7 Ways You Can Increase Your Home Security This Summer by Adam Quirk

During the summer, we tend to make the best use of our homes – we invite friends over and open the curtains and the windows to let the world and plenty of fresh air in. But it’s still important to make sure that your home is secure over the summer months. Here are seven ways that you can do that.

Install An Alarm

First of all, it’s vital that you install an alarm. Speak to your friends and family members to get recommendations for local companies that can do this for you, and make sure that you pick an alarm system that’s suitable for your lifestyle. Some people might want to put an alarm on at night downstairs while they’re asleep, whereas if you have teenage children who come home late at night this might not be a priority for you. Make sure that it’s obvious from the outside of your house that you have an alarm installed – companies will install a box on the front of your house and give you stickers to put on your windows. These will discourage any opportunistic thieves from targeting your home.

Keep Those Windows Closed

privacyDuring the summer, a lot of us keep our windows open so that we can have breezes in our home and plenty of fresh air. If you work at home, keeping the windows open is a good way to get some sunlight and warm air without getting completely distracted from your work. But if you go out, it’s absolutely vital to make sure that you close and lock your windows. You may get home to a warm house, but it will be absolutely worth it to ensure that your home doesn’t become an easy target.

Keep Valuable Items Out Of Sight

A lot of us spend half our lives using electronic items such as TVs, tablets, laptops and expensive smartphones, but it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t keep them in sight of the windows. Passers-by shouldn’t be able to see that you’ve recently bought a brand new iPad, so when you’ve finished using it, make sure that you put it away instead of leaving it out in plain view of anyone who might happen to walk by your window. Although people should be able to restrain themselves from stealing, the fact remains that you should do your best to make sure that you aren’t a target. Put your expensive possessions away and keep them out of sight of the windows.

Check Your Doors And Windows

Not everyone’s house is completely new and up to date, and if that’s the case with you, it’s time to get your doors and windows replaced. Double glazed windows with locks are probably the most secure. Some people have bars on the inside of their windows, but if they ruin the look of your house, they absolutely aren’t necessary to keep it secure. Wooden door and window frames aren’t especially secure, as they can degenerate and warp over time, meaning that they may be easier to break into. Securely fastened modern doors and windows will prove to be much steeper obstacles for thieves to get past, meaning that your home will be less likely to be targeted.

Think Like A Burglar

Take a good hard look at the outside of your home and think about it like a burglar – is there a tree right next to a window that would make it easy to climb in? Is your garage door rickety and easily broken? Are there any rain-swollen window frames that would be easy to break into? You may see your home as your sanctuary for yourself and your family, but you need to take a step back and view it with cold hard cynicism instead.

Be Careful On Social Media

Social MediaThis time of year, a lot of people are going away on vacation. If you’re planning to do so, don’t talk about it on social media. It can be tempting to tweet a countdown of days until you get to escape gray skies for the sun and the sea, but that essentially means that you’re advertising to anyone who can see your tweets that your home will be empty for an extended period of time. Likewise, when you’re actually away, make sure that you save posting the Instagram pictures of clear blue water and mimosas until you’re home. Aside from the security concerns, you’re on vacation to enjoy yourself – what’s the point in inducing FOMO in everyone who follows you?

Get A Dog

Finally, if you’ve been considering getting a dog, now could be the time to do it. You don’t have to get any sort of vicious animal that’s likely to attack any intruders, but it is a good idea to have a pet who’s likely to make a lot of noise if someone they don’t know enters the house. Of course, home security isn’t the only reason that you should get a dog – you should make sure that you have plenty of time and energy to devote to your pup. But the presence of a dog in a house can absolutely discourage anyone from trying to break in.

If you use plenty of common sense, your home should be easy to secure this summer – make sure that you close and lock your windows and doors and that you don’t broadcast it when your house is empty, and you should be perfectly safe.


Adam Quirk

Adam Quirk is a licensed private investigator and criminal justice professional with over 15 years of professional experience in the field.

How To Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft On Social Media

Providing information about ourselves online is part and parcel of modern life. Social media channels are almost unavoidable, and yet worryingly the likes of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp provide nasty hackers with a readymade menu of information about our interests, whereabouts and daily schedule of activities.

So how can you and your loved ones protect yourselves? This is what you need to know about staying safe online:

1. Be Smart About Passwords

Cell Phone on KeyboardRemembering all our passwords can feel like a full-time job! But taking password protection seriously is important. Having something as simple as 1234 or ‘password’ is leaving you wide open to identity theft. So when using social media sites be sure to set them up with a variety of passwords that include upper case and lower case letters as well as at least one number.

If you’re worried about remembering them all, sign up with a password manager like 1Password. That way they are all securely stored in one handy place. Disabling any auto-logins is also a really smart idea. As well as meaning you’re more likely to remember your passwords, it also makes it harder for your information to be stolen.

2. Not Everyone is Your Friend

Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t recognize and be especially careful about opening links; even from people that you are connected with. Their personal security may well have been compromised, and you could be being lured into the same trap. So check the content of every message before clicking.

3. Remember Nothing is Private

privacyWhatsApp or Snapchat may feel like private conversations but they aren’t! You wouldn’t shout out your checking account details or Social Security Number to people on the street, and you should consider that conversations on messenger apps are exactly the same.

4. Turn Off Location Based Settings

When an app or website asks to know your location be sure to decline. That way hackers can’t track your whereabouts and use this information against you. The same goes for tagging yourself in places on the likes of Instagram and Facebook.

5. Tidy Up Old Profiles

You may no longer use your Myspace account but that doesn’t mean it can’t be found and the information used to build a picture about you. So log back in and close any profiles that aren’t in active use.

6. Check Out Your Privacy Settings

Social MediaIt’s pretty normal for social media sites to opt you in to lax privacy settings, so it’s a smart idea to go in and take a look at how accessible you are to online perpetrators. Make your accounts private or inaccessible to anyone but friends.

7. Monitor Your Children’s Social Media Activity

Children are using social media sites younger and younger these days, so it’s important to have a handle on the apps and websites they are accessing. Warn them about revealing personal information and that people may not always be who they say they are online. Hackers will often target children given that they are more likely to offer up information about themselves.


Adam Quirk, MBA & MCJ

Adam Quirk, MBA & MCJ, is a criminal justice professional from Wisconsin, as well as a licensed private investigator, true crime blog writer, and world traveler.

Hacked: How To Spot A Home Network Security Breach

401044-securityThe vast majority of homes in the U.S. have at least one wi-fi network. Thankfully, setting up these in-home networks can be a fairly easy task. However, keeping them safe requires cybersecurity awareness and vigilance. Living in an interconnected world has made it easy for people to go about their day-to-day tasks. Sadly, the average internet user can be a target of identity thieves and hackers online. The good news is, you don’t need to be a Cybersecurity expert to keep your home wireless network safe. Here are some ways to detect if a home network has been hacked:

Computers in the network receive the same virus and anti-virus notifications.

Home network security breaches can easily begin with one infected desktop computer, laptop or tablet.   A cyber hacking attack typically starts with one computer.   When one of the devices, typically PCs, have a virus, it can spread easily to the other devices connected to the network.  Using infected USBs and hard drives can also contribute to the damage. Make sure to protect all of your devices with the latest anti-virus software, and be sure to install updates on a regular basis. Better yet, set the software to automatically update in order to ensure the best protection. You can download free anti-virus programs like Avast that will provide excellent protection for your computers.

Computers automatically download unwanted programs and browsers.

Adam QuirkBe careful when clicking links in web pages and emails.  Avoid clicking promotions for apps before clicking on them to download.  Unfortunately, some of the so-called antivirus programs do more harm than good by automatically downloading unwanted browsers and dialog boxes that can lead to stolen information. Rather thank clicking through every box when installing programs or applications on your devices, take a close look at what you’re actually downloading to be sure there are no unwanted applications or programs being installed.

Users receive suspicious e-mails.

When a home network has been hacked, important information such as e-mail addresses can be used to steal further from a user.  Emails from a friend’s unused address or from seemingly legit organizations can be a phishing scam.  When people from one network get the same kind of e-mails, their security might have been compromised.

The wi-fi connection is unusually slow and there are suddenly unknown computers connected to the network.

Adam QuirkIt’s easy to leech off a neighbor’s wi-fi connection especially if is not properly secured.  One of the tell-tale signs of a home network breach is if there are suddenly more computers connected to the network. For some, the hacking goes as far as controlling mouse clicks and movements and copying files from the users’ computers.

To prevent hacking attacks, it’s important to regularly check network your security. Passwords must be regularly changed and important information should always be backed up in the cloud or in another hard drive.  Also, users should only download files and programs from legit sources to prevent falling prey to phishing scams.

One of the most common precautions but usually overlooked step when it comes to home network security is to set up a firewall and encrypt the connection.  Others just set up their home Wi-Fi without even putting a password on their connection, making them an easy target.  Aside from these steps, filtering MAC addresses will also help in preventing unknown computers join the network.

 

Kardashians at Gunpoint: Social Media Sharing and Personal Safety

Love her or hate her, Kim Kardashian’s recent robbery at gunpoint — bound, gagged, and locked in her hotel suite’s bathroom while gun-wielding thieves stole over 10 million dollars’ worth of Kim picjewelry, technology, and personal belongings — has given rise to an important discussion about personal safety in the age of social media. In the past, our updates on a celebrity’s whereabouts were confined to paparazzi photos which generally wouldn’t be posted until days after an event. These days, however, social media applications like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat make it possible to share a much greater volume of personal information, and celebrities like the Kardashians keep the public continuously up-to-date by posting about their lives on a near-hourly basis.

It isn’t just celebrities sharing this wealth of information, however. Social media is an integral part of everyday life for the general public too. Snapchat alone boasts an average of 400 million

Snap Chatphotographs and videos shared every day. Each of these posts automatically includes the user’s location, and it has been suggested that Kim Kardashian’s numerous snaps during her stay in Paris may have made it possible for the thieves to track her down without ever being spotted.

This issue had been discussed, in fact, on a recent episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, which tackled the issue of social media location sharing. Kim’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, had fallen victim to a stalker, and the family discussed how her Instagram sharing (always including her location) may have made her particularly vulnerable. This issue received high-profile media attention during the so-called Bling Ring robberies of 2008, when a group of LA teenagers tracked celebrities’ whereabouts through online posts and ransacked their houses when the celebs were away. At the time, these violations seemed worlds away from the general public. What kind of average Joe could be tracked through photos of them going to restaurants and on weekend trips?

These days, however, many people share information about themselves online. Check through your own recent social media posts; you’ll probably find that a surprising number give away your Social Mediawhereabouts either directly (the app includes your location by default) or indirectly (you or your friends mention where you are). Sometimes you don’t even have complete control over the situation, as friends or family post about you without your knowledge.

It used to be enough to leave the radio on to fool robbers when you went on vacation, but now a social media post (that you didn’t even send) could give away the information that your home is empty, or that you’re out at a bar with your expensive phone. You could easily find yourself in Kim Kardashian’s position. Maybe you don’t have jewelry worth millions of dollars with you at any given moment, but you probably have something you’d be devastated to lose, and an armed robbery is a terrifying prospect for anyone.

This form of crime isn’t restricted to the super-famous, super-rich, or super-active on social media. Even the average person can be tracked through social media posting, and innovative criminals are using these posts to find new targets. Social media applications are bringing the world closer together and creating new means of communication, but you shouldn’t dive headfirst into over-sharing without considering the risks.

Make sure to keep your profile on private (see tip #9) so that only people you’ve connected with can see your posts, and accept only people that you know and trust. Alternatively, if you are adamant about Safetykeeping your location information public, then save media to your phone while it’s on Airplane Mode and post it later, so that your location can’t be tracked continuously; ask your friends to do the same.

Social media sharing can feel like a necessity, but there are ways to keep yourself safe once you’re aware of the risks. Keep your location and public access to a limit and stay safe. This is one thing that you certainly don’t want to have in common with the Kardashians.


Adam Quirk is a criminal justice professional with over 15 years’ investigative experience.