Disabling an Alarm

Damaged_control_panelWe got a call earlier this week from a business in Kitsilano that arrived to find that they had been broken into, but the alarm had not tripped.

The owners of the business arrived in their office to find that a small hole had been cut in one of the exterior walls (adjoining to a neighbour’s suite without an alarm). A few offices had been rifled through, but what was strange was that the thief had opened up several computers and stolen parts from inside, rather than stealing the entire PC.

The thief was able to make their way to where the alarm control panel was located, along with the telephone lines for the suite, and unplug the telephone line that the alarm relied on as well as open up the metal box that the alarm was located in. Once opened up, the crook used either pliers or a screwdriver to pry the protective cover off of the main chip on the circuit board which shorted out the panel and the entire system lost power. The photo above shows the damaged circuit board after we removed it.

After disabling the alarm, the crook then took some time to screw the front panel of the alarm box back on so that it did not appear to have been damaged at all.

Given that the alarm had been disabled, it would have been possible for the entire office to have been cleaned out… everything. Luckily, but strangely, the crook only took some random computer parts.

We were called to the office to determine how it was that the crook was able to get to the main control panel before the alarm could send a signal. After a fair bit of troubleshooting and testing, we were able to mimic the path that the crook would have had to take without setting off the alarm.

In this case, the original alarm system was almost 9 years old. Some of the motion detectors had been upgraded, but the majority of the system was original. The main issue was that the majority of the alarm detection was focused on the front and back of the office… at the doors. In addition, the business had strong bars installed and multiple deadbolts installed. The weak spot was the middle.

By cutting a hole in the drywall (with a saw) the crook was able to exploit this weakness and sneak into two connected interior offices, which led to the room where the control panel was located.

Obviously, whoever committed this burglary had spent some time in the office before. They knew exactly where to go and how best to get there. While it could very well have been an employee, it also could have been any service provider who had been in the room where the control panel was located (Shaw, Telus, IT, etc.). Either way, precautions need to be taken to ensure that you are protecting your security. Noone should be able to touch your control panel before an alarm signal has been sent.

To prevent the possibility of a recurrence, we did the following:

  1. We installed a BLINK radio, but hid it somewhere else in the office… a ways away from where the main control panel (the new one we had to install) is located. BLINK makes the system capable of sending an alarm signal within a second… by comparison, an alarm relying on a phone line takes almost 40 seconds for a signal to be received at the central station. BLINK ensures that a crook would never have enough time to disable the system after tripping an alarm.
  2. We added several new motion detectors, so that any entry, through either a door or any exterior wall, would trip the alarm.
  3. We upgraded some of the existing motion detectors with units that have a ‘look-down’ feature… significantly reducing any ‘blind’ spots.
  4. We installed a high-security lock and tamper switch on the main control panel to prevent anyone from being able to open up the security system, even while the alarm is disarmed.
  5. Glassbreak detectors and vibration sensors were also specified and will be added to the system very soon.

Click on the video clip below (2 1/2 minutes long) to see how BLINK works.

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How long has it been since your alarm system was thoroughly tested? If someone came through the wall, how far could they get inside your space? Could they make it to your alarm control panel before a signal gets sent?

Are you still relying on your telephone lines as the primary communication method for your alarm? What if the lines got cut?

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