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Avoiding Security Breaches Post-Termination

August 26, 2014
post termination office security
Large businesses tend to have lawyer-refined protocols in place for terminating an employee because firing staff comes with a great deal of security risk. Organizations have to protect themselves. Small businesses face that same level of risk and often have even more to lose. Although small businesses may not have a human resources department and a large army of lawyers, they can still protect themselves by identifying the concerns and putting safeguards in place to protect against them.

Be Prepared for a Range of Emotions

Big companies often have so many employees that each individual worker is little more than a number to a lawyer or HR department. This does have its advantages, such as during termination. All employees are treated the same. In a small business, people are more prone to treat employees differently. Most people will leave a business in a professional manner. Who is to say why that one percent will choose anger, bitterness and possibly revenge? Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Building Security is a Priority

The vast majority of security breaches performed by disgruntled employees are physical in nature and occured at the site where the individual worked. If the building is accessed through traditional locks, then all keys should be returned and/or all locks should be replaced the day of termination–this must be viewed as a cost of doing business. Change all access codes for alarm systems as well. If the business uses a door entry system, or access control system, it’s necessary to disable that badge ID or take whatever similar measures are necessary to prevent unwanted entry.

Establish Awareness

The best building security can be undermined by a lack of awareness. Often, a business will want to respect a terminated employee’s right to privacy and dignity, but in doing so, will expose itself to a security threat. Although there is no need to explain the termination, there is a need to ensure that all employees and vendors understand that the individual has been terminated. It is also a good idea for the business to establish a protocol in the case that the fired employee comes to the building.

Securing the Cloud is Essential

Security breaches do not just occur within the company’s physical location. They can occur from an Internet café, a parking lot outside the building or the comfort of the individual’s home. The cloud is at particular risk because it is intended to be accessed by employees remotely. If a department is using an internet service like DropBox that a terminated employee still has access to, then the company can lose sensitive data.

Therefore, while it is important for the company to secure its servers and the cloud services that it controls, it is also important to inform people throughout the business to change passwords and the like. The value of awareness cannot be stressed enough. It is also of great value to establish protocols for terminations and to refine these protocols over time, as these will make the transition for the remaining employees much easier and seamless.

Keep Cell Phones out of Your Bed

August 25, 2014
cell phone safety
Smartphones have completely transformed our world. Their helpfulness knows no bounds when someone is lost or needs to get information in a hurry. However, they also offer dangers that people need to be aware of. One of the lesser-known dangers is the risk of bringing mobile phones to bed. Here is a guide to the many reasons that you should avoid bringing your cell phone to bed with you.

Raising the Risk of Cancer

One of the most worrisome of the hazards that cell phones pose is the research that links cell phone usage and an increased risk of developing cancer. Look for ways to lower the odds of getting cancer by leaving your cell phone on the nightstand and away from your body.

Fire Hazard

As scary as a heightened risk of cancer may be, it is not nearly as worrisome as the risk of fire caused by a cell phone that is not properly ventilated. The problem is that people who take their smartphones to bed with them often fall asleep with them. When a cell phone is trapped underneath a pillow for example, it does not get the ventilation it needs. This situation causes the phone to rapidly overheat and create the potential for fire. Never take a chance of falling asleep with your smartphone in your bed.

Ruining Your Sleep Cycle

Poor sleep can cause many kinds of health problems as well as make you unfocused and irritable. Bringing a mobile phone to bed with you is an easy way to ruin your sleep cycle. This is especially true if the phone is set up to give email and text alerts. It would be best to remove the smartphone from the bedroom but if this is not feasible, you should turn off any notification sounds.

Make sure that your smartphone is put away on the charger at night. Keep it well away from your sleeping area. This will not only keep you safe, but it will also ensure that you always have a full charge on your phone to start the day.

Protect Your Family From Door-to-Door Scams

August 22, 2014
door to door scam
There are many wonderful things about the summer, but the wonderful weather can bring hazards as well. One of the troubling things that homeowners need to look out for during summer, even as it comes to a close is the outbreak of scammers who prey on homeowners. To avoid falling victim to one of these con artists, follow this guide to identifying and avoiding door-to-door scams.

Home Improvement Scam

One of the most common door-to-door scams is the home improvement scam. In this scam, con artists will knock on victims’ doors with news that they have spotted damage to their home. They most commonly say that they have noticed damage to the roof. The scammers will offer to repair the damage to the home at a discount in exchange for a cash payment up front. Never pay for a contractor’s services up front in order to avoid this scam.

The Alarm Upgrade Scam

If you have a sign in your yard that alerts would-be burglars that your home is protected by a security system, then you may well have to deal with this scam at some point. The con artists search for these home security signs, and then they knock on the door with the news that they can upgrade the home’s alarm system for a fee. Be skeptical! Your current alarm company would normally contact you through our preferred method – phone, email, letter, etc. – to discuss potential upgrades rather than showing up unannounced on your doorstep.

Charity Scammers

Easily the most common door-to-door scam is the fake charity scam. These scams are very popular because they prey on the natural tendency of most people to do good. These scammers are clever at creating charity names that sound like real charities, but they also sometimes simply pretend to be from real charities.

It is best to simply never give money to people who are soliciting door-to-door for charities to avoid getting scammed. If you feel you really want to help, ask the solicitors for literature that shows an 800 number or website that you can go to. This will greatly reduce the chances that you get scammed.

Prize Scam

Another way that scammers prey on victims is to take advantage of the delight we all have in winning something. These con artists will show up on victims’ doorsteps claiming that they have won a prize. They will have a bunch of paperwork for the victims to fill out, which they use to steal the personal information of their victims. They may also try to scam some money by claiming that the victims need to pay a fee to process the prize claim.

If you are always on the lookout for scams, you will be able to avoid them. Always greet solicitors at your doorstep with a dose of skepticism. Never give them money directly. You should always be sure to check them out with the local authorities and Better Business Bureau before you ever hand over a dime to be on the safe side.

Six Places a Thief Won’t Look for Your Valuables

August 12, 2014
Pacificalarms Hide Valuables
When you’re choosing a place to put your valuables, you could go with a safe that bolts into the frame of the home so it can’t be removed. Not many thieves are also safe-crackers and thieves are normally looking for a quick, easy score. They’ll spend six to eight minutes rummaging in the home, and if they find a safe, they’ll assume everything of value is kept in there.

If you don’t have the money to invest in a safe that can’t be removed, it’s not recommended that you get one at all. It will give thieves an obvious item to steal and they will take it and open it at their convenience. Instead, you’ll want to hide your valuables in a place that thieves won’t look or notice. Here are a couple indiscreet hiding places for your valuables.

Fake Items
Items that are fake but look real are a great idea for valuables like money and jewelry. The thief doesn’t have a lot of time to search your home, so he needs to get in and out quickly. He’s not going to check every item to be sure it’s real.

Soda Can
There are many real items that can be replaced with fake ones for keeping valuables safe. The soda can is perfect as long as the thief doesn’t get thirsty. They won’t be in your house long enough to search every item in the refrigerator.

Potted Plants
Valuables can be hidden in fake potted plants under the fake dirt and moss, or you can use old prescription bottles to hold rolled money buried in the real dirt. No thief is going to dig into the dirt of your plants in search of valuables.

Books
In some cases, slipping money inside the pages of a book might not be a good idea. If you have a hundred books, it’ll be a little more difficult for a robber to check every single book to be sure there’s nothing in it. If you have three books on a shelf and one of them is filled with money or hollowed out for valuables, that’s probably not the wisest choice

Disguised Home Items
If possible, building fake home appliances and features, such as a false thermostat or outlet, is a great way to hide valuables. These items will look like they are a natural part of the home and burglars will not even think of checking them for valuables.

Air Vents
There are a few different styles of air vents that can be added to the home. It requires a little bit of construction. You’ll have to make a space in the wall for the vent, but it’s less expensive than building a space for a wall safe.

Common Questions Security Companies Receive

August 5, 2014
security pacificalarms
Consumers purchasing a home security system for the first time often have many questions. So to help alleviate some of the ambiguity that we often face, here are five of the most common questions new clients ask home alarm companies in Santa Monica—and their answers!

How does an alarm system work?

Residential security systems generally comprise of three core aspects: the control panel, a series of sensors and monitoring service. The control panel is essentially the heart of the system. It is the central access point for the user, and it manages all sensor activity, alerts and alarms. The sensors are the devices placed throughout the home that sense unusual activity, and monitoring service ensures that all alarms are responded to appropriately regardless of the circumstances or time of day or night.

What is “crash-and-smash” and are modern alarm systems susceptible to it?

A “crash and smash” is when a burglar enters the home and smashes the control panel, thereby disabling it. Some systems are still susceptible to this technique, which is one reason why monitoring is so essential. When an alarm system is monitored, the call station expects the system to maintain contact in a specific manner. If that communication channel is broken, then the call center knows that the system is no longer operating properly.

What happens when I lose power or the Internet?

Most systems either use local battery power primarily or have local battery power available in case of an outage. If the system uses a telephone or a network connection to contact a call station or police department, then the system will generally have a built-in radio that allows it to connect via a cellular network just like a smartphone or other mobile devices do.

Are wireless security components actually better?

The proper security component for a particular job depends entirely on the environment, the circumstances and the objective. With that said, wireless security components generally are superior to wired version for a number of reasons. An important reason is that they are much easier to install, which not only softens the installation cost but also makes it much easier to alter, upgrade, and move the security system as the needs of the family change.

Do I require monitoring and is it expensive?

Few residential security systems demand monitoring, and most security companies will install their hardware without requiring you to commit to monitoring. Monitoring, however, is very important for the reasons stated above and for other reasons. Imagine a home invasion, a fire or a CO2 event where the family was incapacitated and unable to react to the alarm. What then? What if the neighbors do not hear the alarm and respond? With a monitored system you get the security that the call center will recognize the alarm, confirm the danger, and dispatch the appropriate local authorities.

Does a home security lower insurance rates?

Generally speaking, having a security system does lower insurance rates but you should contact your insurance company to learn the specific details. If you determine that there is no discount available, then you may want to consider shopping around for other insurance companies. In most cases, you should be able to lower your rates by several hundred dollars a year.

Securing a Home’s Garage from Burglary

July 17, 2014
Garage security
Garages are an easy target for burglars. Many times they are left wide open, and the thief can simply walk in and walk out quickly and undetected. Even when a garage door is closed and secured, a thief has options. An unlocked car in the driveway can provide easy access to a remote, and tripping the safety release mechanism often requires nothing more than a coat hanger.

How Thieves Break In

Most garage thefts do not involve a break-in. The garage is already open, the door is unsecured or the burglar gets access to the remote. In cases where a break-in does occur, it usually happens by exploiting the emergency latch. Brute force break-ins happen as well, and it may surprise you how easy that is. After all, most garage doors are not built solid or secured with deadbolts or similar hardware.

Prepping the Primary Door

Automated garage doors are more secure, not less. If your roll-up is not yet automated, upgrade it as soon as possible, but disable the emergency system or opt for one that is not easily exploited. It is also a great idea to invest in a reinforcement kit, which makes the garage door mounting much more solid and thus much harder to open with brute force. Take care with the remote. Put it on your keychain perhaps, and never leave it in the vehicle unattended.

Prepping All Other Access Points

Do not overlook the side garage door or garage windows because burglars can easily use these access points as well. Treat these doors and windows just as you would all of your home’s first story doors and windows. Doors should have deadbolts and both doors and windows should have high-security locks. It is also a great idea to integrate the garage fully into your home security alarm system.

Home Security Integration

There should be access alarms on the windows and all doors, including the door that provides access to the home from the garage. The garage should also have motion sensors and, ideally, a security camera. Having a wireless security system will make including the garage a lot easier. In the event of a garage burglary, having a security camera will provide invaluable evidence to police and make it much easier to file insurance claims.

Deterring Would-Be Thieves

There should be motion sensors at the home’s exterior as well, and those sensors should trigger big bright lights. It’s also a great idea to have signage near the garage that announces it is protected by a monitored security system. Keep in mind that garage thefts are generally just crimes of opportunities, and these simple deterrents are often all that are needed to make that opportunity much less appealing.

Making Good Habits

The residents of the home play a big part in keeping a garage secure and an unappealing target. If they have good security habits, the garage is an unlikely target, but if they have bad ones, such as leaving the garage open and valuables in plain view, they can compromise all of your best efforts.

Police Have Now Entered the Age of Social Networking

July 1, 2014
social networking and police
Organizations can no longer ignore social media, and police departments are no exception. In fact, there have been a number of high-profile cases in the news recently where police have used social networking as a tool to a catch a criminal or get its community involved.

Building Trust and Goodwill

Police departments often have social programs in place that help them connect with the community. These efforts help to build goodwill and trust, and help to avoid the disconnect that can sometimes occur between law enforcement and the people it is charged with protecting. Today, police have better access to their communities than ever through tools like Facebook and Twitter. Perhaps the neatest aspect of the police using social media is that they can actually reach people who would not otherwise pay attention by disseminating information that goes viral.

Social Media Departments

A recent survey by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that more than 96 percent of all police departments surveyed were using social media in some manner. Additionally, 80 percent of those departments indicated that those efforts helped solve and prevent crimes, and more than 73 percent indicated that they already had or had plans in place for an internal department that did nothing but specialize in social media and the various resources within that domain.

Feedback

Traditionally, it has been very difficult for police departments to receive worthwhile feedback from their constituents. Communicating with the police can be intimidating and inconvenient, and a lone voice offering a suggestion or criticism is rarely heard. Today, however, police use blogs, Twitter and even forums in Ask Me Anything formats to answer questions and receive criticism. When a criticism or suggestion has an entire community behind it, then it becomes very difficult to ignore.

Solving Crimes

Although it has not reached the Supreme Court yet, there is legal precedent in the United States to suggest that a person no longer has a right to privacy for any information shared via a social channel online. This extends to information shared with the belief that the channel was private, such as posting a photo on a Facebook page that is only accessible by family and friends. There is a lot of evidence that can be used to solve crimes floating around on services like Facebook, and if police can get just one person who has access to provide them with that information, then they have a legal right to it.

Getting Creative

Police can also be proactive about acquiring that kind of information, and so-called stings can extend to the online arena. For instance, it is legal for police to create a false online persona, befriend an alleged criminal and then use that friendship to acquire the evidence needed to prosecute. Some departments have also used social networking as a deterrent for crimes. Traditionally, police departments would publish the names of people who solicited prostitutes in the newspaper. Since that is no longer effective, some departments have turned to publishing those names and photos via Twitter.

Protecting Construction Sites from Theft

June 30, 2014
commercial security
Construction sites, including preexisting homes undergoing substantial renovation, are frequent targets for theft and other crimes. This is particularly the case at night on sites where there are no security guards and there is no security system or it is disabled due to the work. The most common problem is loss of property, including tools and raw materials like lumber and metal. This kind of crime does not, however, have to be viewed as a cost of construction, and there are steps that property owners and companies can take to make themselves a less likely target.

Security System or Personnel

If a nighttime security guard is within budget, this is an excellent option because crimes on sites that have manned security are very rare. A traditional security system is generally not effective on a construction site, so do not go to great lengths to install one or ensure the existing system remains intact. There are, however, security system components that can prove very effective as deterrents, such as motion sensors that enable bright lights when motion is detected.

Fences, Signage and Cameras

Fences are also effective in these types of scenarios and are relatively inexpensive. Fences that actually keep people out, however, can be quite expensive. Security-related signage on the property can also have an effect. Such signs are not quite the deterrent they are on the front lawn of an intact house, but they may work, and they cost almost next to nothing to put in place. Vandalism-proof security cameras can also serve as very effective deterrent if positioned properly. In addition, in the event of a crime, the cameras can provide evidence to the police, and that evidence can make it significantly easier to file a claim with an insurance company.

Install a Lock-Down Area

A lock-down area is a space that is very difficult to break into. Nothing is impervious, but an effective lock-down area is so difficult to break into that the criminals will have a difficult time and will have to spend a very long time on the premises, which increases the chances of them being caught. Lock-down areas can be expensive to install, but that investment is well worth it in light of property loss statistics at sites with lockdown areas compared to those that did not have them in place.

Records and Logistics

Whether you’re a homeowner or a business owner, you need to know exactly what resources you have on hand by keeping a detailed record, including serial numbers and receipts, where applicable. Additionally, plan your shipments of raw materials in a way that makes you a less likely target. Receiving all supplies that will be needed for a job at the beginning of the project is a terrible idea. The best way to protect yourself is to receive a daily shipment of only the materials and appliances that will be used that day. That approach can end up costing more over the length of the project, but that added cost is usually significantly less than the average loss would be.

Tips for Avoiding Shark Attacks

June 15, 2014
Shark Attack
We shudder every time a new report comes out that someone else has been bitten – or worse — by a shark. As devastating as shark attacks are, they’re also quite rare. Oceana reports that the odds of being attacked by a shark are one in over 11 million. In fact, you have a better chance of dying from drowning or getting involved in an accident on the way to the beach. There are more reported fatalities from getting hit in the head with a coconut than there are from being bitten by a shark.

That said, no one wants to gamble that they won’t be that one out of 11 million people who come face-to-face with a shark. The good news is there are things we can do to lessen our chances.

1. Avoid swimming during early morning, early evening and nighttime hours. These are the times sharks are most active.
2. Stay out of the water if you’re bleeding. This includes bleeding from a fresh wound or if you’re menstruating. Sharks can detect blood in the water from over a mile away.
3. Keep away from fishing boats. Freshly caught fish bleed, as do live bait.
4. Don’t swim alone. Sharks are statistically less likely to attack groups of people. Also, if you’re alone and you do get attacked, you have less of a chance of getting the help you need.
5. Don’t swim in murky waters. Sharks are more likely to mistake you for their natural prey, and you’ll be less likely to see them coming.
6. Take all metallic items off before you enter the water, especially jewelry. Light-catching surfaces attract a shark’s attention.
7. Wear dark swimwear. Sharks can only distinguish between light and dark and light-colored swimwear outlines your body and makes you easier for them to see.
8. Stay out of the water if there are large groups of dolphins or seabirds present. They’re attracted to the same prey sharks are. That means if the dolphins and birds are getting a meal, sharks are likely to show up for one, too. In addition, dolphins themselves can be prey to large sharks.
9. Leave the water if you see fish and turtles behaving erratically. They may be doing so because a shark is nearby.
10. Stay away from swimming at the mouth of rivers after a heavy rainfall. The rain sweeps freshwater fish and other animals out to sea, attracting hungry sharks.
11. Try to avoid splashing excessively. Splashing imitates the sounds and movements a prey in distress makes.

As a home security company, we’re interested in you continued safety, even away from home. If you see a shark near you, remain calm. Only defend yourself if you sense an attack is unavoidable. If it is, prepare to fight back. Keep your eyes trained on him. Hit him in the nose, eyes and gills. Avoid using your bare hands and feet if possible. If you are bitten, fight aggressively. While some sharks attack twice, many won’t. Seek help immediately but remain calm and resist panicking.

Small Retailers Need Security More Now than Ever Before

June 12, 2014
Small retailers need to protect their products, reputation, and facilities. This is why commercial alarm systems are an important investment. Small businesses need systems that are affordable but also efficient. No one wants to deal with a break-in or vandalism, especially if the retailer is just starting out. It is important to consider the right commercial alarm system to protect your important assets.

Traditional Alarm System
Retailers like traditional alarm systems because they notify business owners if there is a break-in or intruder. Once installed at certain entry points like windows or doors, any unauthorized access results in an alarm. This can happen if glass breaks or if motion sensors are triggered. If the alarm system catches something out of the ordinary, the business owner or retailer is notified and has the option to call the police. Many of these alarm systems also detect fire or carbon monoxide levels too.

Cameras or Video Surveillance Systems
A video commercial alarm system is one that provides both exterior and interior protection. This is perfect for managers or business owners who want to see what is happening in a store or office on a daily basis. Many of the security systems today can be accessed online or via a smartphone. This way you can monitor both customers, and employees, even when you’re not at the office. Additionally, businesses like video surveillance because it helps if an insurance claim ever needs to be filed.

Control Access to Specific Rooms
When retailers invest in electronic access control systems, they can protect certain departments or rooms from regular access. This might mean that only the manager or business owner can access the safe or the network. Businesses like this option if they have a lot of sensitive information or a large sum of money on the premises. A group that works with the government or with trade secrets may like to invest in this type of commercial security system.

Consider Price and Vulnerability
When retailers or businesses choose security systems, it is important for the manager or owner to think about risk management. For example, some businesses want to protect information, whereas others want to protect the physical building or products on site. A retailers’ focus will dictate if they need surveillance or an alarm system or a combination of both. The more coverage or security a group needs, the more expensive it will be. Thus, businesses need to assess their needs before investing in a system.

Different commercial alarm systems come in a variety of packages. The best way to choose a system is to think about what needs to be protected. This is a chance to protect against vandals, thieves, and issues like fire and water damage. This investment keeps a retailer from vulnerability.