NAC – Network Access Control

What is NAC and is it right for your business?

Network access control (NAC), also called network admission control, is a method of bolstering the security of a proprietary network by restricting the availability of network resources to endpoint devices that comply with a defined security policy.

NAC

A traditional network access server (NAS) is a server that performs authentication and authorization functions for potential users by verifying logon information. In addition to these functions, NAC restricts the data that each particular user can access, as well as implementing anti-threat applications such as firewalls, antivirus software and spyware-detection programs. network access control also regulates and restricts the things individual subscribers can do once they are connected. Several major networking and IT vendors have introduced network access control products.
NAC is ideal for corporations and agencies where the user environment can be rigidly controlled. However, some administrators have expressed doubt about the practicality of NAC deployment in networks with large numbers of diverse users and devices, the nature of which constantly change. An example is a network for a large university with multiple departments, numerous access points and thousands of users with various backgrounds and objectives.

Getting started with NAC

To explore how NAC is used in the enterprise, here are additional resources:
Network access control — More than endpoint security: Learn how to gauge if your enterprise is ready for network access control (NAC).
NAC — Strengthening your SSL VPN: This tip explores why and how network access control functions are used to strengthen SSLVPNs, and their relationship to industry NAC initiatives.
Compliance in a virtualized world: Server virtualization and NAC security: Server virtualization presents challenges for network security, particularly NAC and compliance issues. Learn what these challenges are and how to overcome them.

Article Provided By:TechTarget

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Access – Peace Sign Pics Could Give Hackers Your Fingerprints

AccessBiometric Access – Finger Prints

Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics have claimed they can accurately copy fingerprints from digital photographs, raising fears that the access security of biometric authentication systems could be undermined.

Isao Echizen from the Institute told the Sankei Shimbun that his team was able to copy firngerprints based on photos taken from as far away as three metres, as long as they’re in focus and with strong lighting, AFP reported.

“Just by casually making a peace sign in front of a camera, fingerprints can become widely available,” the researcher claimed.

He argued that anyone could do so—without the need for advanced technology.

Social media, especially in Asia, is filled with the images of individuals doing the two-fingered ‘peace’ sign, taken with the increasingly powerful digital cameras found on smartphones.

That could lead to fears over the security of fingerprint-based authentication systems, although it’s not clear how easy it would be to transfer a captured fingerprint into a form which could be used to authenticate.

Researchers famously ‘cracked’ Apple’s TouchID system in the iPhone 5 and 6 models, but the method required a laser-printed image of the fingerprint and then a convoluted process of creating a mould with pink latex milk or white wood glue.

The skill, patience and time needed to do so would deter most criminals.

However, some commentators said the research still serves a valuable purpose in highlighting the problem with static biometric identifiers.

Robert Capps, VP of business development at biometrics firm NuData Security, argued that humans leave fingerprint data behind on everything they touch, adding that researchers have also been able to use photographs to trick iris scanners.

“Once biometric data is stolen and resold on the Dark Web, the risk of inappropriate access to a user’s accounts and identity will persist for that person’s lifetime. As the most stringent of authentication verifications deploy physical biometrics, such as immigration and banking, physical biometric data will become very desirable to hackers,” he argued.

“We can expect more creative attempts by hackers to capture this information. The benefit of passive behavioural biometrics is that the information used to uniquely identify a user is passively collected and dynamically analyzed, and has an extremely limited shelf life of usefulness—making theft and successful reuse of raw behavioural signals nearly impossible.”

For consumers, another option would be to wait two years until the NII launches a new transparent film currently in development, which is designed to hide the wearer’s fingerprints.

Article Provded By: Info Security Magazine

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Why Your Business Needs a Security System

Today’s Security System are not just Bells and Whistles.

It’s a new age for Security Systems and Technology, with today’s systems employing many different kinds of technology. Technology like, Surveillance Cameras, Access Control, devices for the Networking of building systems, Fire Alarms, and Monitoring.

Access Control

Security

Any mechanism or system that manages access through the authorization or revocation of rights to physical or logical assets within an organization is considered access control. Great definition right! But why do I need access control? Well, there can be many different reasons why a company or property owner could need access control. Here are just a few.

  • Who is in the Building.  Know who is in your facility, manage their level of access and meet regulatory compliance objectives.
  • A safe environment for tenants, employees, visitors, and contractors. Protect people, facilities, networks, and assets.
  • Control access to highly secure areas.  Solutions can be designed to protect your facilities that require a higher level security. Areas with sensitive data, networks, and critical or high-value information.
  • Commercial fleet fueling stations. RFID enabled fueling automation system to monitor and control commercial fleet fuel access, cost, and billing.

Cameras

The cameras are most often used for security, but they can also be used for building management. If there’s a broken window, trash left in the hallways (like a couch or old bed), tenants walking pets around the buildings social areas and leaving a mess (you can guess what kind), all of these and more can be monitored with Security Cameras to better help the property manager/owner manage the property or properties if you have more than one location.

Tenants who engage in any kind of misbehavior are caught on camera, identified and can be warned or fined for their actions. Once tenants and their visitors realize they can’t get away with the inappropriate behavior, it will stop. This translates to significant savings in operational costs for the property owners and justifies the cost of the cameras.

Fire Alarms and Monitoring

If there is a fire, a break-in, or if someone pushes a panic button, an alarm monitoring team is aware of it the moment it happens. Emergency agencies can be called into action immediately – police, fire, ambulance, or any necessary support services are filled in on the details about your home or business, and the designated contact is called. All of this happens within minutes of the alarm.

So, Why?

There are many reasons to have a Security System, and security companies try to plan for your needs. But it’s the things in life that happen that you least except that generate the need for a Security System.

So, Why do you need a Security System? Put simply, a Security System is your plan to handle the worst of what life throws at you.

By: Lance Roberts

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Network security primer: What is access control?

What is access control?

access control

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During its testimony on security weaknesses among federal agencies, the Government Accountability Office detailed a number of critical elements that make up effective protection systems.

The GAO offered a look at what it considers to be the six critical elements in an access control system:

Boundary protection: Boundary protection controls logical connectivity into and out of networks and controls connectivity to and from devices that are connected to a network. For example, multiple firewalls can be deployed to prevent both outsiders and trusted insiders from gaining unauthorized access to systems, and intrusion detection and prevention technologies can be deployed to defend against attacks from the Internet.

User identification and authentication: A computer system must be able to identify and authenticate different users so that activities on the system can be linked to specific individuals. When an organization assigns a unique user account to specific users, the system is able to distinguish one user from another—a process called identification. The system also must establish the validity of a user’s claimed identity by requesting some kind of information, such as a password, that is known only by the user—a process known as authentication.

Multifactor authentication involves using two or more factors to achieve authentication. Factors include something you know (password or personal identification number), something you have (cryptographic identification device or token), or something you are (biometric). The combination of identification and authentication provides the basis for establishing accountability and for controlling access to the system.

Authorization: Authorization is the process of granting or denying access rights and permissions to a protected resource, such as a network, a system, an application, a function, or a file. For example, operating systems have some built-in authorization features such as permissions for files and folders. Network devices, such as routers, may have access control lists that can be used to authorize users who can access and perform certain actions on the device.

Authorization controls help implement the principle of “least privilege, “which the National Institute of Standards and Technology describes as allowing only authorized accesses for users (or processes acting on behalf of users) which are necessary to accomplish assigned tasks in accordance with organizational missions and business functions.

Cryptography: Cryptography underlies many of the mechanisms used to enforce the confidentiality and integrity of critical and sensitive information. Examples of cryptographic services are encryption, authentication, digital signature, and key management. Cryptographic tools help control access to information by making it unintelligible to unauthorized users and by protecting the integrity of transmitted or stored information.

Auditing and Monitoring: To establish individual accountability, monitor compliance with security policies, and investigate security violations, it is necessary to determine what, when, and by whom specific actions have been taken on a system. Agencies do so by implementing software that provides an audit trail, or logs of system activity, that they can use to determine the source of a transaction or attempted transaction and to monitor users’ activities.

Physical security: Physical security controls help protect computer facilities and resources from espionage, sabotage, damage, and theft. Examples of physical security controls include perimeter fencing, surveillance cameras, security guards, locks, and procedures for granting or denying individuals physical access to computing resources.

Physical controls also include environmental controls such as smoke detectors, fire alarms, extinguishers, and uninterruptible power supplies. Considerations for perimeter security include controlling vehicular and pedestrian traffic. In addition, visitors’ access to sensitive areas is to be managed appropriately.

Article Provided By: Networkworld

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Access Control Solutions – How Security Integrators Can Guide Clients

Access Control

Access Control Solutions

Electronic access control has become the security solution of choice for commercial facilities around the world. Its growing popularity has resulted in an unprecedented number of options to enhance security, which can have the unfortunate side effect of making clients feel overwhelmed by the selection process.

As a result, it’s more important than ever for security consultants to function as trusted advisers who can help their clients successfully navigate the difficult process of finding the right products for their specific needs. Your expertise can play a critical role in helping customers understand the many factors that they need to consider, including facility age, credential management platform and protocols, budget and long-term security strategy.

However, it’s important to remember that anyone can sell products, but if you want to build the trust necessary to cultivate long-term clients, your primary goal should always be to provide the best solutions for their needs.

Communication is Key

Communication will play a crucial role throughout this process. You will need to identify the customer’s long-term goals as well as any special considerations or limitations. Some clients may know what they want, and it will be your responsibility to point out any discrepancies between what they want versus what is actually needed.

A security crisis is often the catalyst that prompts clients to install or upgrade their access control system. Many people’s first reaction is to try and solve the problem quickly. However, before rushing into a decision, it is important to get the right people together for a planning meeting to develop a practical solution that aligns with their building, their budget, how the system will be used and by whom.

Another issue that must be considered during planning — and your clients may not have thought of — is the demands access control will place on bandwidth and internal networks, so it makes good business sense to involve the IT department early. Taking a collaborative approach will allow you to confirm that the IT infrastructure is up-to-date and all products will be equipped to work in the future.

“I’ve seen the best success when a company’s security and IT leaders are involved from the beginning. They set the tone for working together and jointly developing a solution,” says Erik Larsen, National Integrator Account Manager at Allegion. “When security understands the IT infrastructure – and, how, for example, the addition of locks or cameras impacts the network – and, on the other side, when IT understands the liability and reputation risks of not having the proper security solution in place, that’s when they can move forward implementing the right solution.”

Start With a Plan

During the planning meeting, it is important to discuss the issues that most impact which solution will be selected, including:

  • The access control system’s anticipated use and its overall intent
  • The necessary policies and procedures for access control
  • How the implementation of access control fits into the company’s overall security plan
  • The barriers and limitations to implementation

During the planning phase, you may find yourself asking questions your client has never considered before. Your guidance can help lead them toward a solution that works for them and one they feel confident using. Here are some examples of what to discuss early on to ensure the most optimal outcome:

  • What are your current lockdown procedures?
  • How long does it take to lock down?
  • Do you practice lockdown?
  • How many users will your system have?
  • Do your users have varying security levels?
  • Do you have a crisis management plan?
  • Who manages your security?
  • How do people move through the building on a daily basis?
  • How do people move through the building after hours and/or on weekends?
  • What are your goals for electronic access control solution?

Because today’s systems frequently extend access control into parking garages, warehouses, storage units and other areas, planning must also take into account the potential needs of the system outside the main building. Expanding the security perimeter can provide even greater security, management and convenience, but it requires careful evaluation and credential planning.

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The Advantages of Choosing a Wireless Access Control System

Access Control

access control

“WE LIKE TO LEVERAGE the benefits of wireless,” says Paul Ahern, president of Cypress Computer Systems in Lapeer, Mich. “Wireless lets you keep more of what could be spent on installation in your own pocket. Instead of having your customer’s money go to someone else for trenching, electrical, cabling or other labor overhead, it all gets spent with you, usually leading to more of your own product being sold.”

Wireless systems let customers achieve wired system benefits without the cost of hardwired systems. Installing wireless typically is faster than implementing a traditional hardwired solution. When wanting to retrofit older buildings with new access control systems, a wireless solution may be the only viable option you can use. Also, wireless readers are not limited to doors — wireless solutions exist for exit devices, gates and elevators. Wireless systems work with most of today’s access control systems.

Existing ID credentials will work with the new wireless solution. Access privilege changes and audit records are available at the central control terminal, all from a common database, which simplifies data entry and management. This also eliminates the need to go door to door to upload changes and download records, making wireless locksets a good alternative to offline, standalone locking systems. In addition, all wireless transmissions are typically encoded and may use AES128-bit private keys for heightened security.

Popular Applications That Scream for Wireless

According to Ahern, the most popular uses of wireless are in those situations where companies decide to extend the perimeters of their facilities. “With a wireless access control system, you can easily extend their solution up to 10,000 feet,” he says. “That’s almost two miles!”

Ahern says Cypress access control specialists recommend wireless for connecting to parking lots; extending the access system across the road, railroad tracks or river; creating temporary reader installation at a construction site; and where it is simply undesirable to trench, cable or pull wire.

“We are seeing wireless devices used the most in K-12 education spaces to secure individual classroom doors,” reports Rick Caruthers, executive vice president, Galaxy Control Systems. “It seems that the overall cost of a wireless reader now allows users to consider doors for access control that were otherwise considered cost prohibitive.

“The main concerns we find are controlling visitors, securing perimeter doors and creating emergency lockdown,” adds Caruthers. “We also find that wireless locks are making it more affordable for school systems to consider devices for each classroom door where, in the past, typical locking hardware proved to be too costly. Wireless also benefits dealers and integrators themselves. The number of doors installed increases due to the lower cost of a wireless device versus a traditionally secured door and the extra components and labor needed to install it.”

Access Control

Marinas are a good example of a wireless access control application, here being used throughout a waterfront boat storage area from entrances to docks to use of fish cranes.

Education is also a good market for Kastle Systems of Falls Church, Va., as well. The company targets the school market and has developed an integrated security solution for educational institutions that employs the latest advances in technology, including wireless access control. “Wireless access control provides better cost, convenience and aesthetics than many wired solutions. Plus, you are eliminating the old metal keys for more advanced access cards,” emphasizes Nikhil Shenoy, director of product marketing for Kastle. “Anywhere that you find a lot of doors within a contained suite or space, wireless could be a better alternative than wired. We use wireless tech on interior rooms in commercial real estate settings, whether it is the door to a bathroom, office, copy room, mechanical or communications closets, or meeting room as it reduces the cost and labor of wiring traditional carded systems. Wireless is a great solution for resident doors in multifamily buildings. For instance, we just finished a 375-resident door, multifamily wireless project in New York City.”

“Where we get the ‘oos and ahhs’ with wireless is with our handheld wireless mobile readers,” adds Ahern. “They are used to read credentials in applications where it just would not be practical to use a fixed reader. Whenever we offer one to a prospect who uses it for the first time, we always get a big smile.”

According to Ahern, the top prospects are places where an organization wants to check IDs of people in trucks and buses, verify staff attendees at training centers, create an access point away from buildings or establish emergency assembly points and muster stations.

Entry is basic to access control systems at marinas both small and big. For instance, the Blue Water Yacht Club in Sausalito (Calif.) uses its system to control a vehicle gate, dock gate and two restroom doors while a Miami Beach (Fla.) marina uses its system to control many dock gates, restrooms and parking garages. The Port of Everett (Wash.) consists of a hodge-podge of legacy systems that have been integrated into a security system with in excess of 60 access points in an area greater than 3.5 acres that features links up to a mile apart. Continue reading

Unlocking the Door to Cloud – Based Access Control

 

Unlocking the Door to Cloud-Based Access Control

Cloud – Based Access Control

Advancements in the computing landscape are driving the adoption of more and more cloud – hosted offerings in security. Integrators seeking to grow their business into new markets or by offering new solutions can turn to access control as a solution (ACaaS) as their catalyst.
 Less than a decade ago, if anyone was referring to “the cloud” in conversation, chances were it had something to do with the weather. Today, discussions on the cloud are springing up everywhere, including the ever-evolving security industry, but in most cases, the meteorological forecast is an afterthought.

The cloud, or in more technical terms, cloud computing, refers to the concept of hosting applications on servers located in large, public datacenters where, through real-time connectivity such as the Internet, a provider can then offer access to the applications as a service. So instead of having a software platform on a local PC, the platform and database are hosted in the cloud, with no onsite software required. Then, users access their data and other functionality via a mobile or Web app, and in most cases, pay a fee to use this service.

In the physical security industry, the cloud has become an increasingly prevalent topic of discussion, where some still voice apprehensions, but where others eagerly advocate their support and interest. And although cloud-based applications have been around for some time and seen success in other industries, advancements in the computing landscape are driving the adoption of more and more cloud-hosted offerings in security. One of the leading areas of emergence is access control.

A Look at the Cloud Today

Factors like the increasing availability of faster and more affordable Internet connectivity and the expansion of global state-of-the-art public datacenters are also contributing to wider acceptance, suggesting cloud-based security systems are becoming more accessible, cost-effective and reliable than ever before. Similarly, the security mechanisms put in place by cloud providers to secure the platform from logical security threats such as hackers are also becoming better. In fact, cloud platforms are often more secure than the servers that some organizations have at their own facilities.

Another major factor that has contributed to the growing number of cloud-based security offerings is the inherent mobility available through such offerings. A growing number of end users no longer want to be tethered to a desktop PC or laptop to access their security system. Instead, they appreciate the convenience of using apps via their smartphones or tablets when they need immediate access. Extending mobility to these users means delivering solutions that they can interact with from anywhere.

Today, a cloud offering category that has been receiving attention in the security industry is video surveillance as a service, or VSaaS. With vendors now offering fully hosted solutions, VSaaS is essentially lowering the barrier to purchasing an IP system by reducing upfront costs and complexities for end users, while boosting recurring monthly revenues (RMR) for the integrator.

For the end user who wants to secure their organization but does not want the burden and costs sometimes associated with housing, maintaining and cooling servers, or for those with limited IT resources or expertise, choosing a fully-hosted cloud package is a very attractive solution. They also benefit from mobility aspect, being able to pull up video and handle alarms from any device connected to the Internet.

Similarly, integrators who are not necessarily interested in deploying and supporting security applications involving complex infrastructures, can now look at fully-hosted cloud offerings as an easy-to-install option that lets them focus on other core services or competencies. While helping to streamline and simplify operations for the integrator, cloud-based solutions can also serve as a new opportunity to expand their market share by encouraging the swap from older analog systems to powerful IP-based video technology.

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Choosing Your Business’s Best Cloud Solutions

Cloud Solutions - word solutionCloud Solutions

Security, at least its electronic brothers and sisters, have used cloud solutions since the beginning.

Cloud computing is today’s solution for everything from email and office applications to storage. Cloud computing is really use of resources (hardware and software) delivered as a service over a network, nowadays typically the Internet. The name comes from the use of a cloud-shaped symbol as an abstraction for the complex infrastructure. Cloud computing entrusts remote services with a user’s data, software and computation.

Enterprise security executives may not have to know exactly what is going on in the cloud, just that their needs are being met, that the mission is being addressed and that it’s secure. It’s rental, not buying.

So flip back to the initial introduction in the dinosaur days of burglar alarm monitoring for stores, offices and schools when they “rented” the monitoring of alarms from security firms far away in those first clouds.

Then flip to today with myriad cloud applications aimed at physical security, information security and general IT needs. Among the choices:

 

•           Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

•           Platform as a service (PaaS)

•           Software as a service (SaaS)

•           Storage as a service (STaaS)

•           Security as a service (SECaaS)

•           Access control as a service (ACaaS)

•           Video surveillance as a service (VSaaS)

•           Mass notification as a service (MNaaS)

•           Data as a service (DaaS)

•           Test environment as a service (TEaaS)

•           Desktop as a service (DaaS)

•           API as a service (APIaaS)

•           Backend as a service (Baas)

 

What has helped accelerate the cloud for enterprise security is the appeal of mobile access outside of the traditional control center through laptops, smartphones and tablets, especially for security video and clips of alarms and incidents.

So what are the best in the cloud application? Basically, what works for you.

 

Types of Clouds

But first, it’s important to realize the differences among the clouds as well as the potential dangers to avoid. There are four types of cloud applications.

Public cloud applications, storage and other resources are made available to the general public by a service provider. These services are free or offered on a pay-per-use model. Generally, public cloud service providers like Amazon AWS, Microsoft and Google own and operate the infrastructure and offer access only via Internet.

Community cloud shares infrastructure between several organizations from a specific community with common concerns (security, compliance, jurisdiction, etc.), whether managed internally or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally. Costs are leveraged over fewer users than a public cloud, so only some of the savings are achieved.

Private cloud is infrastructure operated solely for a single organization, whether managed internally or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally. Undertaking a private cloud project requires a significant level and degree of engagement to virtualize the security or business environment, and requires the organization to reevaluate decisions about existing resources.

Hybrid cloud is a composition of two or more clouds (private, community or public) that remain unique entities but are bound together, offering the benefits of multiple deployment models. By using “hybrid cloud” architecture, companies are able to obtain degrees of fault tolerance combined with locally immediate usability without dependency on Internet connectivity. Hybrid cloud architecture requires both on-premises resources and off-site server-based cloud infrastructure.

No matter the type of cloud, when it is done right, it can have a positive impact. But every one of the steps in the project raises security, compliance and privacy issues, as examples, that must be addressed in order to avoid serious vulnerabilities.

Continue reading

State of the Art Security for Jersey Mike’s Subs

It’s Not Just About Security

Jersey Mike's Greenville Video Survillance

On June 11, 2015 Jersey Mike’s Subs at 233 North Main Street in downtown Greenville, South Carolina upgraded to a state of the art video surveillance system. But it’s not just about security.

The video surveillance system that Liquid Video Technologies installed serves multiple functions for the sub sandwich giant. The cameras are used to assist in the training of new employees as well as customer relations and after hours security. Cameras systems today need to be flexible and this system is just that.

The system has six, 3 mega pixel cameras that are linked to a IP video storage device that allows for remote access. The video (whether live or recorded) can be viewed easily in real time on a web browser or web device. Also, all of this systems local network of cameras and the IP video storage device were secured in and wall mounted security cabinet that keeps the system not only out of the way but safe from unauthorized access on site.

Security Cabinet

Locked Security Cabinet

Security Cabinet

Opened Security Cabinet

Surveillance systems like this one are becoming the new standard for businesses that need to guard there customers as well as there staff. Things like safety, training, liability, and remote access are all part of the way businesses today manage there investments.

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Security vs Money

An Alarm Should Sound On Deals

Alarm - Security vs MoneyAlarms

An electronic home security system can be the source of great peace of mind or great financial headache. That’s because buying a system, and the alarm monitoring that often goes along with it, can be a thorny purchase, fraught with such perils as wildly differing prices, high-pressure sales tactics and unfriendly contracts.

Basic home security systems, or burglar alarms, are typically wired to a central control panel in the home that will activate when windows or doors are opened while the system is armed. More advanced systems add fire and carbon monoxide alarms, motion sensors, glass-break detectors and, increasingly, home automation options such as controlling home lighting and temperature.

The good news is that almost 80 percent of homeowners with alarms rated their systems as effective in protecting their homes, according to a survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

But consumers shopping for systems often report hassles, said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, which collects customer ratings for various categories.

“Home alarms is one of the categories where we hear complaints about high-pressure sale and scare tactics,” she said. Some companies insist on long-term monitoring contracts.

And prices can be all over the place, said Robert Krughoff, president of Consumers’ Checkbook, which rates home security companies and recently published an extensive report on the topic to its members.

“We see a lot of variation in price and no real relationship between quality and price,” he said. “We found some of the lower-cost places rated very high in terms of quality, and some of the high-priced places don’t rate particularly high.”

Here are some basic questions and answers to help you shop.

Do I need a home security system? “I think the most important advice is to think twice before even bothering with a system,” Krughoff said. “There are a lot of things you can do that would probably be more powerful than any home security system.”

Burglars usually aren’t sophisticated. They often take advantage of unlocked doors or windows that are easily jarred open.

“Most of the time they get in through very unartful means,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor of Consumers’ Checkbook.

Cheap and effective alternatives are quality deadbolts on doors, substantial window locks and motion-sensor lighting outside. You could get a dog, although its care might turn it into a pricey option. You could bluff by posting a Beware of Dog sign or the window stickers from alarm companies.

Habits matter too. Always lock you doors when you’re away. And when you’re on vacation, put lights on timers and have someone pick up newspapers or place newspapers on vacation hold.

“Those things really matter,” Krughoff said.

The Consumer Reports survey found that 19 percent of respondents said they at least occasionally leave doors at home unlocked when they’re out, and 26 percent said they at least occasionally leave windows unlocked when they’re not at home.

Consider that owning an alarm can be a hassle. You have to turn it on when you leave and rush to turn it off when your arrive home. Children, house guests and pets can accidentally trip the alarm, potentially leading to local fines for false alarms. And you’re supposed to test your system monthly to make sure it is communicating with the monitoring service, according to the Electronic Security Association. Maybe those hassles are why 43 percent of people who have an alarm say they occasionally don’t turn it on when not at home, according to the Consumer Reports survey.

How do I choose an equipment installer? Get several price quotes for both system installation and monitoring, perhaps starting with companies rated highly by Consumers’ Checkbook or Angie’s List. Check for complaints against individual companies with the Better Business Bureau. Salespeople who try to intimidate or pressure you into a quick decision, sometimes pointing to recent spate of burglaries in the area, are ones to avoid, according to tips at Angieslist.com. The inability of salespeople to explain how the system works is another red flag. In a recent report, Consumers’ Checkbook found prices vary widely. Prices for installation and three years of monitoring ranged from less than $2,000 to more than $3,300 for the same job.

Do I need monitoring? Central system monitoring can automatically notify an alarm company that there’s a problem by sending a signal over a landline or wireless connection. They can, in turn, notify police or fire departments. Monitoring typically costs $20 to $50 a month, depending on what’s included, but your alarm system will work without it. If your home is usually occupied or you have neighbors who will notify authorities that an alarm is sounding, central station monitoring provides only limited additional protection, according to the report in Consumers’ Checkbook.

Article Provided by: Chicago Tribune

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Access Control Systems