Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dummy Cameras

For Dummies...

Dummy cameras have long been repudiated as both ineffective security and a serious liability concern.  Normally people who sell simulated security cameras to their clients don't talk about it where security professionals are likely to hear about it.  Our eyes bug out, our faces turn red, our neck veins bulge, and we tend to sputter incomplete and uncomplimentary sentences.  It ain't pretty.

Jordan Frankel, The Security Sensei, is proprietor of Global Security Experts, Inc. (GSE), which sells some useful products, such as the simple, sturdy, and affordable OnGARD door brace, STARTLE security lights, and DIY security window films.

Mr. Frankel first attracted my attention while pitching high-end panic rooms to the well-monied by leveraging their fearsWe went a couple rounds in 2011 but, having said about all I had to say about his safe room marketing tactics, I quit engaging Mr. Frankel in dialogue and debate on that issue.

So there I was, minding my own business Friday afternoon, when The Security Sensei posted a marketing blurb at the LinkedIn ASIS International group (for a few hours*), explaining that GSE is now proud to offer the SMART dummy camera, stating:

Dummy cameras are considered one the most cost-effective solutions for thwarting burglaries and home invasions.
...a high quality fake surveillance camera can be a vastly effective means of deterring and fooling burglars and other criminals from targeting your property.

Says who?  Evidence?  Statistics?  Studies?  Legal precedent?  Litigation judgements?  Anything?

The GSE advertorial promotes the realism of their solar powered, wireless, home security, dummy camera saying it features:

A bright LED light. One of the most important features you can have on a dummy camera is an LED light, and the brighter the light the better. Having a brightly illuminated power light creates the psychological deterrent criminals need to make them think the camera is real, giving them a reason to stay away. 

Problem is, real security cameras don't have LEDs, let alone flashing ones, and I imagine  most serious bad guys know that.  What's more, the camera housing is labeled OnGARD and has the Security Sensei logo on the side.  Take a moment to Google the phrase OnGARD security camera.   Among the first couple hits you're served is an eBay ad:

Fools Burglars, Home Invaders & Vandals | Dummy Camera

Okay, let's do the same for Security Sensei camera.  Similar results.

So, it seems this technological faux marvel will be most effective deterring criminals with no access to the Internet and a web browser.  But wait, there's more.  If a mildly Internet savvy burglar scrolls through the advert images he may also notice that the OnGARD SMART dummy camera has a secret: 

Now that's a very helpful feature indeed, but not for the homeowner.

So, am I being too hard on The Security Sensei?  You tell me.  Scaring people to get them to buy security solutions they don't need may be unethical.  Selling fake security hardware that makes people feel protected when they're not may be dangerous.  The Security Sensei seems to do both.

*The LinkedIn blurb under discussion was posted for a few hours and then removed shortly after a few security professionals sputtered some incomplete and uncomplimentary sentences.

Curiouser and Curiouser

NASA's Curiosity rover speeds closer and closer to its high tech date with destiny...

When the car-sized MLS Curiosity rover arrives at Mars in August it will encounter a problem that has been the death of more than a few of the robot explorers we've sent to the Red Planet.  While only 1% as dense as on Earth the atmosphere that surrounds Mars is still thick enough to burn up arriving craft from friction heating.  On the other hand the atmosphere is too thin for parachutes to be of much use.  As one of the speakers in the following talk explains, "It's too dense to ignore, but too thin to help." 

NASA has a plan they hope will work.  It's detailed in this fine little video, Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror.  Wicked challenge, awesome engineering, fascinating stuff.  Upon their clever solution all depends.

 Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech by way of