Home Security Alarm Tips

This is one of those posts I’ve been thinking about writing for a while – ever since I saw one of those dumb-ass ADT commercials with the guy with the black knit cap breaking in through the front door while some ‘helpless’ woman was in the kitchen. I’m definitely no home-alarm security expert, but being a geek I really dug into the design and technology when I purchased systems for the two homes I’ve lived in here in Phoenix. We’re in a nice area, but home break-ins are a bit more common here than in Boulder. In one home I added an aftermarket system, and in the other we had it wired as the house was built. Here are some things to keep in mind: If you purchase an aftermarket system it will almost always be wireless, unless you want to rip your walls open. These systems can be attacked via timing and jamming, but most people don’t need to worry about that. With a wireless system you have a visible box on each door and window covered. An attacker can almost always see these, so make sure you don’t skip any. Standard door and window sensors are magnetic contact closure sensors. They only trigger if the magnet and the sensor are separated, which means they won’t detect the bad guy breaking the glass if the sensor doesn’t separate. You know, like they show in all those commercials (for the record I use ADT). The same is true for wired sensors, except they aren’t as visible. Unless you pay extra, all systems use your existing phone line with a special “capture” port that overrides other calls when the alarm needs it. For (possibly a lot) more you can get a dedicated cell phone line integrated into the alarm, so the call center still gets the alarm even if the phone lines are down. You probably want to make sure they aren’t on AT&T. Most of the cheap alarm deals only give you a certain number of contact closure sensors and one “pet immune” motion sensor (placed centrally to trigger when someone walks down your major connecting hallway). Pay more to get all your first floor doors and windows covered. Get used to the ugly white boxes on everything. Most alarm systems do not cover your exterior garage doors. The standard install protocol is to put a sensor on the door from your garage to the interior of the house. The only time we’ve been robbed is when we left our garage doors open, so since then we’ve always had them added to the system. They take a special contact closure sensor since the normal ones aren’t good with the standard rattling of a garage door and will trigger with the wind. Now every night when we set our alarm in “Stay” mode it won’t enable unless the doors are closed. None of the basic systems includes a glass break detector. Most of these are noise sensors tuned to the frequency of glass breaking, rather than shatter sensors attached to each window. I highly suggest these and recommend you put them near the windows most likely to be broken into (ones hard to see from the street). Mine has only gone off once, when I dropped something down the stairs. Understand which sensors are active in the two primary alarm modes – Stay and Away. Stay is the mode you use at night when you are sleeping (or if you are a helpless female in the kitchen in an ADT commercial). It usually arms the exterior sensors but not the motion sensor. Away is when you are out and turns on everything. I suggest having glass breaks active in Stay mode, but if you have a killer stereo/surround sound system that might not work out too well for you. There are also differences in arming times and disarming windows (the time from opening a door to entering your code). When your alarm triggers it starts a call to the call center, who will call you back and then call the police. I’ve had my alarm going for a good 30 seconds without the outbound call hitting the alarm center. It isn’t like TV, and the cops won’t be showing up right away. Most basic systems don’t cover the second story in a multilevel home. While few bad guys will use a ladder, know your home and if there are areas they can climb to easily using trees, gutters, etc. – such as windows over a low roof. Make sure you alarm these. Especially if you have daughters and want some control over their dating lives. Most systems come with key fob remotes, so you don’t have to mess with the panel when you are going in and out. If you’re one of those people who parks in your driveway and leaves your garage and alarm remotes in the car, please send me your address and a list of your valuables. Extra points if you’re a Foursquare user. Most alarms don’t come with a smoke detector, which is one of the most valuable components of the system. You regular detectors aren’t wired into an alarm sensor and are just to wake you up. Since we have pets, and mostly like them, we have a smoke detector in a central location as part of our alarm so the fire department will show up even if we aren’t around. We also have a residential sprinkler system, and as a former firefighter those things are FTW (no known deaths due to fire when one is installed and operational). My alarm guys looked at me funny when I designed the system since it included extras they normally skip (garage doors, glass break, second story coverage, smoke detector). But we have a system that didn’t cost much more than the usual cheap ones, and provides much better protection. It’s also more useful, especially with the garage sensors to help make sure we don’t leave the doors open.

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Friday Summary: August 27, 2010

My original plan for this week’s summary was to geek out a bit and talk about my home automation setup. Including the time I recently discovered that even household electrical is powerful enough to arc weld your wire strippers if you aren’t too careful. Then I read some stuff. Some really bad stuff. First up was an article in USA Today that I won’t even dignify with a link. It was on the iTunes account phishing that’s been going on, and it was pretty poorly written. Here’s a hint – if you are reading an article about a security issue and all the quotes are from a particular category of vendor, and the conclusion is to buy products made by those vendors, it’s okay to be a little skeptical. This is the second time in the past couple weeks I’ve read something by that author that suffered from the same problem. Vendor folk make fine sources – I have plenty of friends and contacts in different security companies who help me out when I need it, but the job of a journalist is to filter and balance. At least it used to be. Next up are the multitude of stories on the US Department of Defense getting infected in 2008 via USB drives. Notice I didn’t say “attacked”, because despite all the stories surfacing today it seems that this may not have been a deliberate act by a foreign power. The malware involved was pretty standard stuff – there is no need to attribute it to espionage. Now look, I don’t have any insider knowledge and maybe it was one of those cute Russian spies we deported, but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen government related stories coming from sources that might – just might – be seeking increased budget or authority. I’m really tired of a lazy press that single-sources stories and fails to actually research the issues. I know the pressure is nasty in today’s newsrooms, but there has to be a line someplace. I write for a living myself, and have some close friends in the trade press I respect a heck of a lot, so I know it’s possible to hit deadlines without sacrificing quality. But then you don’t get to put “Apple” in the title of every article to increase your page count. On another note it seems my wife is supposed to have a baby today… or sometime in the next week or two. Some of you may have noticed my posting rate is down and I’ll be in paternity leave mode. On to the Summary: Webcasts, Podcasts, Outside Writing, and Conferences Rich and Chris Hoff at RSA 2009. Video of their presentation on disruptive innovation and cloud computing. Rich quoted in Bloomberg on the Intel/McAfee deal. And also over at Forbes. Favorite Securosis Posts David Mortman: Backtalk Doublespeak on Encryption. Adrian Lane: Understanding and Selecting SIEM/Log Management. … of course. Granted it’s long, but if you are selecting a SIEM platform, this is a great primer to start the process. Mike Rothman: Data Encryption for PCI 101: Encryption Options. Really like this series because too many folks think encryption is the answer. This series tells you the question. Other Securosis Posts Starting the Understanding and Selecting an Enterprise Firewall Project. Incite 8/25/2010: Let Freedom Ring. Webcasts on Endpoint Security Fundamentals. Favorite Outside Posts David Mortman: Hoff’s 5 Rules Of Cloud Security…. Adrian Lane: Hoff’s 5 Rules Of Cloud Security…. I read this after I saw Rich’s link in this week’s Incite … and Chris has nailed it. How many of us have actually tried to set up a secure environment within Amazon Web Services? Great post. Mike Rothman: Why the USP for Every Technical Product Sounds the Same. If you think it’s hard to tell one product from another, it’s not you. This is why. And it’s sad, but really really true. Rich: Find Evil and Solve Crime. The Mandiant folks are some of the few that really fight the APT, and one of their folks is starting a series giving some insight into their process. Project Quant Posts NSO Quant: Manage IDS/IPS Process Revisited. NSO Quant: Manage IDS/IPS – Monitor Issues/Tune. Research Reports and Presentations White Paper: Understanding and Selecting SIEM/Log Management. White Paper: Endpoint Security Fundamentals. Understanding and Selecting a Database Encryption or Tokenization Solution. Top News and Posts Adobe Patches via Brian Krebs. Apple Mac OS X Security Patch. Visa Makes AppSec Recommendations. We’ll have more to say about this when we get a chance to finish reading the recommendations. Verizon Clears Credit Card Cloud Test. Yippee. Credit Cards in the cloud. And our profession needed a new place to hack credit cards to create a boost of excitement (just kidding, guys). Hey, watch where you stick that thing. You don’t know where it’s been! Researcher Arrested for Disclosure. This case is interesting for a couple different reasons. DEFCON Survey Results. Toolkit for DLL hijacking. Critical Updates for Windows, Flash Player. Apple Jailbreak Vuln. Wireshark review. Blog Comment of the Week Remember, for every comment selected, Securosis makes a $25 donation to Hackers for Charity. This week’s best comment goes to Jay, in response to Backtalk Doublespeak on Encryption. I don’t want to give this article too much attention, too much FUD, too few facts, but I thought this was worth a quote: “…the bad guys do not attack encrypted data directly…” which is followed up with: “When you encrypt a small field with a limited number of possible values, like the expiry date, you risk giving a determined (and sophisticated) attacker a potential route to compromising your entire cardholder database.” … by attacking the encrypted data directly? The other point I had was that there are 1 of 2 ways to create the same output given the same input (in “strong” symmetric ciphers), use ECB mode or re-use the same initialization vector (IV) over and over. I think most financial places lean towards the former because managing/transferring the

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Data Encryption for PCI 101: Supporting Systems

Continuing our series on PCI Encryption basics, we delve into the supporting systems that make encryption work. Key management and access controls are important building blocks, and subject to audit to ensure compliance with the Data Security Standard. Key Management Key management considerations for PCI are pretty much the same as for any secure deployment: you need to protect encryption keys from unauthorized physical and logical access. And to the extent it’s possible, prevent misuse. Those are the basics things you really need to get right so they are our focus here. As per our introduction, we will avoid talking about ISO specifications, key bit lengths, key generation, and distribution requirements, because quite frankly you should not care. More precisely you should not need to care because you pay commercial vendors to get these details right. Since PCI is what drives their sales most of their products have evolved to meet PCI requirements. What you want to consider is how the key management system fits within your organization and works with your systems. There are three basic deployment models for key management services; external software, external hardware or HSM, and embedded within the application or database. External Hardware: Commonly called Hardware Security Modules, or HSMs, these devices provide extraordinary physical security, and most are custom-designed to provide strong logical security as well. Most have undergone rigorous certifications, the details of which the vendors are happy to share with you because they take a lot of time and money to pass. HSMs offer very good performance and take care of key synchronization and distribution automatically. The downside is cost – this is by far the most expensive key management option. And for disaster recovery planning and failover, you’re not just buying one of these devices, but several. They don’t work as well with virtual environments as software. We have received a handful of customer complaints that the APIs were difficult to use when integrating with custom applications, but this concern is mitigated by the fact that many off-the-shelf applications and database vendors provide the integration glue. External Software: The most common option is software-based key management. These products are typically bundled with encryption software but there are some standalone products as well. The advantages are reduced cost, compatibility with most commercial operating systems, and good performance in virtual environments. Most offer the same functions as their HSM counterparts, and will perform and scale provided you provide the platform resources they depend on. The downside is that these services are easier to compromise, both physically and logically. They benefit from being deployed on dedicated systems, and you must ensure that their platforms are fully secured. Embedded: Some key management offerings are embedded within application platforms – try to avoid these. For years database vendors offer database encryption but left the keys in the database. That means not only the DBAs had access to the keys, so did any attacker who successfuly executed an injection attack, buffer overflow, or password guess. Some legacy applications still rely on internal keys and they may be expensive to change, but you must in order to achieve compliance. If you are using database encryption or any kind of transparent encryption, make sure the keys are externally managed. This way it is possible to enforce separation of duties, provide adequate logical security, and make it easier to detect misuse. By design all external key management servers have the capacity to provide central key services, meaning all applications go to the same place to get keys. The PCI specification calls for limiting the number of places keys are stored to reduce exposure. You will need to find a comfortable middle ground that works for you. Too few key servers cause performance bottlenecks and poor failover response. Too many cause key synchronization issues, increased cost, and increased potential for exposure. Over and above that, the key management service you select needs must provide several other features to comply with PCI: Dual Control: To provide administrative separation of duties, master keys are not known by any one person; instead two or three people each possess a fragment of the key. No single administrator has the key, so some key operations require multiple administrators to participate. This deters fraud and reduces the chance of accidental disclosure. Your vendor should offer this feature. Re-Keying: Sometimes called key substitution, this is a method for swapping keys in case a key might be compromised. In case a key is no longer trusted, all associated data should be re-encrypted, and the key management system should have this facility built in to discover, decrypt, and re-encrypt. The PCI specification recommends key rotation once a year. Key Identification: There are two considerations here. If keys are rotated, the key management system must have some method to identify which key was used. Many systems – both PCI-specific and general-purpose – employ key rotation on a regular basis, so they provide a means to identify which keys were used. Further, PCI requires that key management systems detect key substitutions. Each of these features needs to be present, and you will need to verify that they perform to your expectations during an evaluation, but these criteria are secondary. Access Control Key management protects keys, but access control determines who gets to use them. The focus here is how best to deploy access control to support key management. There are a couple points of guidance in the PCI specification concerning the use of decryption keys and access control settings that frame the relevant discussion points: First, the specification advises against using local OS user accounts for determining who can have logical access to encrypted data when using disk encryption. This recommendation is in contrast to using “file – or column-level database encryption”, meaning it’s not a requirement for those encrypting database contents. This is nonsense. In reality you should eschew local operating system access controls for both database and disk encryption. Both suffer from the same security issues including potential discrepancies in

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