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The good, bad, and the ugly: Reputable alarms manufacturers

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ARF-GEF

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Post Fri May 10, 2013 3:07 pm

The good, bad, and the ugly: Reputable alarms manufacturers

So this is a very common question in lock, one which was answered countless times:
Which lock is good and which one should I get?
Now I know very well that there is no "best lock" and the advice greatly depends on what for and for how much money. Probably the same is true for alarms, but since this is an even more closed, people are much more in the dark about them.
Nonetheless we all could list a few companies and locks which are good ones (for me that in locks is EVVA, DOM,high end KABAs,Abloy, Keso), and quite few which we would advise to steer off. (In locks from my point all the Chinese disc detainers, or actually all the cheap Chinese locks.)


So what I though is that those more experienced could share which alarm manufacturers/models did they find good, or which ones did they had bad experiences with.

I know there is a huge range of product so if you can you could mark them for home (H) or business (B).
Obviously multinational companies or other big players with big money won't be interested in this thread so for it to be helpful it should remain within the borders of affordability.
(To use lock analogy I rarely recommend an EVVA MCS for family homes...)
To infinity... and beyond!
=== WARNING DANGER OF TYPOS!===
Arfspeak: calnin cladycomes: you allow her key in themodning
Equals in plain English: cleaning lady comes: you allow her key in the morning
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jeffmoss26

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Post Fri May 10, 2013 3:13 pm

Re: The Good the Bad and the Ugly: Reputable Alarms Manufact

I like Napco alarms. We've had one at home for several years and it's a very nice system.
A lot of installers swear by Ademco/Honeywell. Honeywell owns most of the fire alarm manufacturers nowadays, with a bunch of different labels on basically the same equipment (some differences in software).
I also see a good amount of Bosch, DSC, and ADT proprietary systems.
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MBI

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Post Fri May 10, 2013 4:33 pm

Re: The good, bad, and the ugly: Reputable alarms manufactur

Caddx made excellent panels. The panel is the brain of the system, the part that really gives it whatever expandability and capability that the system can offer. It's typical to use a keypad made by the same manufacturer as your panel, but you can pretty much use whatever brands of sensor you want with your alarm system. Some sensors are better than others, but the main panel is the really critical part to select when building a system.

In selecting sensors, I found it was a process of trial and error. Over time, a good installer keeps track of which sensors they most commonly have to replace on warranty. They'll often try various brands of each type of sensor they use, and stick with whichever ones tend to fail or give false alarms the least.

Caddx was also known for being willing to accept feedback from reputable installers in the field, to improve both their hardware and firmware. Much like Commando Lock company has been doing with members of this forum. They were bought by GE a number of years ago. I haven't worked with them recently but when I did they made excellent systems. Far bettter than the proprietary panels used in most residential installations by the "McDonalds" alarm companies, like ADT, Protection One, etc. who have their panels custom built to make them as streamlined as possible, just the minimum number of features to make them as low in cost as possible.

Those cookie cutter alarm systems usually have limited features and very limited expandability. They're just designed to be simple systems for their fleets of sales people to go out, install a "free" alarm system in exchange for signing a monitoring contract. Those systems usually include a panel with basic functionality, keypad (sometimes the panel and keypad are integrated together, which I really dislike), a sensor for the front door, the back door and one motion sensor. That's it.

In my experience it seemed most of those sales people were usually not trained to do a proper security analysis of a facility. They're just trained in high pressure door-to-door sales. Get a signature on a contract, don't mess around with adding a proper amount of extra coverage because that means the customer will have to come up with money upfront to pay for those extra features. In doing so the customer has to stop and think, and the sales pitch can lose it's momentum and the sales person can lose the sale. They are trained to give the customer as little time as possible to think, to be out of there in 45 minutes or less and move on to the next sucker. There are exceptions of course, but after working in the industry for a few years that's what I found to be the normal operating procedure for many companies.
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dicey

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Post Fri May 10, 2013 8:24 pm

Re: The good, bad, and the ugly: Reputable alarms manufactur

Well...

I think you can not answer that question adequately because in each country it is different.
Here in Germany Alarm System are rated with class A, class B and class C. Class A is more for private homes, class B is for private homes that need additional security or shops stores etc. Class C is for banks, shops with a lot a cash or maybe precious stones and gold etc. or big companies. I am not going into detail on that now. If you want to know more book a course or something.

Here where I live companies and banks mostly use Bosch or Siemens.
For my private customers I always recommended Telenot or Daitem. When it comes to wires I prefer Telenot and when it comes to wireless I prefer Daitem (No idea why...). Wireless only comes in Class A and B. I usually prefer class B but that is also more expensive. If you do not want to spend good money or do not have lots of money you should go for class A. There is also Abus producing Alert Systems but I do not like them. I know private person having a very expensive class C alert system. Whether you have a good camera system or not these setups can be VERY expensive. When it comes to Cameras I like Dallmeier but that is only my opinion. We also have certifications for companies that install the security systems. If you want to have a decent company installing your system you have to make sure that they are certified and have a good reputation.

Every alarm system has to be planned individually. Every house and private ground is different. Every customer is different in his needs and whether he thinks he is in danger or not (or maybe he really is in danger and has received treats already). The law here in Germany only allows you to screen video on your own ground. You can not just watch the street in front of your house. This is also something you have to think about while planning the system for the customer.

I will not get into details now sorry.
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ARF-GEF

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Post Fri May 10, 2013 8:42 pm

Re: The good, bad, and the ugly: Reputable alarms manufactur

Thanks Jeff MBI and Dicey (in order of appearance), very interesting posts. :)
Siemens and Bosch are also prominent players here, but the other companies are either not present or very uncommon.
To infinity... and beyond!
=== WARNING DANGER OF TYPOS!===
Arfspeak: calnin cladycomes: you allow her key in themodning
Equals in plain English: cleaning lady comes: you allow her key in the morning
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PhoneMan

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Post Fri May 10, 2013 11:44 pm

Re: The good, bad, and the ugly: Reputable alarms manufactur

DMP, or Digital monitoring products are made in my hometown of Springfield Mo, and are pretty good, although mine is a DSC, which isn't bad.
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DR2

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Post Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:24 am

Re: The Good the Bad and the Ugly: Reputable Alarms Manufact

jeffmoss26 wrote:I like Napco alarms. We've had one at home for several years and it's a very nice system.
A lot of installers swear by Ademco/Honeywell.


Ademco equipment was always great equipment in my opinion. Wells Fargo Alarm Service had their own proprietary systems like their SMT-2, SMT-3 and then the SMT-4 which morphed into the APT-1. Then the APT-2 came out and they rode that one into the dirt for about a half decade before Tyco Industries, which owns ADT, bought them out. The APT-1 was Wells Fargo's first Addressable Point Transponder. I think ADT's first was their Focus system and I think after they purchased Wells Fargo, they kept the APT-2 and ditched their own efforts, I don't rightly recall. Ademco's first run into addressable point technology was the Vector 2000, if I remember correctly. I might even still have the cheesy cert for attending that class.

We used our proprietary equipment and most of the rest was Ademco. The vast majority of it was Ademco. We would go through phases where we would bring in Moose, FBI (Fire Burglary Instruments) and Radionics.

Most of the ancient fire stuff I had to swap out or tweak was Potter.

WFAS has their own proprietary access control systems, too. Brand name was Passway. Good stuff. Most of the camera equipment we used was Burle.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." ~ Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law of Prediction
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Neilau

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Post Thu Aug 01, 2013 7:15 am

Re: The good, bad, and the ugly: Reputable alarms manufactur

Not really answering your question but a few years ago I lived on what is called here a “Battle axe block”. Basically a row of houses behind the houses in the street. These blocks (allotments?) all faced onto a nature strip, basically a gully.

I purchased a few of the red stickers “Caution, under constant electronic Surveillance“ and stuck them on the windows facing the nature strip.

Long story, short. About seven houses in a row were broken into except mine and that was in the middle of the seven and was the house with the most cover. All break-ins involved broken windows or doors. Nothing very sophisticated.

Best three dollars I ever spent.

Not foolproof but cheap and effective. Now that miniature cameras are everywhere, even in pens, ….who’s to know.

It won’t stop a targeted break-in (or someone wearing a balaclava) or replace a "proper" system but most likely stop a random one.

Just thought I’d share.

PS. The burglars were caught about a week later.
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mercurial

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Post Wed May 28, 2014 11:27 am

Re: The good, bad, and the ugly: Reputable alarms manufactur

It is not only the quality of the alarm hardware that needs to be considered, the human element is also tantamount, as the following story demonstrates :

In Perth, Western Australia, approximately 20 years ago, a large number of businesses (mostly wholesalers of computer hardware) were broken into and looted. They all had alarm systems installed & monitored by a certain major player in the security industry. They were considered to be at the pinnacle of the industry.

In all cases, the alarm panel was found to be smashed to pieces, and no alarm signal had been sent via the 'fail safe' SecuriTel phone line. In each case, the explanation for the failure was a 'hardware malfunction'.

In reality, these crimes were committed by rogue employees of the alarm company. The alarm panels had a master override code to disarm the system. This feature existed to allow servicing the alarm system, should the user's own code be forgotten or lost. This code was based upon the serial number of the panel & could be calculated by a simple algorithm & the rogue employees had figured this out.

They forced entry to each premises, disarmed the alarm using the override code & then thoroughly smashed the panel, to obscure the fact that they had used an override code to disarm the system.

To the best of my knowledge, those responsible were never caught or brought to justice over these matters.

Given that this happened within a very large & well known provider of home & commercial alarm systems, I am unable to suggest how this kind of exposure could be avoided.

My only suggestion is layered security - an alarm, separate camera systems, good locks, key management & good old fashioned patrols by security guards. I'm sure that this is beyond the means of many persons & entities, however.

Who knows how many other burglaries all over the world were committed by similar means?

Caveat Emptor,

...Mark
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huxleypig

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Post Wed May 28, 2014 5:35 pm

Re: The good, bad, and the ugly: Reputable alarms manufactur

mercurial wrote:It is not only the quality of the alarm hardware that needs to be considered, the human element is also tantamount, as the following story demonstrates :

In Perth, Western Australia, approximately 20 years ago, a large number of businesses (mostly wholesalers of computer hardware) were broken into and looted. They all had alarm systems installed & monitored by a certain major player in the security industry. They were considered to be at the pinnacle of the industry.

In all cases, the alarm panel was found to be smashed to pieces, and no alarm signal had been sent via the 'fail safe' SecuriTel phone line. In each case, the explanation for the failure was a 'hardware malfunction'.

In reality, these crimes were committed by rogue employees of the alarm company. The alarm panels had a master override code to disarm the system. This feature existed to allow servicing the alarm system, should the user's own code be forgotten or lost. This code was based upon the serial number of the panel & could be calculated by a simple algorithm & the rogue employees had figured this out.

They forced entry to each premises, disarmed the alarm using the override code & then thoroughly smashed the panel, to obscure the fact that they had used an override code to disarm the system.

To the best of my knowledge, those responsible were never caught or brought to justice over these matters.

Given that this happened within a very large & well known provider of home & commercial alarm systems, I am unable to suggest how this kind of exposure could be avoided.

My only suggestion is layered security - an alarm, separate camera systems, good locks, key management & good old fashioned patrols by security guards. I'm sure that this is beyond the means of many persons & entities, however.

Who knows how many other burglaries all over the world were committed by similar means?

Caveat Emptor,

...Mark


As I always say, any system can be subverted from the inside.

If these thieves were never caught then how do we know what they were doing?

I think most 'jobs' contain inside information of some sort or another.
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DR2

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Post Wed May 28, 2014 6:59 pm

Re: The good, bad, and the ugly: Reputable alarms manufactur

mercurial wrote:
In Perth, Western Australia, approximately 20 years ago, a large number of businesses (mostly wholesalers of computer hardware) were broken into and looted. They all had alarm systems installed & monitored by a certain major player in the security industry. They were considered to be at the pinnacle of the industry.

In all cases, the alarm panel was found to be smashed to pieces, and no alarm signal had been sent via the 'fail safe' SecuriTel phone line. In each case, the explanation for the failure was a 'hardware malfunction'.

In reality, these crimes were committed by rogue employees of the alarm company. The alarm panels had a master override code to disarm the system. This feature existed to allow servicing the alarm system, should the user's own code be forgotten or lost. This code was based upon the serial number of the panel & could be calculated by a simple algorithm & the rogue employees had figured this out.



Unfortunately, there are a lot of stories that float around as well as opinions. I don't doubt what you wrote, but just for purposes of illustration, when you pass along the opinion that the systems in question were, "...considered to be at the pinnacle of the industry," that is simply an opinion not born(e) out by the rest of the facts stated in your posting. Again, I'm not attacking you, I have no doubt you are posting the information as it was basically reported. During that time frame, I worked for a company that was actually doing that and you could know the service code, you could know the master code burned into the chip, you could know whatever you wanted to know but if you smashed the motherboard, there was still a record of the code being used back at the Central Station. So, what if they attacked the phone lines first? Well, if they were actually monitored by a Multiplex, as was the state-of-the-art two decades ago, the alarm system would have went into No Response as soon as the Central Station Computer polled that motherboard and couldn't communicate.

So, an Alarm Service Investigator (ASI) like I was should have been dispatched along with the police department when the No Response came in. SOP for real burglar alarm companies except nowadays where they did away with real alarm response.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." ~ Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law of Prediction
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mercurial

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Post Thu May 29, 2014 12:09 am

Re: The good, bad, and the ugly: Reputable alarms manufactur

Huxleypig - I know about this because two of those concerned had very big mouths. They heard I could pick locks & approached me & started bragging, before making a 'business proposition'. I made sure that was the last time they saw me & realised that it was not a good thing for people to know I pick locks.

They weren't making this stuff up, either. I already knew that one of them worked for the security company, but assumed he was an honest man. I was young & pretty naive - I assumed most persons & entities were honest & friendly...

DR2 - I defer to your better knowledge on this, but I can assure you that this happened.

I did not mean to imply that technology wise, the security firm in question was the best. I was referring to the size of the company & their reputation. Better wording would've been "a major player in the industry, with a reputation for being amongst the best". I cannot speak to the quality of their product.

I am aware of the multiplex lines you refer to. Here in Australia this was done using a service provided by the one existing phone company at the time, Telecom.

You had to pay for their stand alone SecuriTel box at each alarmed premises & a SecuriTel phone line (which was in reality just an ordinary analogue line) & plug it into your alarm panel. You also needed to buy SecuriTel hardware for the Central Station.

Regulations at the time meant that any device connected to a phone line needed approval & certification. Telecom assured monopoly of alarm monitoring hardware (&thus it's capabilities) by ensuring no other such device was AusTel certified. Fortunately, this regulation no longer exists.

I can only assume the perpetrators were too stupid to realise that a disarm signal would've been sent back to the monitoring base, misunderstood the nature of SecuriTel, or perhaps(see below) that SecuriTel did not allow for passing such signals.

The way they explained SecuriTel implied that it couldn't pass signals, such as the fact that a service code had just disarmed an alarm panel. They were under the impression that the SecuriTel box, supplied by what was then Telecom only sent a continuous rolling sequence(to prevent a replay attack) of numbers to the monitoring office. Any interruption of this would signal an alarm. I seem to recall a Telecom employee confirming this to me - but my memory is hazy on that.

On a different note, the SecuriTel service opened up another security hole.

Phone lines in Australia (& I presume elsewhere) run through above ground "access pillars" to allow easy access to the line pairs. A given phone line can be found on an access pillar near the termination point.

The key to these pillars is the same Australia wide & furthermore, they use a really insecure 5 wafer lock - the same type that is usually found on cheap filing cabinets.

Inside the pillar is the pillar book, unless a linesman has forgotten to put it back. It is a written record of what line pairs belong to whom & if they are a special purpose pair.

Telecom were 'kind' enough to clearly list the SecuriTel pairs & the premises they were for, in these books. They were also stupid enough to colour code the SecuriTel wires - they stood out.

The attack was simple - open the pillar near the target premises & locate their SecuriTel pair. Temporarily interrupt the signal & wait for the security response team to attend & leave. Then repeat this until the response team declares the alarm faulty & disarms/ignores it for the night.

The human element can often render otherwise sound technical solutions quite useless!

...Mark
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DR2

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Post Thu May 29, 2014 1:04 am

Re: The good, bad, and the ugly: Reputable alarms manufactur

Mark,

I gotcha, I know what you're talking about. All I am saying is, if it is a real security system, even 20 years ago, and apparently it was a multiplexed system, they would have to have someone in the Central Station in collusion with them, so they, a Central Station Operator, didn't dispatch the police and/or employee on a check and advise of the property when the No Response Alarm came in. If it was a multiplex lined, it had line security, especially how you described it in your last post more clearly. Even if that happened, there is still a record of that being screwed up, etc. The alarm company employees that committed the crime would have had to know that they were going to create a No Response Alarm as soon as the line was compromised.

I investigated many burglaries and attempted burglaries. Our multiplexed lines actually caught burglars in strip malls that were trying to burglarize other businesses than our customer because the burglar would attack a bundle of phone lines. So, other businesses that were not even our customers, they had a regular alarm system that was more susceptible to that type of attack and the burglar effectively dealt with his target...but what he didn't know was he caused a No Response Alarm in our customer's line as well, which caused a Police and Service Dispatch to occur or, in any event, we would go out and run a check and advise on the property. Obviously, when we were dispatched on a check and advise on a No Response Alarm, we were looking for phone lines to be cut, open boxes along side the road/streets adjacent to the businesses, etc. One night I was dispatched on a check and advise on one of our customer's warehouses in a fairly isolated industrial park and I found an abandoned, wrecked vehicle which ran over one of the green telecom boxes you see here in the States alongside many streets and roads. I don't know if someone stole a vehicle and then wrecked it and bailed or if it was a drunk driver who wrecked it and bailed, but I just checked the property and called the CS Dispatcher and told her to dispatch the local PD and the phone company, at the time Bell Atlantic (Now Verizon), because of what happened and our customer's business was fine.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." ~ Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law of Prediction

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