Security

CYBR650 Blog #2- Personal Disaster Recovery Plans and Home Security Systems: How to Prepare for the Dangers of Tomorrow

Many of us are well versed and confident in the systems and networks we create, manage, and defend at our place of work. Interestingly, several do not apply the same devotion to their homes. While some may not wish to ‘bring their work home with them,’ those such as myself, find we simply can’t turn off that switch once our shift ends. In this article, I will share the reasoning behind having a personal disaster recovery plan and a home security system (with details of my own).

Personal Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)

The unexpected can happen at any given time; whether it be a fire, flood, power surge, or just faulty equipment, it is essential to have a plan of action to ensure your data is secure and your devices remain somewhat functional. A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is essential in preventing these complications even for the smallest of networks. A disaster recovery plan does not need to be overly complicated but will need to cover the primary areas that will need to be quickly running again if bad luck strikes. With any disaster recovery plan, it is essential first to ask yourself a series of questions regarding what your network does, what the potential dangers are, and above all, what can be done to prevent these problems. 

            Creating backups of your files is one of the most crucial steps in creating a disaster recovery plan. You do not want to realize that this should have been done after a disaster happens! There are several methods of backing up your data one can use, such as using online backup services; these will store your relevant data to an off-site location where it is safer. Another method is using a physical backup storage device such as an external hard drive. No matter which form of backup you chose, a schedule should be created that automatically backups your data (having this occur at night is generally the best idea). 

            Next, documenting critical information regarding your network and devices should be done. Information such as the make, model, and passwords of your devices, account names and passwords of programs and routers, various network settings, and the phone numbers you frequently use, such as tech support, should be written down and stored in a safe place. By completing this step, if a disaster strikes, you will be able to get back to normal operating conditions of your network in a swift manner. 

            One area that is commonly forgotten when setting up a disaster recovery plan is planning for the network downtime caused by the unfortunate event that can occur. One must have a plan for how they will get by without their home network due to the potential downtime of a few days. Identifying potential alternate sites to house your servers is an example of this. One should also ask themselves how much downtime is tolerable based on their needs, what is the restoration priority, as well as what is their budget for recovery operations?  

            Finally, a plan for getting back to normal operating conditions should be created. Having a transition plan for moving your data off a loaned PC while your device is being repaired is crucial in this process. While all of these steps help create an optimal disaster recovery plan, this plan will only perform at its best if continuously tested and kept up-to-date with the latest information.

            Currently, my home network is quite extensive regarding the number of IoT devices, yet simple in terms of not having switches or any form of a network rack. My network consists of my main PC (part list shown below), Cox Gigablast Internet, a Technicolor CGM4141 Panoramic Wi-Fi Modem, and numerous smart TVs, Alexa devices, and two security systems (ADT and Cox Homelife). While many other individuals have a more complex setup, my disaster recovery plan is pretty much the same. I back up all of my data on an external website as well as an external hard drive. I also have a hardcopy list of usernames, passwords, and other information that is important to remember, as well as utilize password storage products. If a disaster does happen, my downtime would only be a few hours as I transfer my data around and sign in to all of my accounts.  

Main PC Part List

  • GeForce RTX 3090
  • EVGA SuperNOVA 220-G3-0850-X1, 850w G3 PSU
  • TUF Gaming X570-Pro (Wi-Fi 6)
  • AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
  • NZXT Kraken X63 AIO 280mm (2 140mm NZXT Fans)
  • 2 DEEPCOOL RF120 RGB Fans
  • 3 Phanteks 140mm Fans
  • 1 DeepCool 80mm Fan
  • 32GB Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3600
  • Samsung 970 EVO SSD 1TB – M.2 NVMe
  • WD Blue 1TB HDD
  • Phanteks Evolv ATX Case
  • (Main Monitor) Gigabyte G32QC 32″ 165Hz 1440P Curved
  • (Secondary Monitor) Acer 31.5” 1080p 60hz
  • (Third Monitor) TCL 4k 55″ TV

Since my network only consists of a few internet-ready devices, yet my PC is around $3300 in parts, my Annualized Loss Expectancy (ALE) would be around $6,000; this is the cost for an entirely new network as well as replacing my devices with new versions. My asset value would be $6,000 as well. My Annualized Rate of Occurrence would be meager as I have not had any disasters happen as my risk level is minimal. My Mean Time to Restore (MTTR) would be around a few days only due to the fact I would have to wait on Cox to come and fix my network (the wiring in my house is pretty old, but I just replaced it all). Everything else I would be able to do myself in a few hours. My Recovery Time Objective (RTO) would ideally be less than a day as I need my network for various work and school-related tasks. I also have renter’s insurance and warranties on most of my devices, so my risk mitigation is very high as I practice risk transference as much as possible. 

Overall, I find my disaster recovery plan to be adequate for my needs and easy for others to follow. Some changes I could make would be to update my backups more frequently.

Home Security System

An essential part of any business is a sophisticated home security system; this idea applies to your personal life as well. A home security system can prevent unauthorized entry to your residence, reduce the likelihood of theft, keep track of your loved ones (my two-year-old is quite active), and overall, feel at ease that your precious technology is safe. When I first bought my house, I had little knowledge of setting up my own security hardware, so I made the unfortunate decision to go with ADT; however, once this contract ends, I will be creating a custom setup. Below is my current setup with ADT.

I had initially planned on using a collection of Ring products to provide video surveillance in addition to the items I already had purchased (keypad deadbolt, upgraded locks, indoor camera, Echo Dots, etc.). After careful consideration, I found that my proposed build really didn’t cover as much of the house as I needed. For example, there would be no 24/7 monitoring, door sensors, smart fire/heat detection, or any form of interior motion detection. ADT, whom I must say, are quite vicious when it comes to trying to sell you something, have constantly been offering me discounts and special packages. I put all of the offers on hold, not wanting to pay a significant monthly fee, but in the end, ADT offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse.

Allowing me to choose my own parts, ADT offered to give me all of the equipment for free, not pay for installation, and get the first two months of monitoring at no cost. The plan itself is pretty expensive ($63/month), but with the Pulse package, I have access to the ADT mobile app (Alarm.com), pro video with some hefty storage, two-way voice capabilities, and use of the Qolsys IQ Panel 2. I was hoping I would receive a significant reduction on my homeowner’s insurance with the system (it would make sense, right?); however, I later found I saved like $6 on the entire premium; yeah, it’s pretty lame.

Qolsys IQ Panel 2

At the heart of the security system lays a Qolsys IQ 2 7″ HD Touchscreen, or to better describe it, a 7″ Android tablet controlling both home security and automation. Measuring 5.0 x 7.7. x 1.0 inches (HWD), the device holds some impressive hardware despite its small size.

Here is a quick hardware summary of the Qolsys IQ Panel 2.

7-inch LCD: 1280×800 resolution, 300 cd/m2 brightness, 24-bit RGB, capacitive glass multi-touch touchscreen, glass break sensor.

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon Quad Core.

User Codes: Up to 242 unique role-based codes (Durres, Guest, User, Master, Installer, Dealer).

Wireless:

Wi-Fi- 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual band 2.4/5G, including built-in router capability.

Image Sensor- Proprietary Image Sensor capable of pairing with up to 5 devices.

Z-Wave Plus- 119 total device capability (up to 80 lights, 6 locks, 6 thermostats, 6 garage doors, 21 misc.).

Cellular- LTE (Verizon).

Security R/F- S-Line Encrypted 319.5 MHz, up to 128 security zones.

Bluetooth- Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 4.0.

Radio Slots: Fits up to 4 replaceable radios.

Flash Memory: Internal Storage- 8GB NAND Flash.

SD Card Slot: Micro SD.

Speaker Stereo: 1W x 2 Stereo speakers (unified audio system).

Camera: Front Camera- 5MP fixed focus.

Battery: Lithium Polymer 3200mAh.

My Thoughts

The Qolsys IQ 2 captured my attention early on with its wide range of features and impressive internals. I wanted an alarm system that could monitor doors, windows, motion, smoke/heat, and carbon dioxide, as well as be able to record data from multiple cameras. The system also needed to be able to be completely controlled and monitored from a mobile device, providing me real-time video and alerts, regardless of my location. So, after researching several of the available products and brands out there, I finally settled on a Qolsys system with ADT monitoring.

The Panel itself is pretty amazing in both functionality and appearance. One of the major deciding factors in wanting a security system is to make the house look cooler (and to protect my wife and baby, of course). When you enter my house, the first thing you notice is the SkyBell Slim Doorbell Camera’s bright LED light illuminating the surrounding area with an essence of awesomeness, and then once you open the door, you are greeted with a Kwikset SmartCode 909 Electronic Deadbolt, requiring you to enter a code to be granted access to my domain of technology. Upon entry, the alarm will sound, and you will need to enter another, different code on the Qolsys IQ 2 Panel. At night, the Panel’s bright display lights up both of our stairways and can also be used as a customizable photo frame. So, when not in use, the Panel will display a cascading series of photos that you can upload using a Micro SD card. I have not yet had the time to mess around with uploading pictures, but if I can get some form of a Star Wars logo to display at all times, I will be one happy nerd (just kidding, I am sure it will just be baby photos).

For the device’s functionality, I am pretty surprised at how much I can do with the Panel. I can view weather information, access messages, watch video tutorials, arm/disarm my system, engage in two-way voice with ADT, request police, fire, or even an ambulance, view the status of all of my current active open/closed sensors (open, closed, active, idle, unreachable, tampered), connect to the device using Bluetooth (auto-disarm when my phone gets close to the house), have pictures automatically taken when anyone disarms the Panel, control various devices like thermostats and lights, as well as view a live feed of either of my outside cameras.

As if the Panel 2 didn’t have enough features already, the ability for the device to use either Wi-Fi or Verizon LTE offers comfort knowing someone can’t just snip my data wire and render the Panel useless. Also, in case of a power outage, the panel will remain on for up to 24 hours. Someone forcing you to unlock your door and turn off your alarm? Even if they are standing right behind you with a gun to your head, you can enter the special distress code, and the alarm will say it is disarmed, but secretly notify the police (as well as take a picture). Additionally, the Panel offers numerous settings you can edit, such as auto-arming your Panel when you are a certain distance from your house. Pretty cool, right?

When someone comes to our door, the doorbell camera triggers and records the person, notifying me of the event, and I can then use the Panel (or mobile device) to view and communicate with the person. So far, I have not had a single false alarm or issue with the Qolsys IQ Panel 2, and honestly, I really do feel safer knowing my wife and baby are protected at home while I am at work.

Qolsys IQ Motion

In our basement, I opted for a single motion detector to cover the entirety of the area. The Qolsys IQ Motion detects infrared body heat and motion, which actually comes in handy for both security and automation. For example, I can create a rule which triggers an alarm or a light to turn on whenever someone enters the basement. The motion detector also states that it is immune to anything under 40 pounds, but I have yet to test that theory as I have no pets or a walking child yet. The detector will cover up to 35′, making it ideal for the specific location where I have it installed.

Here is a quick hardware summary of the Qolsys IQ Motion.

Wireless Signal Range: 600 ft, open-air.

Transmitter Bandwidth: 24KHz.

Transmitter Frequency: 319.5MHz +-15KHz.

Code Outputs: Paring, tamper, tamper restore, alarm detect motion, alarm restore, supervisory, low battery.

Max Horizontal Sensing Angle: 80°.

Sensor Range: 30 ft (9.1 m) x 50 ft (15.2 m).

My Thoughts

Despite its relatively small package, the 2.4″ wide and 3.4″ long motion detector seems to be more than up to the task of detecting movement and body heat without fail. I tested the detector by attempting to ‘sneak’ into the basement multiple times, and to my amusement, the Panel’s alarm went off each try. Using the mobile app or Panel, I can see the IQ’s status at all times and receive an instant notification on any changes. The only downside I found was that it failed to detect anything directly below the device; however, it really shouldn’t be an issue due to the device’s placement. I was initially taken back by its necessity to be powered by three AAA batteries instead of a direct line, but the IQ supposedly lasts around three years. For the price, the IQ truly serves as another set of eyes in my house.

Qolsys Mini DW-S

For door sensors, I chose to grab three Qolsys Mini DW-S sensors, one for the front, back, and garage door. Using a compact and encrypted sensor, the DW-S securely connects to the IQ Panel 2 and alerts me if a door is opened, left open, closed, or tampered with. Additionally, based on the sensor’s status, I can use automation to turn on lights or even increase/decrease the temperature as soon as a door is opened. The adhesive on the device makes installation a breeze and also offers an added safety precaution on safes or medicine cabinets. Using the IQ Panel, I can name each sensor based on its location, so I always know exactly which sensor is currently activated. For the device’s security, there is a built-in tamper switch that will go off if the cover on the sensor is removed. Powered with two 3V lithium batteries, each sensor’s power should last around five years.

Here is a quick hardware summary of the Qolsys IQ Mini DW-S.

Sensor: 2.25” H x 1” W x .5” D.

Wireless Range: 600ft, open-air.

Code outputs: Tamper, tamper restore, alarm, alarm restore, low battery.

Transmitter Frequency: 319.5 MHz

Supervisory keep-alive interval: 70 minutes.

RF Peak field strength: Typical 36000 uV/m at 3m.

My Thoughts

Once again, I tested each door sensor to see if I could bypass it; long story short, I couldn’t. The response time of the sensor activation to an alarm is pretty much instant. The only placement in my house that the sensor wouldn’t completely inform of entry would be the back glass door; the sensor would not go off if someone just broke the glass instead of using the door. In the future, I may look into adding a Qolsys IQ Wireless Glass Break Sensor. Overall, the device is so small that you don’t notice it, adds a virtual ‘seal’ to my house, and would allow me to be notified if my son tries to sneak out to a party in the future (glad I wasn’t a teen in the age of wireless tech).

Qolsys IQ Smoke

While I already had a few smoke detectors in the house, I wanted at least one smart device to communicate with the IQ Panel. Since my house is split-level (all floors are visible upon entry), I felt that a single IQ Smoke would be sufficient as smoke on any floor has easy access to pass from one floor to the next. The IQ Smoke is active 24/7, regardless if your system is armed or not, detects both heat and smoke, and communicates with the IQ Panel, thus sending me instant notifications and triggering alarms. I have yet to test the smoke/heat detection abilities of the device as I am scared of triggering a false alarm, but I am sure they are more than adequate. Paired with a 3 to 5-year battery life using 3 AAA’s, the IQ Smoke was an easy choice to protect my loved ones when I try to cook something.

Here is a quick hardware summary of the Qolsys IQ Smoke.

Audible Signal (ANSI Temporal 3): 85dBA min. in alarm.

 Sensitivity: 1.5 – 3.5%/foot.

Supplementary Heat Rating: 135°F.

Operating Temperature: 40°F-100°F.

Relative Humidity: 15-90% Non-Condensing.

Dimensions: Diameter 5″ x 2.5″ D

Regulatory Listing: UL 217.

SkyBell Slim Video Doorbell – Satin Nickel

Initially, I was only planning on installing a Ring or Nest video doorbell on the front and back doors; however, after some research, I found many of these companies outsource their monitoring to places like India and lack many of the features I wanted. So, I settled on SkyBell’s Slim Video Doorbell with a satin nickel finish to match my Kwikset SmartCode 909 Electronic Deadbolt. The device has many elegant features, such as a 180* field of view, a temperature range of -40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, a 3-5-year battery, two-way audio allowing you to view and talk to the device via Panel or app, and night vision (using a bright LED). My favorite features are the ability to customize the color of the brightness of the LED and toggle the sensitivity of the motion detector.

Here is a quick hardware summary of the SkyBell Slim Video Doorbell.

Dimensions: 1.4 x 4.8 x 1.1 inches (W x H x D).

Weight: 2.0 oz.

Audio: Omni-directional microphone.

Mounting: Mounting plate affixes to a flat surface and utilizes existing doorbell wiring.

Video Camera: 180° view, auto-scaling, full-color.

Wi-Fi: Compatible with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, 2.4 GHz up to 150 Mbps.

Night Vision: Infrared.

Motion Sensor: Detects motion up to 8 ft range.

My Thoughts

While I know other brands/models have more features, I just wanted a decent camera with motion detection; due to this, and the fact that the SkyBell’s Slim Doorbell is relatively less expensive than some of its competitors, I feel it was the right choice. The only downside I can find is that it shoots in 720p and not 1080p (the industry standard). Due to my front door’s closeness to the street, the motion detector on the camera triggers a recording on many passing cars. Other models have AI, which differentiates whether the moving object is a person and even utilizes facial recognition to determine who it is. Unfortunately, the Slim Doorbell’s ‘auto-video capture based on motion feature’ had to be disabled due to too many recordings of speeding cars (15 mph limit doesn’t mean anything to anyone, apparently). There might be a way to decrease the motion detector’s sensitivity some more, but I have yet to have time to play around with it.

Vivotek IB8360-w Wireless Mini Bullet Network Camera

Since the doorbell camera covers the front entrance, I needed a separate camera to monitor the house’s rear. I was looking for a wireless, smart, and compact device that can connect with my Panel 2 and provide me with a 24/7 live feed of my deck, rear door, and the surrounding area. The Vivotek IB8360-w meets all of my requirements and offers many other useful features I didn’t know I needed. With the camera, I can edit motion detection settings by specifying an exact area to watch (back door, deck stairs), use its excellent night vision, and be able to communicate with and record/stream to my Panel 2.

Here is a quick hardware summary of the Vivotek IB8360-w Wireless Mini Bullet Network Camera.

CPU: Multimedia SoC (System-on-Chip).

Flash: 128MB.

RAM: 256MB.

Field of View: 89° (Horizontal), 46° (Vertical), 105° (Diagonal).

Image Sensor: 1/2.9″ Progressive CMOS.

Resolution: 30 fps @ 1920×1080.

Camera: 2 MP.

IR: Built-in IR illuminators up to 12 meters, smart IR technology to avoid overexposure.

Night Vision: SNV (Supreme Night Visibility) for low light conditions.

Efficiency: Smart Stream II to optimize bandwidth efficiency.

Construction: Compact Size, Weather-proof IP66-rated housing.

Wireless: Built-in 802.11 b/g/n WLAN.

Software: Connects with Panel 2 and Alarm.com application.

My Thoughts

Overall, the IB8360-w, while not top-of-the-line, offers exactly what I need for the right price. The picture quality is impressive for such a small device, and using the mobile app, or on the Panel 2 itself, I can access a live stream or record video. The motion detection settings are superb, allowing me to fine-tune the area the camera needs to watch (and not auto-record every time my neighbors are in their backyard). The only downside I have found is the lack of a battery backup. Since the camera simply uses a power outlet in my bedroom (with the cable running through a hold in the wall), if my power went out, I would lose video monitoring in my backyard (whereas my front yard would still remain active). I was hoping the camera would include a separate battery for use during a power failure, but I guess I could always get a backup generator (probably will at some point anyway).

Summary

Overall, I find this system to be everything I wanted it to be, providing me with the security my family needs and the peace of mind that I require. While many of the devices are not exactly the newest model, getting everything for free silenced my initial complaints. In the future, I can always upgrade and move around the hardware, so I am not too concerned with not having the latest technology at this time. I would, however, like to upgrade the video doorbell at some point, allowing me to use the one I have currently as a possible indoor camera or placed on the backdoor. In the future, I will also add a Qolsys IQ Wireless Glass Break Sensor to each lower window, just to guarantee that any entry to the house will be recorded and alerted. ADT might be expensive, but for the cost of not going out to eat one time each month, I think the protection it offers my loved ones and possessions to be worth the cost. I have recently added some Cox Homelife indoor cameras and window sensors to help cover areas that I previously didn’t have monitored, and I find having both systems create the redundancy I desire.

Sources

Qolsys. (n.d.). Vivotek. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://qolsys.com/Vivotek. 2019. “IB8360-W.” Retrieved from https://www.vivotek.com/ib8360-w.

Alarm. (n.d.). Smart home & business security systems. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://www.alarm.com/.

Zions. (2020, June 29). ADT home SECURITY Systems: Zion’s security alarms. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://zionssecurity.com/.

Categories: Security

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