Beware of the Snake Oil

So browsing through my FB feeds this morning I saw this “paid advertisement.”

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 7.15.30 AM

I all the sudden felt a recon red team exercise coming on. I go head and click on over to the website. There was a lot of snake oil in that page and as someone who understands this crap from a system’s perspective, any time you use wireless there are serious possibilities for remote vulnerabilities or exploits. So when I saw this line, my bull crap meter red lined.

Old wired technology. Traditional alarm companies want to put wires in your walls, because they know that ripping their wires out is hard and expensive.

On that above quote, let me tell you, removing wires is not that difficult. It’s called a pair of dykes, knife, spackle, and paint.  I can “remove” that wire in about 5 minutes for about 15 bucks. Actually I can remove every wire associated to any alarm system.  Hell if it’s actually dropped into an electrical box, just put a blank cover plate on it for like 10 cents.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept and give it two thumbs up from that stand point and for most burglars this will probably be fine, until someone makes an App that turns off, disables, or denies service to any SimpliSafe system. Given the sensors communicate wirelessly with a central base station, this seems not only possible, but very within the realm of possibility.

Further as it’s a wireless system said app can now tell me which homes have something inside that they feel the need to protect using a system that I am now capable of disabling.

As I said above, great concept but if one thing as an engineer has taught me, especially with some time in product development, I have never seen someone come in with an idea and really consider security and take it serious from the start. It’s always an afterthought and treated like a bug. Even more than that, wireless is often thrown around like a buzzword as if it’s somehow better just because.  There are serious benefits to wireless but like everything it’s a trade-off.

If I had extra time now I’d totally pick up a system to beat the crap out of. My advice, it’s probably better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick but eventually it will be the equivalent of painting an invisible radiating target on your house. For the most part you’re not protecting your house from people like me which is the one saving grace. That said, this will be a joke to any determined attacker for the reasons outlined above.

If they want to send me a system to evaluate, seriously not asking cause my time is precious right now, I’m more than happy to withdraw my basic observations above should they be proven wrong.

*Again I haven’t actually dug into said product, this is based on a review of their site literature and advertising. I am merely providing this as an educational service and food for thought. If you’re from SimpliSafe and feel epic butt-hurt from the above, contact me and we can chat about it.

Barron is the owner, editor, and principal author at The Minuteman, a competitive shooter, and staff member for Boomershoot. Even in his free time he’s merging his love and knowledge of computers and technology with his love of firearms.

He has a BS in electrical engineering from Washington State University. Immediately after college he went into work on embedded software and hardware for use in critical infrastructure. This included cryptographic communications equipment as well as command and control devices that were using that communications equipment. Since then he’s worked on just about everything ranging from toys, phones, other critical infrastructure, and even desktop applications. Doing everything from hardware system design, to software architecture, to actually writing software that makes your athletic band do its thing.

About Barron

Barron is the owner, editor, and principal author at The Minuteman, a competitive shooter, and staff member for Boomershoot. Even in his free time he’s merging his love and knowledge of computers and technology with his love of firearms. He has a BS in electrical engineering from Washington State University. Immediately after college he went into work on embedded software and hardware for use in critical infrastructure. This included cryptographic communications equipment as well as command and control devices that were using that communications equipment. Since then he’s worked on just about everything ranging from toys, phones, other critical infrastructure, and even desktop applications. Doing everything from hardware system design, to software architecture, to actually writing software that makes your athletic band do its thing.
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4 Responses to Beware of the Snake Oil

  1. Linoge says:

    If I had to make a wild-assed assumption, the third, unnamed security company in this article is SimpliSafe, and you appear to be correct on every count.

    That said, we actually use SimpliSafe, and have for a number of years now. Why? We initially got it when we were in an apartment and moving to another apartment, and wired systems just were not going to work. After that, it was just a matter of inertia.

    They were initially marketing to apartment-dwellers, and I still think that is a pretty good tactic, but this whole “WIRES ARE TEH EBIL” schtick is just dumb.

    Still, if you are ever out this way, you are welcome to see how not-secure it is.

  2. NotClauswitz says:

    Our “new” house came wired – we like it. :-) Wires are not evil anyhow, they’re just there.

  3. oldnfo says:

    They are ‘preying’ on the gullible public…

  4. Jake says:

    While you are correct, it’s still better than no security system at all – as long as you understand its limitations. It’s effective against one of the simpler types of burglar – the ones determined enough that they will not hesitate to force a door or window, but dumb enough or casual enough to not worry about a security system unless they trigger it. It’s good for people who can’t afford or are otherwise prevented from installing a more robust security system.