I’d say I told you so…

But what’s the point? The people who realize that using Javascript for everything is a bad idea don’t need me lecturing them. The people who want to use Javascript for everything couldn’t create a secure system, much less understand the realities of a hostile environment if their life depended on it. Their fandom precedes the ability for critical thinking.

This is why when I read this, this morning;

This impacts Node at the Buffer to UTF8 String conversion and can cause a process to crash. The security concern comes from the fact that a lot of data from outside of an application is delivered to Node via this mechanism which means that users can potentially deliver specially crafted input data that can cause an application to crash when it goes through this path.

I said, “And nothing will change.” At least, as a minor saving grace, HTTP(S) headers do not fall vulnerable to this particular bug, but that’s mainly the headers there is question to the remainder of the processing.

The fact is, nothing is perfect, nothing is fool-proof, and frankly my hate for Javascript is largely due to the people I find who fall over themselves defending it. Does it serve a purpose? Yup, you bet. Is is a hammer that should be used while seeing every problem as a nail? Absolutely NOT.

 

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.

Screw The Facebooks…

So if you’re friends/follow me on Facebook you will have probably noticed that I, who am normally active and full of commentary have been dead silent. Not only that if you try to hit up my Facebook page it is gone. Every comment I ever wrote, everything. Facebook has scrubbed me entirely from its system.

What was my transgression I hear you ask. You would think I was excessively nasty or offensive or did something that pissed someone off and the answer to that is a simple no. That isn’t to say I don’t say things that are offensive to some or that I don’t poke the bear, it’s just that I don’t do it in a manner that I walk into someone else’s house to do it.

No the burr up Facebook’s ass is they seem to think my name is not my real name. Let me repeat that, they thinks my name isn’t a real name. Evidently the idea that someone is named Barron with two r’s is just too damn hard to fathom. Now it should be noted I only used my last initial because well they wouldn’t let me suppress the damn thing otherwise. Frankly I’m not a fan of stalkers, supporting stalkers, or making it easier for stalkers, yet here Facebook is doing exactly that. Sure you could do some digging and find my Facebook page, not the one tied to the blog, but the fact of the matter is I’d rather keep the people who are missing the order of fries and the drink in their happy meal away from my personal page. I use the FB mainly to keep in touch with friends and family, if I feel like a debate it’s here or twitter. News flash Facebook, you claim this is to make sure people can find me. Everyone who knows me can find me, quite easily I might add. So please STFU.

So now that my account is disabled though, with no real note of when they will re-enable it if at all, I am wondering. Why do we need Facebook? Why do we need a centralized cloud which can censor everything? I’ve chatted with friends about a possible alternative method to remove the central gate-keeper. The main reason we haven’t is because well who cares? Facebook works right? Why is it worth my time? Well all the sudden you’ve taken the guy with the idea and the means and given him a motive.

So in the mean-time, maybe I should just blog more. Because eventually, we’re not going to need you Mark Zuckerberg and when that day comes you’ll merely be like Tom from MySpace.

https://youtu.be/PVF9lZ-i_ss

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.

Something is Afoot…

OG-AA794_GRIDAT_NS_20140204171308Back in April of 2013 there was an attack on a power station in Southern California. The attack was calculated, detailed, planned, and execute well. There were many details that perked my interest including the oil tanks being targeted instead of the windings themselves. This would limit catastrophic damage to the transformer. Additionally numerous fiber-optic lines in the area were cut, including those run by Level 3 Communications.

I have read a few writeup discussing the attack and I did come across one theory that was interesting.

Gabriel: Have you ever heard of Harry Houdini? Well he wasn’t like today’s magicians who are only interested in television ratings. He was an artist. He could make an elephant disappear in the middle of a theater filled with people, and do you know how he did that? Misdirection.
Stanley: What the f*** are you talking about?
Gabriel: Misdirection. What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.
Swordfish movie (2001)

[See the PowerPoint here]

On the morning of the 16th of April 2013 the following events unfolded at, and around, the PG&E Metcalf Transmission Substation in San Jose, Calif.:

  • 12:58 a.m. AT&T fiber-optic telecommunications cables were cut not far from U.S. Highway 101 just outside south San Jose.
  • 1:07 a.m. Some customers of Level 3 Communications, an Internet service provider, lost service. Cables in its vault near the Metcalf substation were also cut.
  • 1:31 a.m. A surveillance camera pointed along a chain-link fence around the substation recorded a streak of light that investigators from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office think was a signal from a waved flashlight. It was followed by the muzzle flash of rifles and sparks from bullets hitting the fence.
  • 1:37 a.m. PG&E confirms received an alarm from motion sensors at the substation, possibly from bullets grazing the fence.
  • 1:41 a.m. San Jose Sheriff’s department received a 911 call about gunfire, sent by an engineer at a nearby power plant that still had phone service.
  • 1:45 a.m. The first bank of transformers, riddled with bullet holes and having leaked 52,000 gallons of oil, overheated – at which time PG&E’s control center about 90 miles north received an equipment-failure alarm.
  • 1:50 a.m. Another apparent flashlight signal, caught on film, marked the end of the attack. More than 100 shell casings of the sort ejected by AK-47s were later found at the site.
  • 1:51 a.m. Law-enforcement officers arrived, but found everything quiet. Unable to get past the locked fence and seeing nothing suspicious, they left.
  • 3:15 a.m. A PG&E worker arrives to survey the damage.

The damage to the substation took 27 days to repair and cost $15.4 Million. In the substation’s 500kV yard, ten transformers were damaged; In the 230kV yard, seven transformers were damaged; In the 115kV yard, 6 circuit breakers were damaged. It was also claimed that a total of 52,000 gallons of mineral oil (used for cooling) leaked as a result of the bullet strikes.

The damage to the fiber-optic telecommunications infrastructure was repaired within 24 hours. AT&T had six cables cut and needed to install new cables to work around the affected area. LEVEL 3 Communications had one cable cut, which was repaired within 10 hours.

The attack on the substation was so over-the-top, especially given that no long-term damage was inflicted, that it more appropriately should have been an entry in Bruce Schneier’s Movie Plot Threat Contest. The trope “orgy of evidence” comes to mind because the attack was so inconsequential for the level of effort expended. Sure it lightened PG&E’s wallet and provided an opportunity for endless sound bites by consultants and lobbyists touting their employers agendas, but nobody’s lights went out as a result of this attack.

So this brings us back to Houdini’s misdirection. Two events occur, one is over-the-top and will obviously lead in the morning media, the other deals with some cut cables in holes next to railroad tracks – decidedly non-spectacular and non-photogenic.

The thing is is that the Metcalf Transmission Substation is next to railroad tracks. And it happens that the railroads’ right of way is used to run fiber-optic cables. I’m sure you’ve heard of SPRINT, which use to be SP Communications, which was founded by Southern Pacific Railroad way back when. Fiber is why all the big name companies in Silicon Valley want to be as close to the railroad tracks as possible!

If we assume that the real target was the telecommunications infrastructure, how would someone tap some of the most monitored lines in the world?

By causing the fiber cables to be so extensively damaged that new sections have to be pulled to work around the damage. This level of disruption would require that any quality/security scans performed – using optical time domain reflectometers (OTDRs) – be re-calibrated after the repairs. The new cable sections could have been pre-engineered to have clip-on couplers (passive taps) built in that exert “micro bending” (i.e., spatial wavelength displacement). If they are detectable by the OTDR they would probably show up as noise near the repaired areas and be ignored. And the voila! Job done.

The next challenge for the strike team would be getting the output from the couplers to somewhere it could be analyzed. Once it was confirmed that the couplers had not been detected, then another team could move in and install appropriate transmitters or couple them into dark fiber for back-haul to data extraction.

We may never know the who/why of this attack. The over-the-top nature of it suggests that it was corporate sponsored as opposed to sovereign. The Metcalf Substation does have some interesting corporate neighbors, but given the nature of the communications traffic flowing in that right of way just about anyone using or traversing that corridor could have been the target.

TL;DR: The substation was actually a diversion.

But there wasn’t much to give credence to the situation until I saw my inbox this morning. Let me repeat something before we start with the new data:

Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three or more times is enemy action. And I don’t believe in coincidence.

Lets start with the first article that hit my inbox, USA today.

The FBI is investigating at least 11 physical attacks on high-capacity Internet cables in California’s San Francisco Bay Area dating back a year, including one early Tuesday morning.

Agents confirm the latest attack disrupted Internet service for businesses and residential customers in and around Sacramento, the state’s capital.

FBI agents declined to specify how significantly the attack affected customers, citing the ongoing investigation. In Tuesday’s attack, someone broke into an underground vault and cut three fiber-optic cables belonging to Colorado-based service providers Level 3 and Zayo.

The attacks date back to at least July 6, 2014, said FBI Special Agent Greg Wuthrich.

(Emphasis mine.) Well that’s interesting, but it doesn’t sound all that interesting. The article does note that the incidents have occurred in remote areas but attempts to play it as merely petty vandalism to delay people from getting their cat videos. (No I’m not making it up, see this line…)

Backup systems help cushion consumers from the worst of the attacks, meaning people may notice slower email or videos not playing, but may not have service completely disrupted, he said.

But repairs are costly and penalties are not stiff enough to deter would-be vandals, Doherty said.

“It’s a terrible social crime that affects thousands and millions of people,” he said.

First you have to catch the vandals to fine them, and if this has nothing to do with vandalizing infrastructure but instead tapping it this is a very serious thing. But certainly those lines will help calm those who don’t know details, have the attention span of a squirrel, and don’t have the memory to correlate other external events that are most likely related.

Now lets flip over to the Wall Street Journal.

The latest attack hit several cables in Livermore, Calif., shortly before 4:30 a.m. Pacific time and hadn’t been repaired as of early Tuesday evening, according to several Internet service providers affected by the outage. Some operators complained that law enforcement activity made it harder for crews to fix the problem.

“It’s very inconvenient in terms of getting up at 4 in the morning,” said Peter Kranz, chief executive of local Internet provider Unwired Ltd.

FBI Special Agent Greg Wuthrich said the agency understood operators’ frustration but needed its investigators to look for evidence before anyone patches up the cuts.

“When some of the first cuts were taking place, the cuts and cables were fixed, and there was no evidence, no anything to look at,” he said. “We just need to have a little bit more time to have our people go in.”

I love the complaints about law enforcement making it difficult to repair the communication lines because they want to inspect and collect evidence. This is a classic case of “repair the problem, investigate no further on root cause.” Please stop digging you could induce panic.

Again the paper plays this off not nearly as serious almost as if it’s just some kids out pranking the world. Then we get to the local paper…

The severed fiber optic cables that disrupted Sacramento-area communications is just one in a series of 11 Bay Area incidents in the past year being investigated by the FBI.

Phone, television and Internet services were disrupted in Auburn and the surrounding areas following three severed cables in Alameda County Tuesday morning, according to the federal agency.

Since July 6, 2014, there have been 11 incidents of vandalism to fiber optic cable networks in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

FBI Special Agent Greg Wuthrich said at this point it is unclear why the cables are being damaged, but said state and federal law enforcement are coordinating on the investigation.

According to communications provider Wave Broadband, three major fiber optic cables were severed at around 4:20 a.m., causing service outages in Sacramento, Rocklin and Auburn areas.

Wait, it wasn’t just one cable shared by multiple service providers, but three different cables? Additionally as these were related to the backbone and given one of the providers involved you just tapped a decent chunk of the internet. Just what the hell is going on down there. I start searching for more information, including something on the Metcalf substation incident to try to cross reference and discover this:

The Silicon Valley power substation that was attacked by a sniper in April 2013 was hit by thieves early Wednesday morning, according to the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, despite increased security.

The substation, near San Jose, Calif., is the source of energy for thousands of customers, and the idea that it was the target of a well-organized attack, and that it might have been disabled for an extended period, raised anxieties about the possible broader vulnerability of the grid. The attack this week did not involve gunfire, and it did not seem intended to disable the facility.

The date on that “theft” is August 27, 2014. The recent string of attacks on the fibre lines started July 2014. Tell me, if you wanted to inspect the response and repair actions of an attack couldn’t you just easily disguise it as a simple theft? You could get up close and personal and inspect exactly how the substation was repaired and what additional actions were taken to harden the substation.

Look, I’m a big fan of Halon’s razor and I hate conspiracy theories because honestly 99% of them are bullshit. But we have multiple, repeat incidents. There were clues and suspicion of possible nation-state involvement which were dismissed. We have an administration who actively works to diminish the significance of attacks and events that surround us and affect us in deep and profound ways. Additionally we see that there are outside nation states who have taken a keen interest in the United States. Just look at the Office of Personnel Management hack, seriously that is a threat beyond what most realize. Then while all this is going on we have people calling to critically weaken our cyber security infrastructure, in the name of stopping terrorism.

There is someone gathering intelligence, placing equipment in the correct locations, and improving their leverage against us. We’re in a technological cold war and we’re seeing the spill over from the physical side of things. Things are not looking good, safe, or secure, especially with over 18 trillion in national debt. Stay safe and keep your powder dry.

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.

Quote of the Day – Bruce Schneier (8/26/2014)

The White House is refusing to release details about the security of healthcare.gov because it might help hackers. What this really means is that the security details would embarrass the White House.

Bruce Schneier – Security by Obscurity at Healthcare.gov Site
August 26th, 2014


[I have nothing else to add. -B]

 

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.

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.

Quote of the Day – Ry Jones (6/2/2014)

people hate being system administrators, now I have to set up ntp on my light switches?

Ry Jones – IM Chat


[This was in reference to the announcements from Apple this morning and their home automation ventures. He does have a very valid point. Just about everyone hates system administration tasks so heavily that they quite often pay other people to do it for them.
If someone said you too could automate your house, but you’ll have to maintain this network of stuff I’d just laugh and walk away.-B]

 

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.

Liberty Safes, A Review Like No Other…

So those that are friends with me on Facebook may be familiar with a recent predicament that had unbelievable timing, and not in the good way.  I have a series of lessons that many of you can learn from as well as a detailed experience of the warranty system behind Liberty Safes and S&G locks.

First let me detail what I had and what happened.  Here is my safe pre-issues.

Liberty Safe

That is a 50 CF Liberty Presidential safe.  It has an S&G Titan Direct Drive lock.  I could go into details now about the different security mechanisms but I will get to that a bit later.  The way the direct drive works is you punch in the code, a solenoid fires, at which point you can rotate the outer dial unlocking the bolt.

As my wife and I were packing up the house for the first weekend of the big move and she discovered a few items she needed to put in the safe.  She went out to the safe and then came and found me a couple of minutes later, “I think I forgot the combo she said.”  Interesting, I’ll go and try.  I walk out to the safe, punch in the code, no click, nothing, 5 seconds later it beeps as if it relocked.  Odd, try it again, same thing.  Try leaning on the door, doing everything in the list of stuff to do to get the safe open on their website.  No joy, further I know it’s the right code because I punch in a wrong one as a test, I get immediate feedback.

So, we are on a time-table and we figure we’ll call Liberty next week and schedule an appointment with a locksmith and drive back out for it.  Well folks, here’s a customer service fail and a lesson for you all if you ever find yourself needing to call Liberty.

First Lesson:

Don’t try to start a support chain by email.  I sent an email to their support contact and NEVER heard back. We turned around and called 24 hours later.

Second Lesson:

Have your safe’s serial number on hand.  It is on the packet of information that comes with the safe as well as is on the inside of the door.  Do NOT count on registering your safe to save you. I figured they could look my safe up as I had registered it, they could not.  Pissed barely begins to describe my attitude as I had to drive 5.5 hours back to the redoubt in the wheat field, hoping I could find the packet of safe info with the serial number on it.  Did I mention I was in the middle of moving and had packed up a decent chunk of my office?  Luckily I had not moved that box yet and was able to find it.  I called Liberty and everything quickly went along changing my attitude from pissed off to mildly annoyed.  It was Thursday and the locksmith will be out on Saturday.

Getting into the safe:

The lock smith arrives Saturday morning and takes one look at the safe and says, “Well shit!  That’s not the lock they told me was on there.”  We take the dial off and try a new one.  We bang on the door with a mallet trying to make sure nothing is stuck.  Alas, my thoughts were correct.  We get to drill my safe and they gave him the wrong lock type.

This has numerous impacts on things like drill points and design of operation.  He calls a buddy of his and gets the info he needs and we set to work. 20140412_120637

So behind this steel door are numerous traps and issues that can cause problems for people trying to break into a safe.  What kind of traps?  Ball bearings are the most notorious of the bunch.  What do they do to drill bits I hear you ask?  This:

20140412_125406

 

We chewed up 8 drill bits that Saturday and it took us 3 hours to get through into the lock case. Ah but we got into the lock case!  FYI, we did have to swap out for a corded hammer drill. Here’s a view of what those little bastards look like in the safe.

20140412_134221

Another drill bit that died trying to reach the lock case.

20140412_194831So we’re in, the safe should just open now right?  Well not so lucky.  You see, the numbers we had for the drill point were off by about an eighth of an inch.  We found the solenoid in the hole, but there was a vertical bar behind it too.  Here’s a picture of inside the lock, you’ll probably immediately figure out what we didn’t know.  A picture is worth a 1000 words.

20140418_101715

So looking at that image you have the solenoid, the grey box with Summit written on it, the actual moveable part, the wider shaft, and then the fixed shaft it moves on the thinnest piece.  The solenoid moves allowing the large metal bar to move up and down vertically.  That brass part turns causing the bar to raise up.  We drilled in about an eighth of an inch too far to the left.  We were smack on top of the fixed shaft but didn’t know it.  We then punched through to the back to see if the re-closer had possibly fired, it hadn’t.  In so doing we had severed the metal piece we needed to raise.

At this point we decided to call it and continue at it this week, mainly so he could find the diagram I have above and figure out exactly what was going on.  Yesterday morning he arrived about 9am.  We drilled a slightly larger diameter hole to the depth of the piece we needed to manipulate.  Grabbing metal that is flush with a hole is difficult.  We chew up 3 more bits in that process.  Then finally we start grabbing the metal but it still won’t pull up.  I had the idea to find the solenoid and push on it some more just incase it isn’t actually clear.  Bang!

20140418_115948It’s open, now what?

So now that the safe is open, we needed to remove the old lock, patch and harden the hole we made, install the new lock and then we’re done.  First we needed to remove the safe door backing.

20140418_121211

Next we see the inside.

20140418_121743I have some observations on the interior of the door along with disassembly which I will get to later.  But you can see the old lock in the middle. You can see the external re-closer to the left of the lock as well.  You will also note there is a diagonal bar running from just to the left of the lock down to the floor on the right side of the door.  First we needed to remove the old lock, easy enough, pull three screws and it’s off.

20140418_122839

You can see something covering the hole.  That’s because in this photo we’ve started to repair the safe.  We’ve packed the hole from the back side full of a steel based putty epoxy.  The from the front we add 2 more things with putty interspersed.

20140418_122945

That is a hardened steel ball bearing about the same diameter as the hole we had to drill.  That however wasn’t enough for my locksmith.  He added this little jewel.20140418_123104

That is going to seriously suck for whoever hits that will a drill.  It is a combination of carbide and steel and had to be tapped into place.  Basically your drill bit is going to have serious issues with that hole.

But Barron, the hole is still there right?  Yup and useless since I am switching lock types the position to drill out the new lock is different.  Basically someone is going to put all that effort in and be disappointed in the end.

So now we install the new lock, this time a mechanical dial, the why’s will be fully covered in the end.

20140418_125138 20140418_125309

We set the combination and he even left me the key so I can change it again later if I so choose.  It actually isn’t terribly difficult to do.  So what does the safe look like after all that?

20140418_135418

 

You can’t even see the drill point as it’s under the dial.  So now that we see what all I went through to get this detailed review, let’s go over all the things I’ve learned, my observations, what I learned from the locksmith, and any advice that I can give.

Lessons Learned:

As I mentioned at the beginning keep that damn serial number on hand.  Preferably store it in a digital form that can be accessed even in the middle of a move.  I still think Liberty should have been able to look up the info given my registration but don’t count on it.  Just store that serial number where you can find it.

Locks:

Next up, Digital Locks.  Avoid them like they will fail you because they will.  I got that digital lock after seeing better reviews than the earlier motorized version.  The locksmith informed me that the reason the previous version had so many issues is they used plastic for the gearing in side and it would strip.  They still haven’t altered that design.  The direct drive overcame this problem.

(Well damn, I forgot to take a picture of inside the original dial.)  If I had known the digital lock was made in China from the start I would have never done it. Figuring exactly what did happen would have happened further, here’s a picture inside my butchered lock for variety.

20140418_124420

See that orange cylinder in the corner.  Yeah that’s an electrolytic capacitor, my guess to keep the voltage up while the relay opens.  Problem is those types of capacitors aren’t known to last forever, far from it.  No thanks.  I figure that the design is made to die shortly after the warranty goes Tango Uniform.  I got luck and gone one that failed early.

Further they’re prone to other types of failures as well.

Warranties:

Here’s a dirty little secret that no one ever tells you.  That 5 year warranty on your lock is from the date of manufacture, not the date of sale.  Safe manufacturers do this because the lock manufacturers do it to them.  A lock failure ultimately means you’re safe is getting drilled, thus someone is going to have to foot the bill.  Liberty, like most other companies, and understandably, doesn’t want to be stuck with the bill for the failure of someone else’s product.

So again, go with the mechanical lock.  While they can fail, they are considerably more reliable, especially when properly maintained.

Lock Maintenance:

The safe companies recommend having your lock serviced once a year. My lock smith said truthfully for most people it’s about every 5 years.  It’s worth doing because there are a few parts that should be inspected just to ensure the discs don’t slip within the mechanical lock.

Safe Security:

It took us over 3 hours with the proper equipment to drill into the lock case, total it was about a days worth of work to get it open given we were off in our measurements.  That’s also given the detailed information of where to drill.  Overall I’d say this was one tough nut to crack and isn’t going to be done by your average burglar.

That said the locksmith did inform me that criminals are now using gas-powered and battery-powered cutoff wheels to cut off the sides or back of the safe since they are not as heavily hardened.  Jewelers safes pour concrete in and mixed with that concrete is re-bar, carbide chunks, aluminum and copper.

To give you a bit of background on my locksmith, he’s been doing this since he was in the Navy back in the 70’s.  He’s worked on government safes, locks, SCIFs, etc.  He knows his stuff and he pointed out that often good safes are destroyed by amateur locksmiths.

Remember, the goal of a safe is not to be impenetrable, but to buy time.  This safe bought a lot of time even against someone who knew what he was doing and had the details in advance.

What has me upset:

Well beyond the fact my lock failed, which frankly doesn’t have me happy, is what I discovered as we pulled it apart and chatting with the locksmith.

First up is this failure.

20140418_125420

Yes, that is a gap in the fire board.  Sure there is another 2 layers underneath but it doesn’t inspire confidence in those 3 layers.  A simple strip of the heat expanding tape would have worked well for that spot.

20140418_125309So if you look at the end of the screw driver you will see a small rod heading diagonally towards the ground I mentioned this earlier.  This is to prevent you from opening the bolts on your safe while the door is open.  However this design has some issues and can result in the safe refusing to lock.  If this happens to you, feel around the bottom edge of the door furthest from the hinges, there will be a rod, push it up and pull it down to try to reset it.  If that doesn’t work pull the cover off the door and look at the mechanism.

Further on the website they give the following fire rating with no caveats:

Liberty

However if you look at the inside of the door to the safe you see the following:

SafeRating

*BTU rating based on 25cf safe

So does that mean a larger safe should have its rating degraded due to its size?

Conclusions:

Liberty does stand behind their safes.  They took care of all the costs involved with this repair.  Annoyingly had this happened in July I would have been on the hook for a lock replacement and the costs of the locksmith.  From chatting with the locksmith, Liberty is a respected brand and my main issue here was that stupid lock, made by S&G.

Would I buy Liberty again? Not 100% sure on this because of those few quality issues I noticed and this was on a $5000 safe. I am going to be contacting Liberty specifically about the gap and see if they have any comments on the subject.  Not to mention the lack of detail about their fire ratings.  I will post an update if/and when they finally do get back to me.

Lastly, if you do have an issue, get a real locksmith.  Seriously, someone who is well skilled and trained.  Evidently many smiths won’t get versions of the locks to play with on their own to figure out how they work.  If you’re in the Palouse area, I highly recommend Mike at George’s Lock and Key Service.

 

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.

Evidently the State Doesn’t Want My Money…

So let me lead off with the email I’m sending GoodToGo as I type this:

So some how I wasn’t notified as my account level got low. It’s now at -0.35 cents. I just went to go put money on it and am told “I can’t make a payment currently because the account is in negative balance.”

OK, I’ll try to call. I call and it wants some pin number that I don’t have and cannot find anywhere to set one on the website. I try to find a way to talk to a human and cannot find one.

So just to make sure I’m clear on this. I give an interest free loan to GoodToGo (WA DOT), am finally notified when I have a negative account balance because it’s run over, and when I try to go give another interest free loan I can’t? If it wasn’t for the fact this is “sanctioned by the state” I’d be calling the BBB to report a scam.

Why would I report a scam? Because at this point my assumption must be that the reason it is so difficult to pay a negative account balance is to accrue interest against the user, in which case why is my loan to the state an interest free one? And if not that to bill the user at a higher rate for using the toll bridge because my account is out-of-order. This also ignores the fact the first time I drove across the bridge I was billed through GoodToGo and sent a paper bill at a higher rate in the mail.

I have updated to a different card, although I would prefer not to have automatic payments configured on that card, but if this is going to be the way the state is going to behave I do not have much of a choice.

I had been making a habit of making one time payments when notified and this time I couldn’t.

As an additional note I will be forwarding this to my state representatives asking how this type of user interface and treatment of Washington State citizens is acceptable. Especially for those of us who purely use this in transportation to or from work. I will also be posting a copy of my experience and this letter, along with how the situation is handled on my blog.

Thank you and sincerely,
Barron Barnett

So for those not familiar with the GoodToGo system, you maintain a balance for toll roads around Western  Washington.  When you take one it subtracts from that balance.  When the balance gets low it can automatically get more from a credit card or deduct from a bank account.

The initial credit card I was using has been disabled, not because of lack of payment or anything, it just has and I’m too lazy to go call the bank to fix it.  I’m going debt free so why bother worrying about it, it forces me to not use it.

So I take to paying off my debit card when I get a low balance notice.  I get no low balance notice until I get a call and email about it this morning.  I go look at my account, -$0.35.  Well I need to fix that, I go into payments and see:

Outstanding Balance
Account balance is negative, payment not allowed. Please contact the Customer Service Center.

I then hop on the phone and start getting drug through automated menus.  Finally get to one that sounds reasonable, it asks me for my account number. I enter it.  Then it asks for a 4 digit pin.  A what?  I never configured a 4 digit pin, not that I remember anyway, and I cannot find anywhere in the online forms to find or configure a 4 digit pin.

So lets recap.  I’ve been giving interest free loans to the State of Washington so that I can drive over public roads at a non-inflated price.  I guess you could say that’s the interest, but then some pay more interest in others do they not because that becomes dependent on how long it takes for them to dwindle their account balance, but I digress.

Evidently my account ran negative and I just discovered this.  I attempt to use the manual payment system and am told to contact the Customer Service Center.  I do exactly that, and am greeted with an automated system asking for information that I do not know and cannot find a method to find out or set.

Ultimately leaving me in the following state, an outstanding balance I’m now aware of and unable to pay because their system is so screwy I could swear it was built by the same idiots that made the Obama-care website, and some would wonder why I don’t want my financial information stored within it.

And people wonder why I view the state as worthless and unable to pour piss out of a boot reading the directions off the heel.  If I can’t pay them when I owe them money, what the hell do they need the money for in the first place?

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.