Home Security Reviews: Vulnerability of the Phone


Welcome to the FrontPoint Podcast series,
I’m your host Greg Able joined today by FrontPoint’s Chief Operating Officer Peter
Rogers. Hi Greg. Hi Peter. Thanks for taking the time and today we’re going to talk about
something of a hidden secret in the home security industry. Something some of the big players
don’t always tell consumers before they buy. That’s right.
So the way alarm systems work is that sensors in the home, and it could be a door window
sensor, glass break, smoke, motion, heat, all sorts of different sensors communicate
to imagine the central Control Panel. All of these devices are communicating their alarm
activations to it. It in turn is communicating to the outside world and by outside world
I mean a central monitoring station and when they receive an activation, your alarm information
comes up, they try to reach you and if they can’t reach you, then they’re going to
dispatch the appropriate authorities. Okay so it sounds like the ability of the system
to send a signal out to the monitoring center is a critical piece in making the whole thing
work. Absolutely, the system is really not useful without that.
How does that work? What is it based on? That’s where it gets interesting. There are many
technologies out there, but the one that almost all the systems in use today rely on is a
phone line. So the phone line, the same system we use to make a phone call in your home is
the one making these calls from your home out to a monitoring center should there be
a break in or something right? That’s absolutely right and what happens is the Control Panel
grabs the phone line and dials out over that phone line but that’s a single point of
vulnerability and if that phone line is compromised, the alarm system can’t communicate.
Well let’s talk about that in terms of its ability to be compromised, is it difficult
to knock out a phone line? About 5 seconds and a $5 pair of wire cutters. So if a burglar
knows what he’s doing, if he wants to take out your phone line, hence your alarm system,
he can do it. Absolutely and it’s happening increasingly all over the country. That’s
a huge vulnerability for most systems. What are the alarm companies doing to educate consumers
about the issue. Some are going some way to let them know that they are alternatives,
others just continue business as usual. And how many are we talking about here? In round
numbers that are roughly 80 million homes in the United States. Of those, about a quarter,
let’s say 20 million have monitored alarm systems. And of those 90% so again a rough
number, 18 million, are reliant strictly on a phone line, that vulnerable point that they
can be compromised. It sounds like if it can be compromised in that way that would defeat
the purpose of having a system in the first place right? As far as I’m concerned, and
as far as many people in the industry who feel that if it’s not monitored it’s really
not doing you any good. Right, otherwise like you said earlier, it’s just a noise maker
right? Correct. What are the alternatives out there for consumers?
If someone is educated and knows that my phone system is vulnerable, what else can I do to
make sure that if there is a break in, and my phone line is down, something other than
a noise will happen? Right, there are several technologies out there. The one that we feel
the most favorably about is cellular and in fact we feel that that is the only really
reliable one. Okay, so tell us how cellular monitoring works.
So instead of using the phone line in your home, the Control Panel has its own built
in cellular radio. Think of it like a private cell phone just for the alarm system. When
there’s an alarm activation, the panel is going to use that built in cell phone to call
out to the central monitoring station. So not only does it not matter that the phone
line it cut, you don’t even need a phone line any more. So that can be a big cost savings
for a customer. Alright that sounds like the kind of technology to make people feel safer.
Does it cost a lot more? Actually it doesn’t have to cost more. The traditional providers
tend to charge more not only for the equipment, when they offer it and also for the monthly
fees, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Okay and I would assume FrontPoint is using
cellular technology? We’re one of the only companies if not the only one that’s 100%
cellular as far as communication to the central station. This has really been some eye opening
information Peter, we really appreciate it. Any final thoughts in terms of what consumers
should know before they go out and buy an alarm system. Make sure it’s cellular because
if it’s not cellular, it’s not safe. Got it. Thank you very much Peter. Thanks
for watching the FrontPoint Podcast Series. We’ll see you next time.

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