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Ask Slashdot: Anti-Theft Products For the Over-Equipped Household? 408

First time accepted submitter Dufflepod (3656815) writes "After yet another hardware purchase last week, I realized with some alarm just how drastically an enterprising burglar could increase the crapulence quotient of my life if they ever made off with my hardware. The house is alarmed, but much to my annoyance it isn't always set when people go out for any length of time. Ideally I want to 'alarm' the expensive items among my various PCs, UPS, NAS box, test equipment, and some of the sundry other gadgets & gizmos I require to stroke my inner geek. Over the past few days I have spent hours Googling for every combination of "anti-theft perimeter alarm radius motion detector vibration wireless" etc etc.. I have found various possible solutions, though the cost of some of them does make my eyes water (eg SonicShock @ €150/box). Has anyone out there decided to bite-the-bullet and protect their kit with decent alarms, and do you have any suggested 'do's & don'ts'?" So how would you secure valuable items, as opposed to securing the entire place?
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Ask Slashdot: Anti-Theft Products For the Over-Equipped Household?

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  • Simple solution (Score:3, Informative)

    by beaviz ( 314065 ) * on Friday May 16, 2014 @01:50PM (#47019261) Homepage Journal

    Backup your data. Everything else can easily be bought for the price of a few years security.

  • Re:Don't. (Score:4, Informative)

    by kryliss ( 72493 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @01:53PM (#47019309)

    Ah, found it.


  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @01:55PM (#47019331) Homepage
    Buy insurance for the cost of stuff and backup the data. Data can always be downloaded again Preferably from an off-site backup. Hardware can always be bought again.

    But I guarantee you that any security system that actually prevents theft should cost you more money than reasonable insurance would cost. It should also cost more money than the thing you are protecting. You know those Storage Wars shows? When they find a safe, it it usually worth more than what is inside it.

    If insurance costs more than the stuff is worth, than that means you live in a high crime area and should move someplace safer.

    But in the USA or other stable country, under no circumstance should it ever be a cost effective to secure your home possessions. Insurance should always make more sense.

  • Crapulence (Score:5, Informative)

    by oldmac31310 ( 1845668 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @01:56PM (#47019343) Homepage
    does not mean what you think it means. If you don't know what it means, don't use it.
  • The usual (Score:4, Informative)

    by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @02:01PM (#47019423)

    Try to get the other occupants to set the alarm when you are away. Get an alarm that has the ability to set it via a cell phone. Keep your bushes and shrubs cut back and don't give would be thieves a place to hide. Also choose prickly bushes up close to the house. Good out door lighting. Motion detector activated lights are good as it won't piss off the neighbors as much and save electricity. Also make sure the lights are high enough that someone can't just unplug or disable them.

    Don't put stickers on your house advertising you have guns, or what brand alarm you are using. Guns are a popular theft item. More so than your computers I would guess. Having an ADT sticker (or what ever brand alarm) simply tells a good thief what they need to do to circumvent your alarm. Most ADT alarms can be defeated by simply cutting the phone line. Almost none have a cellular card in them.

    I don't know if you or your family are dog people, but dobermans are fantastic family dogs. I have one who is very well trained. He's very friendly to people when I tell him it's OK. But Allah, God, Buda, Eris, Xenu help you if you come in the house uninvited. I also have two other dobermans who are not as well trained as he is, but they follow his lead. When he doesn't like something, they don't either.

  • Re:Simple solution (Score:4, Informative)

    by plover ( 150551 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @02:03PM (#47019435) Homepage Journal


    Instead of an alarm, use an insurance policy to protect the gear. It's cheaper, and most policies are tied to the monetary value of your stuff when you bought it. But we all know tech stuff devalues over time, and much quicker than most items. So if you have a loss, your insured and replaced items are more valuable than the originals.

    Where you might be more interested in security hardware is if your gear is often in a more public place: library, dorm room, etc. But you said "house".

    Instead of physical protection, consider electronic detection. Install phone-home heartbeat software on your kit, so that if a thief takes it, it will reach back to your house periodically to check in. You can have APIs like GROWL alert your iPhone if a device fails its heartbeat. (Assuming you can put up with hundreds of false alerts.)

    Or you can simply relax. If you can afford $50,000 worth of gear, you can probably afford to replace $50,000 worth of gear.

  • by NewtonsLaw ( 409638 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @02:13PM (#47019523)

    Alarms simply tell you you've been robbed.

    A far more effective strategy is to ensure that anyone entering your house uninvited will find it impossible to stay long enough to steal your stuff.

    To do this, you want lots of *internal* sirens that run at 120dB+.

    If the intruders ears start bleeding as soon as they enter the building, they will retreat at a very hasty pace.

    That's how my alarms are configured. They ring me over the cellular network and generate an internal sould level that is intollerably loud (as I have discovered on the two occasions I forgot to disarm the system myself) :-)

    If he's going to get your iPad he might as well take some life-long hearing damage with him :-)

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @02:17PM (#47019567)
    There are two majors costs to any burglary, what's taken and the damage done. From people I know who have been robbed, the cost of repairing the damage outweighs the cost of a stolen laptop or camera that was taken.

    So, once a burglary has got in to your house most of the problem has already occurred. Even if your insurance pays there is a major inconvenience in making the claim, fighting the assessment and getting the repairs performed to your satisfaction. Best to prevent the whole possibility of that happening.

    How do you keep bad people out of your house? Alarms, cameras (oh joy! you can watch the video of your home being wrecked), trackers - all irrelevant and with little deterrent value. If you want to stop people even trying to get in to your home, get a dog. A big, noisy dog.

    If you can't get a dog (here comes the geek bit), get a recording of a dog. Hook it up to a PIR and an Arduino and have it play when anyone approaches the property. If you can arrange a stereo playback, process the soundtrack to make it appear as if the dog is moving around the house. If you want to go for extra "realism", rig up a weight attached to a motor that thumps the front door - the higher up the door, the bigger the dog appears to be - as if the dog had its paws on the door. You need LOUD and you need LONG. A recording that stops after a few seconds won't convince anyone. Especially if it replays exactly the same track each time.

    Finally, keep the pitch of the barking low. Nobody's scared of a squeaky little mutt. But if you slow it down, the animal sounds a lot larger and scarier.

  • Re:Don't. (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday May 16, 2014 @02:47PM (#47019857)

    Thieves look for targets of opportunity. Make your home less friendly. Place a camera in plain view and out of reach.

    Here are a few more tips:
    Keep in mind the 4 D's: Deter, Defend, Delay, Deceive

    * Install motion sensor lights on the front and back of your house.

    * Install a fake camera. For deterrent value, a fake camera will work as well as a real camera, but will cost far less. It should have a bright blinking LED to make it more noticible. You can buy realistic decoy cameras for less than $10 on Amazon.

    * If you install a real camera, make sure it is good enough to actually identify the perp. Otherwise, what's the point? Install several fake decoy cameras as well. If the perp is trying to avoid the fakes, he is more likely to be seen by the real camera.

    * Put a "Beware of Dog", "Vicious Dog" or "Dog on Premises" sign on the gate to your back yard, whether you actually have a dog or not.

    * Put up a security alarm yard sign and window stickers, even if you don't have an alarm system. Yard signs and stickers are available on Amazon, eBay, etc.

    * Get some old, well worn work boots, size 14 or larger. Leave one pair on your front porch, and another by your back door.

    * When you leave home, leave a radio playing on a talk station. Set the volume so it is slightly audible from outside your home.

    * Set up timers to turn lights on and off when you are not home.

    * Using an alarm company is a waste of money in my experience (most police depts will not respond to their calls), but you can install your own sensors and alarm.

    * If you have an alarm that frequently goes off accidently, get it fixed. Otherwise your neighbors will ignore it.

    * Valuables should not be visible from any door or window.

    * Put wood dows or PVC pipe in the slide track of each window and sliding door. These should fit snuggly, so they are not easy to dislodge by someone reaching through the broken window. Make sure everyone in your home knows how to remove the stop in case of a fire.

    * When not home, lock internal doors. This will prevent an intruder from moving quickly around your home.

    * Leave out some decoy valuables, such as an old laptop with no HDD, or some fake jewelry. Decoy valuables should be left in a conspicuous place, but not visible from outside.

    * Frost or laminate your garage windows, so a perp cannot see if your car is gone.

    * If you have a safe, bolt it to the floor with a bolt that is only accessible from inside the safe. Cut the bottom out of a cardboard box and put it over the safe to hide it.

    * If you have a an usused safe or lockbox, fill it with bricks, lock it, and put it in a conspicuous location.

    * If you have a second story, don't store a ladder in your yard or shed.

    * Trim any trees that can be climbed to reach a second story window, or make sure those windows are secure.

    * Use plants with thorns, such as roses, in front of your windows. Keep them trimmed below the window sill, so neighbors can see anyone breaking in.

    * Go through your wallet and purse. Do you really need to carry more than one credit card? Write down the account number and phone number for each card, so that you can cancel them quickly if they are stolen.

    * Make your possessions easy to identify. Paint the handles of your tools bright orange or lime green. Laser etch a custom design on the back of your phone or laptop.

    * Take photos of your valuable possessions, and recored any serial numbers.

    * Scan any important documents, and save the images off site.

  • Re:Don't. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2014 @03:03PM (#47019997)

    Copying down serial #'s for your equipment is the action nobody ever takes. It's the low-hanging-fruit when it comes to theft preparedness.

    That and actually making sure your insurance covers your stuff, which requires the documentation and photo evidence. Also keep proof of purchase materials like receipts. So many people throw those things away... GAAA! If for no other reason keep them as long as the warranty or five years in case you get audited for any reason.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.