.

Compare the violent crime rates in Syracuse, NY and Walla Walla, WA. Syracuse has 110,000 more people than Walla Walla, yet Walla Walla has a higher per capita crime rate. Did you catch that “per capita”? It means population size was factored in. Syracuse might have more crimes in number, but Walla Walla has more crimes per capita – for its population size. Understanding how crime relates to population is an essential part of interpreting crime statistics.

The Effect of Vigilance

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” Shedding light on crime, in the hopes of resolving and preventing it, can be a good thing. But it has an effect on crime data. When your neighbors report more crime, crime stats go up. It makes sense when you think of it this way, but it’s hard to remember when reading about, or discussing, crime rates.

Imagine looking at neighborhood crime rates as you choose your next home to purchase. Do you want to live in a neighborhood with a high reported burglary rate? Well, it depends. Perhaps the residents of the neighborhood are vigilant about watching for burglars and reporting burglaries to the police. Wouldn’t that be better – and safer – than a neighborhood where burglaries go unnoticed and unreported?

Data Collection Methods

It’s also vital to understand how data is collected and shared. Law enforcement professionals across the United States track crime in local precincts, report the crime to the state and share data with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

In fact, the gold standard of crime statistics resides with the FBI in its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, which has collected and distributed crime information since 1929. It publishes four databases of crime stats annually, with data from 18,000 agencies. But even this trustworthy source comes with a caveat: It’s slow. Local reporting agencies, like police stations, often take months to provide information to the UCR, which in turn often takes until at least the fall of any given year to combine and produce nationwide data for the previous year. So it’s sometimes hard to know if you’re looking at up-to-date information.

There’s also the matter of variation in tracking and reporting.The FBI UCR has reporting standards, but not all agencies follow them to the letter. Each community – and each police precinct – has its own habits, culture, and standards for recording crime. For example, in a sparsely-populated rural area, an assault and battery in a local restaurant might be rare and certainly reported in a crime tally. But in a bigger city, where dozens of bar fights happen daily, police might simply break up the scuffle and leave it unreported.

It’s worth noting that some of the most powerful factors in crime are hard to record, making them almost invisible in crime data. A study by the Yale Department of Sociology found that demographic indicators like race, age, gender, and poverty – which are often included in crime stats – were far worse predictors of gun violence than a person’s social network – which isn’t generally a part of crime stats because it’s hard to measure.

Mental Checklist

So whenever you encounter crime statistics, run through a checklist in your head. Is it a trusted source? Where are they getting their information? Are they cherry-picking the data? Are there terms like “per capita” with a deeper meaning? Is a higher rate of something really bad, or does it just mean vigilant citizens are doing their duty by reporting a crime?

Crime Data Terms to Know

  • Assault: Legally, an assault is a threat to carry out bodily harm without actually doing so. It is sometimes confused with battery, which is making physical contact.
  • Average: Average usually refers to the mean – where a set of numbers is added, then divided by how many numbers there are. Averages can be deceptive because even widely spaced numbers create a middle ground. The average of 1 and 99 is 50. But there’s a big difference between 1 and 99 murders.
  • Battery: Sometimes confused with assault, a battery is bodily harm against another person. “Assault and battery” means a threat was both made and carried out.
  • Burglary: A burglary occurs when a person unlawfully enters a structure with the intent to commit a crime. It is often confused with robbery, theft or larceny.
  • Demographic: Characteristics of a population like age, education, race, income, and gender are demographics.
  • Descriptive statistics: These statistics quantify something, like the number of burglaries in a certain county.
  • Firearms-related deaths/gun deaths: Look for the data behind these hot-button terms when you see them. Are suicides included? Self-defense situations?
  • Home invasion: This is forceful entry into a private residence with intent to commit a crime upon the occupants, like rape, assault, murder or kidnapping.
  • Homicide: The words homicide and murder are often used interchangeably, however, there is a difference. Homicide is when one person kills another. Murder is the legal charge of one person intentionally killing another, a form of criminal homicide. Some homicides are excusable or justifiable, like self-defense or a police officer killing someone in the line of duty.
  • Inferential statistics: Unlike descriptive statistics, inferential statistics are an attempt to draw conclusions and interpret data.
  • Larceny: The terms theft and larceny can generally be used interchangeably. Both are the unauthorized taking of property by theft or extortion – but not by robbery or burglary.
  • Mean: The mean is the mathematical way of finding an average. See “average” above.
  • Median: Often confused with mean and average, the median is the exact middle of a set of numbers. In the set of numbers 1, 3, 5 and 7, the middle numbers are 3 and 5, so the median is 4.
  • Per capita: This is a term that accounts for the size of a population. It comes from the Latin “by heads” and means something is being stated per person in the group.
  • Population: A population is simply a group of people. When looking at data, it’s important to know exactly which population is being discussed. Is it the U.S. population? The city population? A small population for a specific research study?
  • Robbery: When someone uses fear or force to take personal property, it’s robbery – often confused with burglary, larceny or theft.
  • Sample size: Every research study has a sample size – a representative group inside the larger group. For example, in a study of American attitudes about crime, the researchers might survey 20,000 citizens – not every person in the U.S. So the sample size is 20,000.
  • Sampling process: The sampling process is the method researchers use to choose a sample group to interview or survey. It is a controversial part of research and data collection because it leaves room for bias, errors, and creation of misleading statistics. Faulty polls may have errors in the sampling process.
  • Theft: Theft is a general term that includes the crimes of burglary, robbery, and larceny.
  • Violent crime: Although this term is used to mean many things, the FBI gives it a very specific definition. Violent crimes are murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Home Security Scams for 2017

Home Security Scams for 2017Every year, especially during the spring and summer, the home security industry and its customers are targeted by scams. The aim of these scams is to get homeowners to switch their monitoring system to a new, far inferior and far more expensive options, often with hidden fees and bad intentions.

The alarming part of these scams is that these security companies don’t usually try to persuade you to switch to their company or even ask outright.

Instead, they lie, pretending to be aligned with your company or the manufacturer of your devices to steal your information and charge you for their unwanted services.

We take our customer’s safety and trust seriously, and have provided tips to bust scammers before they start in years passed. In this post, we’ll be guiding you through the top home security scams of 2017 so our customers will know what to look for to ensure their safety and privacy remains intact.

“I’m with your Home Security Company”

One of the main tactics scammers use is going door to door claiming to be a representative of your home security company. Many security companies, Dynamark included, include a yard or window sign which alerts would-be burglars or criminals that your home is highly protected. While these signs scare away criminals, they can actually attract home security scammers to your door.

These scammers will turn up, unannounced, and introduce themselves as a representative of your home security company, or GE or Honeywell (popular manufacturers of security devices).

Don’t believe them. At Dynamark, our main goal is ensuring safety and comfort within our customer’s homes. We will never show up unannounced offering to upgrade your system, your protection package, or to check your devices. In fact, our policy is to never go door-to-door for sales or any other motive.

We will always communicate via authorized correspondence should you need a technician or representative to come to you. An appointment will be set that meets your needs and then, only then, will an official Dynamark employee visit your home. We will never show up unannounced trying to sell you our services or tinker with your system.

Though tempting, don’t remove your security signs from your home, as these do play their part in scaring away criminals. Do, however, familiarize yourself with the signs of an unannounced home security scammer.

“Can You Hear Me?”

While the scam we listed before pops up each year, 2017 has seen a new trend emerging which targets homeowners via a phone call. A call will pop up on a homeowners cell or home phone, typically with a local area code. A representative, often a sly recording, will begin playing and the voice will ask “can you hear me?”

Do not respond. Simply hang up the phone and let authorities know. Why? Because the typical answer to “can you hear me?” is often “yes” or “yes, I can.” These scammers are secretly recording your voice and will alter the phone call, using your voice saying “yes” as proof of authorization to bill your for services or sign you up for a new home security system.   

This scam can be dangerous and may signal bigger issues at hand. When homeowners receive these calls, it can mean their identity or information has been stolen unknowingly. This allows scammers to use your stolen personal information to sign up for services, new security systems, or even authorize fraudulent charges. All they need is your voice saying “yes” to make it appear as though you have authorized their fraudulent activities.

If you receive one of these calls, hang up immediately, alert authorities, and check over any and all personal information and accounts for fraudulent activities.

“Your home security company doesn’t have…”

A much milder scam tactic is also a fairly rare one. Representatives of a different home security company will go door-to-door to sell their services. They will appear and have credentials that certify them as working for a competitor, and will simply be there to provide a sales pitch.

The scam, however, is the lies they will tell to get you to switch providers.

These lies can range from “your home security company doesn’t have 24-hour support, like we do” to “your home security company can no longer provide upgrades to your system, and it is out of date. Our company, however…” and everything in between.

Dynamark, as many of our customers know, actually provides both of these services, and claims that we do not will be an indicator of a scam.

In these situations, it’s best to take the representative’s flyer or information and look up the company online. Most of these companies have terrible reviews due to the scams, lies, and terrible service they provide to customers. Remember to never give your information to them, not even a phone number, and let the scamming representative know you’ll contact them if interested.

While spring and summer allow warmer weather for scammers to go door-to-door, there is no need to worry as long as you can identify the signs of a scam. If you ever have any questions, concerns, or scams to report, do not hesitate to contact us—Dynamark is here whenever you need us.

Home Automation Trends for 2017

home automation trendsAs technology continues to steadily evolve, more and more tech innovations are finding their way into our homes. From voice-operated hubs and smart appliances to effortless security solutions, more tasks are being automated, bringing us many more benefits and new tech toys to enjoy.  Here are some of the top home automation trends for 2017, many of which are available through Dynamark Security of Richmond.

Seamless Cooperation and Interconnectivity

With several companies releasing in-home technology last year, it’s a wonder every home isn’t covered in screens by now. However, many estimate the trend is actually due to overtake this year. The reason? Tech companies are finally landing on the same page. So many new innovations were released last year like Amazon’s Alexa hub, which serves as a voice-operated digital assistant and can sync with phones, computers, and other devices. Other 2016 innovations range from smart kitchen appliances to smart home security systems.

The issue lies in the fact that these offerings are typically from a wide range of companies such as Amazon and Apple, that aren’t necessarily compatible with each other, leading to several smart devices with no connectivity between them. This year, industry experts estimate these devices and innovations will come together to be controlled by one element, leading to the seamless cooperation of in-home technology.

Smart Kitchens

What if you could preheat your oven and customize it for certain meals from your phone? For example, what if you need to bake two chicken breasts for dinner, and need the oven preheated to 400 degrees ASAP, but you’re on a conference call upstairs? With a smart kitchen, this is easily do-able.

Additionally, new appliances like smart refrigerators have the ability to not only track the quantity of food in your fridge but the quality as well. You can even receive assessments of your food’s freshness based on the length of time the item spent in the fridge. Smart kitchens have a very bright and trendy outlook in 2017 with new and traditional companies alike racing to incorporate as much convenience as possible into their appliances.

Remote Control

No, we’re not referring to your typical TV remote control. We’re talking about the ability to control several features of your home remotely from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. This innovative technology has seen a huge push over the past few years and is estimated to be an essential part of a tech-filled home in 2017.

Systems that currently benefit from remote control are security, garage, lighting, and thermostat systems. In 2017, more aspects like smart kitchen integration are expected to boost the remote control trend for smarter, more dynamic ways to manage the household.

Intelligent and Innovative Security

Innovative security isn’t only a huge trend in home automation, but a constantly evolving trend in home safety overall. Intelligent home security has been rising and improving in recent years and is expected to provide big benefits in 2017.

These dynamic systems let you monitor your home via smartphones, tablets, and computers while away by utilizing wireless and internet enabled systems. This way, homeowners can check their security cameras and closely watch the home while on vacation, at work, or while a babysitter is in. Alternatively, this tech also allows for instant notifications of changes that occur around the home while owners are away.

While we await this year’s new must-haves for home automation technology, it’s a great idea to see what current tech you can already implement into your home for smarter, safer, and more convenient management. To learn more about how Dynamark Security of Richmond can help you with the latest home automation trends in 2017, contact us today to ensure your home is future-ready!

 

Frontpoint vs ADT vs Dynamark

Security systems play an important role in protecting your home and family. While these necessary systems are implemented by a variety of companies, it can be a real challenge deciding which one is right for you. Luckily, we’ve put together a quick guide to help you compare Frontpoint vs ADT vs Dynamark Security of Richmond.

Frontpoint

Frontpoint is a relative newcomer to the home security business having been operating for only ten years (compared to over 30 years for Dynamark and ADT). What sets Frontpoint apart from competitors is their DIY attitude; meaning, instead of sending technicians out to professionally install your system, they give you the tools and instructions to set it up yourself. The company claims this process is easy and efficient, taking around 30 minutes.

Pros of choosing Frontpoint

  • DIY—For more hands-on homeowners, the DIY set-up style of Frontpoint security systems will be appealing.  As long as they know what they’re doing, this approach could work, but on the other hand there won’t be anyone to double-check that the installation was completed correctly.
  • Contract length— With ADT, the typical contract length is around three years for select plans. With Frontpoint, the contracts can range from one to three years, giving homeowners a little more flexibility in terms of contract length.

Cons of choosing Frontpoint

  • DIY—Alternatively, those who prefer that highly experienced professionals install the system in their home may find Frontpoint’s do-it-yourself method a daunting challenge.
  • Fees—With Frontpoint’s installation, there are typically fees associated with activation alone. These fees are often mirrored by competitors, however, the competitors also include professional installation by an experienced technician, whereas Frontpoint’s fees do not include this benefit.

ADT

With a nationwide service area and longevity on their side, ADT has long been the popular choice for home security systems. With over 6 million customers, ADT makes around $3.4 billion per year and is the largest security company to date. However, with such a large customer base, large companies like ADT often struggle regarding customer service and support.

Pros of choosing ADT

  • Longevity—Homeowners that value tradition may lean more toward the choice of ADT home security systems, as the company has been operating the longest in the United States.
  • Low-Maintenance—ADT can be a good fit for those who don’t need to contact customer service and support often, and those who prefer tried and true security technology compared to newer methods.

Cons of choosing ADT

  • Lack of personal attention—Homeowners who would be more comfortable working with smaller, attentive companies may find ADT and its customer service and support a bit impersonal since the company operates nationwide with over 6 million customers to manage.
  • Quality of independent ADT dealers varies widely–ADT authorizes independent dealers to install their security systems.  Some of these companies are very reputable and deliver good service; others are not.  It’s up to the consumer to research the company who will actually install their ADT security system.  The problem is that many consumers see the ADT logo in a company’s marketing materials or advertisements and incorrectly assume they are dealing directly with ADT, when this is not the case.

Dynamark Security of Richmond

Dynamark Security of Richmond is a locally-operated security company with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and offers safety and security features that hold their own against ADT systems (and in some cases, actually use the same equipment). Our longevity rests between Frontpoint and ADT, with over 30 years of service in central Virginia. Dynamark also utilizes Honeywell equipment in many installations (like ADT) and offers design, installation, and monitoring services as well.

Pros of choosing Dynamark

  • Dynamic monitoring—Dynamark provides dynamic monitoring backed by a local 24-hour monitoring station to ensure the constant safety of its users.
  • Personalized service—Additionally, Dynamark also provides much more personable and attentive support for its customers, as it operates on a smaller, local scale. Customer support is a priority for Dynamark, and it is raved about online by the company’s many customers. Whenever there is an issue, an agent can be reached at any time and will ensure a technician is sent out as soon as possible within 24 hours to remedy any situation.

Cons of choosing Dynamark

  • Smaller scale—Unlike ADT and Frontpoint home security systems, Dynamark Security of Richmond operates on a smaller local scale. So while the company is proactive and efficient in terms of safety and support,  we are only available to potential customers in the central Virginia region at this time.

The variety of choices available in home security systems— including Frontpoint, ADT, and Dynamark— certainly provide difficult yet valuable choices to prospective customers, with each option offering their own set of benefits and setbacks. Homeowners who value the safety of bigger names like ADT but desire the service and support of more local and personable companies, however, would find the best choice in Dynamark. Contact us today so we can ensure your home remains safe and secure.

How to Test Your LYNX Touch Security System

Honeywell Lynx TouchYour security system is keeping your family safe every day, so it just makes sense to conduct regular tests to ensure that it’s functioning properly. Should the worst case scenario occur, you want to know that your security system will do what it’s meant to do. The best way to keep your LYNX Touch Security System performing at peak condition is to test it once a week.

Here’s a rundown of the instructions for conducting a weekly systems test:

First, you must disarm your LYNX security system and check to make sure that all of the protected doors and windows are properly closed. At this point, the system’s “READY” light will be illuminated.

On the control pad, scroll to the second page of the Home screen and select the “Tools” icon, where you’ll be prompted to enter your 4-digit Master User Code. Next, choose the “Test” icon, and then the Test screen will come up.

Now, you can choose either the “Walk Test” or the “Dialer Test” icon; if you choose to run the Dialer test, either the test will be successful immediately, or it will show you a Reporter Failure message.

If that message appears, you should call your service provider as soon as possible.

When you run the Walk test, you’ll be testing each of the protected doors and windows in your home. To do this:

Open each window or door, in turn, waiting to hear three beeps from your control panel and if it’s programmed, notification from the zone’s Voice Descriptor. Every faulted protection point that you open should be shown on your control display, and the display should clear when you close the open door or window.

If you use interior motion detectors, take a moment to walk in front of them; listen for the three beeps and the voice descriptor if you’ve programmed your system to use that. Again, the display on your control panel will clear as soon as no motion is detected.

It’s also vital that you test your smoke detectors as well. Just follow the detectors’ manufacturer’s instructions. When the detector is activated, there should be some notification on your control panel’s display screen.

As soon as you complete all the steps of the test, you can enter an Off sequence on your control panel.

Should your system be compromised at any point, be sure to contact your security service provider immediately.

If you need any assistance with your security system or if you’re ready for an upgrade, Dynamark Security of Richmond will be happy to help! Contact us today!

Five Gift Ideas for the Security Conscious Homeowner

Christmas GiftIf you are scrambling to get some last-minute holiday shopping completed but are having trouble coming up with affordable gift ideas, then we’ve got you covered.  Here are five creative and useful gift ideas for the security-conscious homeowner on your holiday shopping list.

RFID Wallet

RFID wallets are a type of wallet designed to help protect you against a form of identity theft where criminals can steal personal information including credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, and passport information simply by standing near you.

How can this happen?  Well, some credit cards, driver’s licenses, and passports use radio frequency identification chips that, when activated, transmit certain information wirelessly.  They were designed to make life easier for the user, but criminals quickly figured out that anyone with an RFID reader could activate the chips in the cards and grab the information if they were standing close enough.

RFID wallets are made using materials that block the wireless signals of these cards.  There are many brands of RFID wallets, some of which work better than others, so do your research before buying one.  Although the type of crime these wallets are designed to prevent is becoming less of a problem as credit card technology is updated, it is still a possibility, and since RFID wallets don’t cost much more than regular wallets, they could make for a nice gift for someone who needs a new wallet anyway.

Shredders

Another way that someone could steal your personal information is by going through your trash and looking for bank statements, credit card statements, bills, receipts, or other communication that you’ve thrown out and forgotten about.  Even if criminals can’t get enough information directly off a bank statement to hack into your account,  they could get enough information to target you with phishing scams.

One way to make this more difficult is to shred all your important documents before throwing them away.  Shredders designed for home use are very affordable and are carried at most office supply stores, so they could be a great last-minute gift for someone on your shopping list who doesn’t have one.

Self Defense Keychains

The first two gifts on our list might help protect the personal identity of your loved ones from criminals, but they won’t do much to protect them from physical harm if they’re confronted by a criminal in a dark parking garage or street corner.  For help with that, a self-defense keychain might come in handy.

A self-defense keychain is a regular keychain that has some sort of attachment that allows it to be used as a weapon.  It could be a stick that allows the user to swing the keys on the chain at an attacker, or even a small sprayer containing mace or pepper spray.  This is a great gift for college students, runners, or anyone who must frequently walk through hazardous or deserted areas after dark.

Personal Protection Alarms

A great compliment to a self defense keychain, a personal protection alarm is a small battery-powered device that, when activated, emits a loud noise that will get the attention of anyone in the area.  Some personal protection alarms also incorporate a panic whistle as a backup in case the battery fails.  Most of them cost less than $20 and would make a great stocking-stuffer for anyone on your holiday shopping list who is worried about their personal physical safety.

Safes and Lock Boxes

If your budget is a little larger, another great gift for security-conscious homeowners on your list is a safe or lock box.  There are many varieties of safes depending on what it is you are trying to secure (jewelry, guns, documents, etc), but the intent is the same–making it much more difficult for anyone other than intended users to gain access to whatever is inside.

When burglars break into a home, they know that they need to get in and out as quickly as possible.  They will usually just grab whatever they see that is of value and ignore everything they can’t easily carry out.  If they encounter a locked safe that is secured to the wall or floor, chances are good that whatever is inside will not be stolen in the case of a burglary.

All of the above options are great gift ideas for homeowners worried about security.  However, if you want to give a loved one the ultimate security gift, you could get them a monitored alarm system from Dynamark Security or a home security camera.  Contact our office to learn about how we can help you give the gift of security.

 

Dynamark Security Holiday Referral Bonus

Holiday Referral Bonus

Do you need some extra cash for the holidays?

Want to save money on your alarm monitoring service this month?

If so, we have the perfect offer for you!

If you refer a new customer to Dynamark Security of Richmond during the month of December 2016, we’ll give you a $100 gift card.

There’s three easy ways to make a referral:

In addition to the special referral bonus this month, we’re also giving a free month of alarm monitoring service to any customers who upgrade to wireless monitoring during the month of December.  If you haven’t yet upgraded to wireless, call our office to schedule your upgrade.

If you have already upgraded to wireless, you can still enter to win a free month or even a free year of alarm monitoring service here.

Now the only question is, what are you going to do with all the extra money you’ll have after taking advantage of these special offers?

 

Independent Investigations Expose Numerous Flaws in Popular SimpliSafe DIY Alarm System

AlertWe’ve warned you before on this blog about the dangers of using “do-it-yourself” alarm systems, and specifically the popular SimpliSafe DIY alarm system.  However, new information has come to light that makes the problem even worse than we thought.

SimpliSafe markets itself as an alternative to “traditional” alarm companies such as Dynamark Security of Richmond, which use professional installers, robust customer support, and tried and proven alarm technology.  SimpliSafe claims that all that fancy equipment and support provided by these companies simply adds unnecessary costs to the consumer, whereas their “simple” approach saves people money while still giving them the same level of protection.

We’ve always known this wasn’t true, but as it turns out the problems with the SimpliSafe DIY alarm system and others like it are far worse and more disturbing than we even imagined.  Here’s what several independent investigations uncovered about SimpliSafe and other similar DIY alarm systems.

SimpliSafe Security Systems Use Ineffective Alarms and Sirens

The National Fire Protection Association publishes basic standards that all alarm systems should meet.  These standards, contained in NFPA section 72, cover things such as the installation, location, performance, inspection, testing, and maintenance of home security systems.  A study has shown that the SimpliSafe DIY alarm system does not meet these standards, especially when it comes to the actual alarm siren.

NFPA section 72 states that alarm systems that warn of burglary in addition to other hazards such as fire or carbon monoxide poisoning should have a distinct alarm tone for each type of threat.  SimpliSafe’s system doesn’t have this capability.

So, in other words, if you have a SimpliSafe DIY alarm system and you are woken up in the middle of the night by an alarm, you won’t know whether your house is on fire or there is an intruder in your home.  Perhaps they should start selling their alarm systems with an all-in-one shotgun and fire extinguisher, so that their customers can respond appropriately to an alarm.

Of course, in order to respond to an alarm you have to actually hear it.  NFPA standards say that among other things, an alarm should be at least 15dBs louder than the ambient noise level where the bedroom in the home is located.  Once again, in this area SimpliSafe falls short according to an independent study.

SimpliSafe Equipment Cannot be Monitored by Another Alarm Monitoring Company

One of the claims SimpliSafe makes in their marketing is that they don’t lock customers into “long-term” contracts like the “nasty” traditional alarm companies do.  While it’s true that their customers can cancel alarm monitoring service at any time, what they don’t tell you is that their proprietary system doesn’t have the ability to be monitored by another alarm monitoring company ever.  If you use the SimpliSafe alarm system and you want alarm monitoring, you are stuck using their monitoring service.  The only way you could change monitoring companies would be to purchase new equipment from a different manufacturer.

Ironically, SimpliSafe subcontracts its alarm monitoring services to a central monitoring station that is also used by many of the same “traditional” alarm companies that it attempts to vilify.  However, most traditional alarm companies—including Dynamark Security of Richmond–allow their customers to switch to a different alarm monitoring service when their contract is up.

While we believe that we have the best service in the area and have the testimonials from our customers to prove it, we want to give people the option to switch alarm monitoring services if they choose to.  SimpliSafe does not give their customers this option.  If their customers are not happy with their alarm monitoring service, they only have two choices—continue paying for the service anyway, or simply not use alarm monitoring.  That means that their alarm would be nothing more than an expensive noisemaker—it wouldn’t alert authorities when it was triggered.

The SimpliSafe DIY Alarm System is Prone to Hacking

A recent investigation by Forbes found that with $50 worth of equipment and a few hours of work, burglars could easily disable a SimpliSafe alarm system from outside a home.

The same report also found vulnerabilities to hacking in many other home security systems, including those sold by Xfinity, Comcast, and Samsung.

Notably, there were no mentions in the report of vulnerabilities in equipment manufactured by Honeywell or GE.  Dynamark Security of Richmond only uses equipment from these “traditional” players in the security business when we install an alarm system.

Their equipment has been exhaustively tested by UL and other independent agencies, unlike SimpliSafe’s equipment.  According to another investigation, only two of the components of SimpliSafe’s system had been independently tested—the wireless smoke detector and wireless carbon monoxide detector.  The rest of the equipment, including the all-important control panel, had not been tested.

The moral of the story is that sometimes things are done a certain way for a reason.  SimpliSafe has tried to portray traditional alarm companies as old-fashioned and behind the times.  However, the independent investigations cited above make it clear that the approach SimpliSafe takes to home security is simply unworkable.  There’s nothing cutting-edge about using unreliable equipment, poor customer service, and deceptive marketing practices.

Dynamark Security of Richmond has been in the home security business for 30 years, and we’re one of the top-rated alarm companies in the Richmond area.  That’s one tradition we don’t plan on abandoning any time soon.