Lock Safari Vancouver, BC – Part II

In Part I of my “Lock Safari Vancouver, BC” I covered the common (but very secure) Abloy and ASSA offerings, as well as the Medeco locks I saw.  All three of these brands are owned by the ASSA-Abloy conglomerate, and  I will lead off again with another ASSA-Abloy product: the Israeli Mul-T-Lock.  I saw several of these in mortise cylinder form-factor.  I also saw a handful of switch and cam locks, none of which I was able to adequately photograph.  The photos below show, in order: a switch lock, a close-up a mortise cylinder, and a wider shot of same.  The mortise cylinder was largely hidden behind a protective plate that I am unfamiliar with – if you know what it is, I’d like to.

Lock Safari Vancouver, BC Mul-T-Lock 1 Lock Safari Vancouver, BC Mul-T-Lock 2 Lock Safari Vancouver, BC Mul-T-Lock 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This lock was marked “US-1 LOCK” and had a keyway that looks quite similar to a Mul-T-Lock.  Unfortunately I can’t confirm that, and it is possible it is a copy of the Mul-T-Lock.

Lock Safari Vancouver, BC Mul-T-Lock 4

I was very pleased to find a DOM dimple key lock in the wild; these are uncommon in the US.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get a better photograph.

Lock Safari Vancouver, BC DOM

I also witnessed several examples of Schlage Primus in the large-format interchangable core configuration.

Lock Safari Vancouver, BC Schlage

That covers all of the high-security locks I was able to find on this trip.  However, I did manage to find some other, more interesting stuff.  Some of it is truly unique, and I have seen it nowhere else.  The first is this rim-mounted lock.  The keyway is familiar to me; I ran across a padlock with a strikingly similary keyway that was extracted from Kenya circa 2013.  BosnianBill has done a video on another padlock with the same keyway here.

Lock Safari Vancouver, BC Rim Lock w Smiley KeywayI found a very nice 7-lever padlock.  This specimen was on a gate over a storefront and has seen some use.  This large 60mm padlock appears to be marked “PLAZA”.

Lock Safari Vancouver, BC LeverI also saw exactly one disc-detainer lock, in fairly poor condition.  It appears to be an inexpensive Chinese knock-off of Abloy or Abus rotating disc locks.

Lock Safari Vancouver, BC Chinese Copies 1 Lock Safari Vancouver, BC Chinese Copies 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, this is perhaps the most interesting security feature I saw on my trip.  This appears to be hardened steel cover for a cylindrical knobset.  I’m not totally sure what the purpose of this is, save to prevent someone from knocking the knob off the door, but it certainly is interesting.

Lock Safari Vancouver, BC Weird Knobset ProtectorI hope  you’ve enjoyed Lock Safari Vancouver, BC!  Some new cities are coming soon, so stay tuned!

Lock Safari Vancouver, BC: Part I

I recently had the opportunity to spend an extended weekend in Vancouver, BC.  While there, I indulged my desire to run around the city and its seedier parts to look for interesting locks.  “Lock Safari Vancouver” was a success – I found some very interesting stuff!  This post will be divided into two parts.  This first half will cover the more “pedestrian” Abloy, ASSA, and Medeco products.  Part II will cover the more odd and interesting.

Abloy: I found quite a few Abloy looks, but frustratingly none of them were door hardware.  I found only switch locks and cam locks (on apartment call boxes and mailboxes, respectively) and padlocks.  Most were Protec or Protec2.  The newer Abloy 330 padlocks of varying shackle-length were seen almost everywhere.  I was unable to closely observe the keyway on the large grey padlock in the center photo (below) but believe it to be an older (but still excellent) “Exec” model.

Lock Safari Vancouver Abloy 1 Lock Safari Vancouver Abloy 2 Lock Safari Vancouver Abloy 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASSA:  I was also quite pleased to find the ASSA Twin is fairly popular.  This design is one of my favorite high-security mechanisms (just behind the Abloy).  These presented on both residential and commercial applications.  Locks in the deadbolt or mortise cylinder form-factors were most common.  I also did not see any newer models like the V-10.  Rather, most of these locks were in the 6000-series.  Interestingly all the ones I was able to photograph did exhibit the “sneaky” key profile Han Fey talks about in page 9 of this document.

Lock Safari Vancouver ASSA 1 Lock Safari Vancouver ASSA 2 Lock Safari Vancouver ASSA 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lock Safari Vancouver ASSA 4

Medeco: Unsurprisingly I saw quite a few Medeco locks.  These were installed on both residential and commercial applications and came in several form-factors.  I saw deadbolts (residential), mortise cylinders, and one key-in-knob (KIK) cylinder.  The KIK was marked “GUNNEBO” – if anyone can give me any information on that I’d interested.  All Medeco locks were all of the latest m³ variety.

Lock Safari Vancouver Medeco 1

Lock Safari Vancouver Medeco 2 Lock Safari Vancouver Medeco 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned next week for Part II of Lock Safari Vancouver!

Security Measures Categorized

On this site I talk about a number of different security measures. Just as in my discussion of attacks and attackers it is important to have a firm understanding of security measures and exactly what type of security each provides. Though many, including me, view an alarm as a serious security upgrade it is important to realize that it does not actually make your home more difficult to get into. An alarm is merely a detective security measure; that is, it makes your home more difficult to get into undetected. There are three categories of security measures: deterring, delaying, and detective. Alternatively these categories can be thought of as “before” (deterring), “during” (delaying), and “after” (detective) security measures, based on what stage of an attack with are intended to address.

Security Measures Categorized
This sign represents a deterring security measure; the actual audio and video surveillance (if it exists) represent a detective security measure.

Category I: Deterring Measures. Deterrents are those security measures that play a role before the attack is even attempted (i.e. during the reconnaissance phase of an organized attack). Deterring security measures deter the attack from even attempting the breach by making him or her re-think your defenses in comparison to risk of compromise and his or her ability. Security measures in this category often include signs or stickers indicating the presence of an alarm, visible security cameras, etc.   Other deterring measures include motion lights, visible cameras, signs warning of alarm systems and dogs, and routine police patrols.

Deterring security measures are difficult to quantify in the digital security realm, but they exist. A password prompt for a full-disk encrypted computer may serve as a deterrent to an attacker, as may a passcode on a smartphone.

Category II: Delaying Measures. Delaying devices are those devices that play a role during the breach attempt. Locks cannot make your home impossible to get into, but they can make the task take an unacceptably long time especially if the attack is intended to go undetected. Items in this category include locks, fences, anti-shatter window film, etc., all of which are intended to slow an attacker’s progress during the breach. In some cases delaying devices may exceed an attacker’s skill level and force him to move on to an easier target.

Delaying measures are the ones the average user primarily employs on the digital perimeter. These measures include strong encryption of data-at-rest using file-level and full-disk encryption on computers, encryption of data-in-transit using HTTPS and a VPN and ensuring your Wi-Fi is encrypted, and the use of good, strong passwords.

Category III: Detective Measures. Detective security devices are the “after” measures, the ones that alert you that a breach is in progress or has already occurred or been attempted. Devices in this category include intrusion detection systems (alarms) and surveillance cameras. The presence of these types of devices may have the added benefit of serving as Category 1 security measures, but this is generally not their primary purpose. In addition to alerting us to the breach or breach attempt, Category 3 security measures can also capture images of the attacker, alert police or security, and, if overt, place severe limitations on the amount of time an attacker is willing to spend “on target”. A good example of Category III measures in the digital world are event logs.

There is some degree of overlap in these categories and you should understand exactly what benefits a given security measure provides when considering your perimeter. A high security lock is a good example of a security measure serving in multiple categories. The lock is certainly primarily intended as a Category II security measure. Because of the novel mechanisms and tight manufacturing tolerances common to high security locks it would be extremely difficult to pick or otherwise defeat covertly, delaying the attack and forcing the attacker to spend a great deal of time exposed during this process. This simple fact alone may also place it in Category I. An intruder who notices the lock may decide it is simply too difficult to defeat (and wonder what other security measures you have) and move on.  On the other hand, if the attacker is sufficiently determined to enter your home, he may make the decision to simply kick in the door or break a window. This would place the lock indirectly into Category III, as you would immediately notice a kicked-in door or broken window and know someone had been in your home. This is the chief comfort I derive from the high security locks I use: while I fully realize that a burglar could smash a window, I know with a reasonable degree of certainty that no one (except possibly a Level IV attacker) can enter my home without my knowledge.

Secure Your Physical Perimeter Part II: Protect Your Keys

Few among us give any thought to protecting our keys.  While most would recoil at the idea of giving our keys to a stranger, we hand them to valets without a second thought, leave them lying around the office, wear them visibly from belt loops, and even post pictures of them on the Internet.  A key contains a certain code that is unique to your lock, “secret” information that allows your key to open your lock and only your lock.  This information should be protected.  Leaving keys in plain sight (or worse, allowing physical access by untrusted persons) allows an attacker the opportunity to capture the information necessary to copy your key.

The Threat

First, it is important to understand the three pieces of information necessary to generate a key.  They are the key profile, the number of cuts, and the depths of each cut.  All of this information is available from the lock itself by a sufficiently skilled attacker, but the information is much more easily acquired from the key.

The key profile is the shape of the keyway into which the key is inserted.  This information is important because it dictates which key blank must be used to generate a key for that lock; if the key cannot fit into the keyway, it will not operate the lock.  There are several ways the key profile may be obtained.  First, it may simply be stamped on the key bow (the portion of the key used for turning) in the form of a code (e.g. “KW1” in the accompanying photo).  If it is not stamped it is usually fairly easy for an attacker to make an educated guess.  The photo below depicts a Kwikset key alongside the keys for three aftermarket locks.  Each of these locks utilize Kwikset specifications and the bows of each are a similar shape.  An attacker seeing a key bow of this shape could be reasonably certain of the keyway and the necessary blank (KW1).

Protect Your Keys
These keys are all instantly recognizable by their bows as using the Kwikset key profile and keying specifications, even though only one is a true Kwikset-brand key.

Once the key profile has been ascertained, an attacker must determine the number of cuts.  The attacker can make an intelligent guess as the vast majority of locks (at least in the US) adhere to the following protocol: residential locks usually have five pins while commercial locks are generally more likely to have six.  The attacker doesn’t have to leave this to guesswork, however.  The cuts on keys are what we generally misunderstand because we usually have no idea what we are looking at.  The important information in a key is the flat cut beds (the “valleys”) on the key.  Each valley is where a pin will sit when the key is fully inserted into the lock.  Simply counting the cut beds in the key will yield the number of cuts.  In some cases referencing manufacturer’s specifications can also be helpful; some manufacturers may offer certain locks in only five- or six-pin configurations.  Referencing manufacturer’s specifications can also help us with the last step, determining the depth of each cut.

The key profile and number of cuts are not considered the “secret” information in the key.  The unique combination of cut depths is, however, and this information is what makes your key different from those of your neighbors’.  This is the information that gives your key its unique code and as stated early in this article, allows it to open your lock while preventing it from opening others.  The cut depths are described in what is called a key code.  In Kwikset locks, for instance, a “1” cut will be the shallowest possible cut and a “6” will be the deepest possible cut according to manufacturer cut specifications.  There are several ways that an attacker may acquire the key code; obtaining a direct code, “sight-reading”, or measuring the key.  Once the key code has been obtained, this information can be input into a key machine to produce a working key.

Obtaining a direct code is by far the easiest method of obtaining a key code.  On OEM (factory) keys, this code is frequently stamped on the bow of the key.  The direct code consists of a five- or six-digit number, each correlating directly to a cut position and the depth of cut in that position.  The key in the photo below gives up all its secrets at a glance.  The shape of the bow is indicative that the key uses a KW1 key profile.  Secondly, there is a direct code stamped on the bow, the numbers “36645”.  This gives us the number of cuts (5) and the depth of each cut—everything we need to cut an operating key for the lock.

Protect Your Keys
A direct code on a key. The numbers on the bow correlate directly to the depth of the cuts on the blade.

If an attacker is sufficiently familiar with the system, he may not even need to see a direct code.  He can compare the cuts and make a reasonable determination of the depth of each, a technique called “sight reading”.  It is this technique that is perhaps the most dangerous because all it requires is a quick look at your keys (or worse yet, a photo).  Finally, if an attacker has physical access to your keys he can measure the depth of each cut with any number of tools (including a caliper, a key-measuring gauge, or specially-cut “depth and space” keys).

 

The Patch

There are some simple measures you can take to prevent key-duplication attacks.

  • Keep your keys out of sight. Keep them in a pocket, a purse, or use a pouch that keeps them covered, and never, ever post pictures of you keys online!!!  Likewise, don’t leave your keys unattended; all too often I see people leave their keys lying on their desks, etc.
  • When giving keys to a valet, mechanic, or anyone else who requires your car key, only give them the car key. There is no need to give out your house key, mailbox key, and office key to someone who only needs access to the car.  Additionally, some cars offer mechanical keys that are designated as valet keys which are specially cut to operate the door and ignition, but not storage compartments such as the glove box and trunk.  If your car has one, use it.
  • When giving keys to service personnel who require repeated access to your home such as dog-walkers, babysitters, cleaners, etc., inquire about their company’s policy regarding keys. Look for a service provider that has a policy offering rekeying of your locks if they lose your key.
  • Never leave a key hidden outside your home. If someone finds the key he or she may simply steal it.  Theft is the best case scenario because you know it is gone the first time you look for it (though this may be weeks or months later) and can change your locks.  The worst-case scenario is the attacker duplicating your key and replacing it; now, not only does the attacker have a key, but you have no idea that he does.
  • Have your keys cut on “neuter-bow” blanks. These are blanks that have a non-descript bow that does not bear the key profile code, does not have a distinctive shape that could reveal information, and is certainly not stamped with a direct code.  Further, most neuter-bow keys also bear the warning, “Do Not Duplicate” which may provide a very small measure of protection against unauthorized duplication (don’t let this give you a false sense of security about passing out your keys; many locksmiths and retail locations will still provide duplicates of so-called DND keys).
Protect Your Keys
Two keys, one cut on a standard Schlage-pattern bow, and one cut on a neuter bow.
  • Purchase and install UL-listed high security locks. Most high-security keys have unique, novel mechanisms that are very difficult to copy.  They are also usually patented and the key blanks are only available to authorized dealers.  Further, to have a duplicate made, a special key duplication card is often required along with a photo ID.  Finally, some high security mechanisms have a moveable element within the key.  If this element (specifics vary) cannot or does not move it simply will not operate the lock.  Because this type of key is so complex there is very little chance of an attacker manufacturing an improvised blank upon which he can copy your key.

Real World Example

A recent news item highlights this danger.  The Washington Post published a story about the TSA, and in it included a photograph of a set of TSA luggage keys.  These keys are a declared backdoor in TSA-approved locks, allowing officers to inspect bags but, theoretically, keeping the bag secured from everyone else.  The posting of the photo became a story itself because of the easy ability to reproduce keys from a photograph, as we will discuss below.  The photograph of the keys not longer appears on the Washington Post, but very good photos are available here, here, and here.

The next post in the Secure Your Physical Perimeter series will cover some steps you can take to increase the physical security of your locks.

The Privacy and Security Benefits of a P.O. Box or CMRA

As a privacy advocate I am constantly surprised at the number of people who freely give out their home address without a second thought.  It shocks me endlessly that people will give over their actual, physical home address in exchange for slight discounts on groceries, when creating accounts for online services of all types, to have a miniscule chance of winning a new car, etc.  I would never dream of giving out my true home address for any of these reasons, and I always take pains to avoid it for reasons that are much more serious than these.

IMG_2104

Regardless of this and the fact that much of we all still need to receive mail.  Receiving this mail at home opens you up to a number of vulnerabilities including:

Mail Theft:  Mail theft still happens and it recently happened to one of my clients.  Some of her checks were stolen and forged for cash.  To conceal the crime the thief (who knew where she lived because her address was on her checks) stole her bank statements from her mailbox.  She did not know she had been the victim of a crime for several months.  I am continually surprised at the vast numbers of people who are content to let bank statements, pre-approved credit card offers, utility bills, and other very sensitive items be left in an unsecured mailbox for hours or days at a time.  The theft of such personal information could lead to identity theft, credit fraud, and other crimes.

Much of this threat can be alleviated by going paperless where possible.  Just ensure that you are securing your online accounts with unpredictable usernames, good, strong passwords, and two-factor authentication.

Social Engineering:  A quick glance at mere junk mail from your mailbox can reveal your name and the names of your family members and roommates.  This information can be used to launch a social engineering attack against you.  How would you react if someone appeared at your door and seemed to know the names of all the members of the household?  An attacker could use this information to convince you (or your children) that he or she is a trusted figure.  This information could be used in a variety of imaginative ways to manipulate you or your family.

Data Marketing:  Though the threats of mail theft and social engineering are relatively rare ones, the possibility of your name being associated to your home address through the mail you receive is all but guaranteed.  When you order a package from an online retailer your name and address is added to their database and will eventually be sold to data marketers.  Then Fedex, UPS, and yes, even the US Postal Service will collect this same name and address data and sell it to data marketers yet again.  The end result of this, in addition to tons of junk mail, is that your home address and name are in numerous databases, many of which are available on open-source internet sites.

THE BENEFITS

Using a post office box or commercial mail receiving agency (CMRA)(such as Fedex or UPS stores) you can be reasonably assured that your mail is secure.  It is stored behind lock and key until you come get it, and many such facilities have security cameras. This does not mean that a very determined adversary could not access it, but it is still much safer than it is in an open mailbox on your street.

There are some additional benefits to using a CMRA that are not offered by the U.S. Postal Service, and CMRAs are subject to the same strict security standards as the U.S. Postal Service.  For example, they cannot give your mail to anyone who has not been added to the mailbox and who does not present a photo ID.

Package Delivery:  If you are expecting a package it is much a CMRA it can be received and held by a CMRA.  In contrast Fedex and UPS will not deliver to Post Office boxes.  If a signature is required for the package a representative from the store will sign for it, as well, preventing you from missing an important delivery, and preventing packages from sitting unattended on you front porch.

Street Address:  Rather than having to give out a P.O. Box, with a CMRA you will be given a street address and box number.  Though you cannot use a CMRA as your home address for official records like drivers’ licenses (because they are flagged as commercial facilities), you can give this address out to many parties without it being obvious it is a mail receiving agency.  You can further obscure the nature of your address by adding “Apt” or “Suite” in front of the box number; you mail will still find you, but the address will appear to be a residential or business address.

Using a P.O. Box or a CMRA will make you neither invisible nor anonymous.  But if you have taken steps to obscure you home address to prevent identity theft, stalking, or other threats against you, using one will help prevent your name from being associated with your physical location.  You can make this pay off even more by getting a mailbox in another city or town.  For example, when I had a “normal” job and commuted, my CMRA mailbox was in the town in which I worked, which was roughly 30 miles from my home.  I created quite a trail of information to that mailbox, but it was far enough away from my home that I didn’t lose any sleep over it.

Secure Your Physical Perimeter Part I: Rings of Security

I am a fan of security of all types.  I enjoy thinking about security theory and examining security problems.  I like messing with security systems, both offensively and defensively.  My interest in security is not confined to the digital world – I also greatly enjoy entertaining problems and considering solutions to physical security.  As such, this post will begin a series of posts on physical security and serve as a jumping-off point for a number of future posts.

This post is the first in a series called “Secure Your Physical Perimeter”.  This series will start from the outside and work inward in an attempt to create a physical defense-in-depth by considering concentric rings of security.  When most people think of “home security” they imagine getting an alarm and perhaps upgrading their locks.  While these are good measures to take, security should begin much further away.  It is far better to mitigate threats before they get close to your door than it is to wait until they are on your porch.

Motion-Lights
These RAB Super Stealth Motion Lights are a good deterrent and improve the physical security of almost any home.

1. The neighborhood:  Your neighborhood or building should function as your outermost ring of security  As simple (and perhaps undesirable) as it sounds, this means getting to know your neighbors and letting them know a little bit about you.  Your neighbors will remember the car at your house or the guy in you apartment building that doesn’t belong there.  They will notice if your car is gone but your door is wide open.  They will be skeptical of the “salesman” that doesn’t quite look the part.  Neighbors can call the police or fire department on your behalf if you are not home (or perhaps if you are).  It far less likely, however, that your neighbors will take an active interest in this if they haven’t at least shaken your hand and learned your name.

Your neighborhood, street, and apartment building are the outermost rings of your phsyical perimeter.  The specifics of your situation will dictate the rings of your outer perimeter, but don’t be afraid to get creative.  I value my privacy as highly as my security, so I am hesitant to give my neighbors too much information about me.  I do tell them enough so that they can help me.  My neighbors know my name, telephone number, and a working email address.  They also know that I travel constantly and I have asked each of them to “keep an eye” on my house when I am gone.  All of them are glad to help, and my next-door neighboor Jack has called me several times when things didn’t look right.  Each time I thanked him profusely and brought him a small gift upon my return, and now when I return from a trip Jack gives me a full report of everything that happened around my house.

If you don’t function well in meat-space or just don’t wish to have your neighbors over for dinners and get-togethers, check out Robin Dreeke’s It’s Not All About Me: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone. (affiliate link).  It works.

2. Your yard, property line, or building:  Moving inward, the next dinstinct ring of security is your property.  If you live in an apartment building, this overlaps with the previous section and would be your apartment building.  Your yard is a dividing line between you and the rest of the world; you own or rent it, and encroachment on it is an escalation beyond simply being on your street.  As such, you want to be able to see anyone who is on your property and doing so can reduce the likelihood of criminal activity moving beyond your street.

  • Trim your shrubbery. Any shrubbery that would give an individual a concealed approach to your house should be cut back. Though it sounds overly simple, depriving a burglar of a concealed approach can make him feel exposed and uncomfortable.
  • Use motion lights in the yard. Being surprised by motion lights coming on unexpectedly can be shocking and may deter an attacker. Buy ones that are light sensitive so that they will not be activated in the day time.  I like the RAB Super Stealth Motion Lights (affiliate link) in the photo accompanying this article.  I use these lights because they work; the sensitivity can be adjusted to reduce false positives and they have an adjustment to control how long the lights stay on after they are activated.  This light also has a 360-degree bottom-facing sensor to increase their utility and prevent tampering.
  • Leave your porch lights on. An attacker would much prefer to do his or her work on a darkened porch instead of a well-lit one. Moreover, concerned neighbors are more likely to see the potential intruder and alert you and the police to his presence.
  • Advertise your alarm system. Place an alarm company sign in the front yard and stickers on your doors.
  • Keep your valuables out of plain sight. An intruder should not be able to look inside and see laptops, cameras, firearms, jewelry, or any item that can easily be carried away and quickly converted to cash.
The UL-Listed high-security lock and the alarm system can serve as both deterring and delaying security measures.
The UL-Listed high-security lock and the alarm system can serve as both deterring and delaying security measures.

3. Your house or apartment:  Your home, whether a house, apartment, condo, mobile home, or camper is your refuge and in almost every case, your innermost ring of security.  Sadly, this ring of security is usually the only one that most people think of when they are considering home security; as I mentioned earlier I attempt to mitigate threats well before they reach this ring.  There are a great deal of techniques that can be implemented at this ring of security, though.

  • Always lock your doors and windows. If you have one, arm your alarm system. Locks and alarms do no good if they are not used.
  • Use high-quality locks and ensure they are correclty installed.  Install UL-listed high security lock or increase the security of standard security locks (I will discuss increasing the security of locks in an in-depth, upcoming series).
  • Do NOT hide a key outside your home. A patient thief can find your key as can anyone who sees you retrieve or replace it. A much better alternative is to leave a key with a trusted friend or elsewhere “offsite.” A hidden key is an example of “security through obscurity” and is a serious security vulnerability.
  • Secure any utility panels on the outside of your home with a good padlock. Similarly, lock any secondary spaces like your crawlspace.

In addition to the above, make it difficult to tell if you are at home or away, especially when you are away. This will deter opportunistic attackers and make the job of a focused attacker more difficult. Most burglars do not want to risk bumping into a homeowner because it could result in violence and police, not to mention a failure to get your valuables. The following are some tips to make your home appear to be occupied at all times:

  • Continue routine home care when you are absent. If you are going to be gone for more than a few days, ask a neighbor or pay a service to mow your lawn and pick up your mail and newspaper. An unkempt lawn, an overflowing mailbox, or a pile of newspapers in the yard are tell-tale signs that you are away. This makes your home an attractive break-in target.
  • Use lamp timers. Lamp timers turn lights on and off at set times, which give the appearance of someone being home. Fairly sophisticated timers (affiliate links) are available, allowing you to program lights to turn on at different times each day, up to three or four times per day. Some timers can even be programmed to turn lights on and off randomly to avoid setting predictable patterns.
  • Use noise to your advantage. Used effectively, talk radio can sound like a conversation or someone watching television. Set a radio on a lamp timer to stay on from morning until bedtime, and turn the volume so it can be heard softly just outside a door.
  • Use blinds and curtains to your advantage. When you go out of town do not close every blind in the house as this looks odd. Instead, close blinds or curtains as you would during your normal routine such those in the family room and your bedroom.
  • Park in the garage if you have one. If you park in the driveway instead of your garage it is easy for a thief or targeted attacker to tell when you are home and when you are not. Also, when not in use, keep your garage door closed.
  • Place blinds over garage windows. This accomplishes two goals: 1) it prevents an attacker from seeing whether your car is in your garage and determining if you are home, and 2) it helps make your home an unattractive target by making it difficult for a thief to see the valuables stored in your garage.

Taking these simple steps will make your home much, much more secure than most.  If you are being targeted by a specific threat these measures may not be enough, but they will provide a good layer of protection against an opportunistic attacker.