Alarm(ed)

I moved to a new house, and want my (admittedly not too) humble abode to be nice and secure.

I – perhaps naively with hindsight – thought I might simply call a local alarm company and they’d come and install an alarm. It turns out though that, much like the electricians in the area, it’s really quite hard to get somebody to come and do some simple work in exchange for money.

Apparently I’m in the wrong business then. Electricians two years out of their snot-nosed apprenticeships and their ilk don’t just turn down work; they don’t even respond to enquiries! At least I had one alarm company respond. They quoted silly money to do the job though, so no cigar there…

So, I figure if I can design and build billion-dollar technical estates I can deal with an alarm system. And, pleasantly, it turns out my 2 year-old could probably do so too. Remember that the next time you need an alarm system.

Pro tips:

  • Avoid Yale systems. They’re apparently simple, and trivial to jam and defeat.
  • Avoid “cloud” alarms. I work in this industry, and can tell you first hand that it’s a BAD idea to place this stuff on the Internet. Our neighbour’s complaint that he couldn’t set his alarm when his broadband went down only proves my point!
  • Be wary of monitored alarms that have high monthly costs. Rules are fairly strict around what alarm conditions can generate a police response… essentially not many, so what’s the point?!
  • Avoid shock sensors. They sound great in theory, but a bit of reading suggests they provide a good way for an attacker to probe the responsiveness of any monitoring company before breaking in for real.
  • Weigh up the technical security of a wired system against the pain-in-the-ass of wiring it.

If you go wireless:

  • Select a system with bi-directional encrypted communications and anti-jamming tamper detection.
  • Draw a floor plan with all your sensors mapped out, and number them on plan and physically on each device.
  • Learn (sync/pair/etc.) and configure each sensor at the table all in one go.
  • Don’t forget that tamper circuits trigger outside of engineer mode: 120dB at 30cm is nothing short of painful!

I ended up opting for Pyronix Enforcer. I toyed with a Texecom Premier Elite too, but was advised it has unresolved firmware issues presently.

The end result was about 3 hours to read the manual and configure everything, and another 2-3 hours screwing sensors to doors and walls.

That’s about £160/hour then. Like I say, I’m in the wrong business.