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Physical Access/Alarm System

There’ve been some recent articles popping up about phones being stolen and people having entire accounts being taken over. In addition to phones, you need to make sure you are properly securing your laptops, tablets, desktop computers, etc, from people that could access them. This could be anything from a thief getting it to someone trying to spy on what you’re doing when you’re not with the device.

First, don’t let someone else have access to your devices. Not everyone knows what they are doing, and others have bad intentions. If you let someone else use your phone or computer, they could do anything from install malware on it through negligence, to stealing personal information, to installing a keylogger. One common example is people that deal with psychotic exes who install tracking software to see all the activity of that person. There's also plenty of Reddit threads of people posting about how their computer got a virus or had their password changed after letting someone else use it.

Second, you need to make sure all of your data is encrypted. Encryption is not going to keep you totally safe, but it sure as hell plays a huge role in keeping your data private. In the case of phones, many of them, such as the iPhone, use encryption by default as long as it has a passcode - they also rely on the user to have a strong passcode. Desktops are a little more complicated, so refer to other sections of the site to see in depth how to secure your devices. If your device is encrypted and you use a strong passcode, an attacker won’t be able to see the info on it.

Alarm System

The third consideration is to have your residence monitored by a security system. These systems include quite a few different options, like door and window sensors, motions sensors, temperature sensors, cameras, and so on. There's quite a few providers these days and a lot of them are DIY systems that you can install yourself and don't have to get yourself locked into a contract. I'll be covering alarms systems and some things you need to consider if you're going to use on.

Before going any further, many people reading this site probably factor privacy in at some level. If you're going to use a security system, it will absolutely lower your privacy level. It's just the nature of how alarm systems work. To have one that works properly, it requires being able to monitor many different things inside your home. I know some people have strong feelings about these systems, but they absolutely can be lifesavers. Ring cameras (the concept of the camera system, not just the brand) could save you from someone trying to attack you and allow police time to get there. This is something the military would call an "early warning system."


Self monitored alarm systems are an option where only you have the ability to see and respond to what's going on. While it's your decision what you want to do, I don't recommend using a self monitored system. If you were to miss a notification on your phone of something happening, it doesn't do you much good to even have a system in the first place. Monitoring options are cheap and effective. It's better for a monitoring center to be able to send emergency responders to your house automatically, rather than you having to constantly manage the system.

Alarm Permit

If you've decided you want to install a system, you'll need to check with the government office in your area. A lot of governments will require you to have an alarm permit. This is so they know the name of the person(s) responsible for managing the alarm and have a way to contact them.

Don't overlook this step! If you decide to install an alarm and something happens where emergency responders show up and you didn't have a permit, you could face fines and legal action.

When you pick out a system, it's best to figure out what parts of your home you want to monitor and how you want to do it. There's a lot of different sensor types available. You could either choose to use all of them or just ones that you think will give you the best coverage with the least amount of hassle.

When people think of alarm systems, they usually think of things like motion sensors and door/window sensors, but they might not consider something like smoke detectors or water/temperature sensors. If you're going to monitor things like doors and windows, why not also include smoke and water as well? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you install a few water sensors near areas like plumbing rooms and underneath your sinks, it could potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars and months of headache by being able to catch a problem when something breaks instead of hours later when half the house is soaked with water.

You'll also need to figure out where you want your keypad(s). I recommend you check reviews and customer feedback for the different providers. Make sure you pick a system that will still send an alarm if the keypad gets smashed. This is something that a burglar may decide to do if they break into a house.

You'll also get something called a base station, which is basically a hub that manages everything from the backend. Make sure this gets put somewhere safe and don't tell other people about it! Some base stations will send an alarm if they are damaged but some won't. If you use something that doesn't have this feature, the base station needs to be well hidden (it should be hidden anyway) and the alarm should activate in a short enough time that an attacker won't be able to figure out where it's at before an alarm is sent.

If you're going to have multiple people that can turn the alarm on and off, they should each get their own PIN. This is useful for a few different reasons. First, only you should have access to make changes to the alarm system and this is usually done with a master PIN. Second, every time someone comes and goes, there'll be a notification of who it was. If something happened to the house while you were away, this can give a better indication of who was around. Third, you can easily remove someone if they violate trust, which could be something like sharing the PIN with someone who you didn't give permission to come into your house.

Another essential for alarm systems is to have a camera system. Most of them have cloud backups in case you need to access the footage at a later date. The retention time varies, but it seems that about a month is pretty standard. This is definitely one of the most important parts of the system. Having sensors by themselves is fine, but cameras can allow you to actually see if there's a problem - i.e. burglar in your house or a burst pipe flooding the basement. Every once in a while, you may have a sensor malfunction and tell you there's a problem when there isn't.

System checks

Every once in a while, you should check your alarm system for firmware updates and run tests on the sensors to make sure everything is working like it's supposed to. You'll need to replace batteries once in a while and you might also notice a sensor is starting to fail. You'll need to refer to the documentation for the alarm system provider you choose to see how to put the system in test mode. If anything isn't working like it should, you need to get the issue fixed ASAP. Procrastination on this could have severe consequences.

As far as monitoring goes, I strongly recommend you have 24/7 monitoring enabled. Something that's important is that you have the alarm app for your system installed on your phone so anytime you're away from the residence, you can see whatever sensor is activated. You'll also want to make sure the alarm monitoring service phone number is saved on your phone.

Your Responsibilities

If you decide to use an alarm system, it is your full responsibility to make sure it stays in good working order and that you respond promptly to any alarms. If an alarm is activated and you don't answer when the monitoring company calls, they'll send emergency responders to check (they may send responders regardless). If there is a sensor that malfunctioned or there was an accidental activation, you need to let the alarm company know as soon as possible. You may also be contacted by emergency responders.

Many localities will levy civil penalties against the people responsible for the alarm system if it was a false alarm, which includes things like a malfunctioning sensor. You are also responsible for making sure that it doesn't get misused. If you or someone else decided to "test it out" to see what happens, you could be jailed and fined for misuse of emergency services.

The other reason I recommend you have a monitoring plan is because many of the providers include a cell data backup option. If your internet were to ever go out for any period of time, you would still have alarm coverage if you have cell data backup. Self monitored systems usually won't have this as an option.

I don't have any specific recommendations for a security system provider. I'm not affiliated or sponsored by any of them either. Like I continue to say on this site, you need to use due diligence and make that determination for yourself. If you are considering a system, I strongly recommend you read some unbiased reviews as well as customer feedback. Reddit tends to be a pretty good place to go to see if users have any issues with their systems. I also would recommend that you avoid any review sites that have obvious monetization for their reviews. One of the biggest red flags is one that has affiliate links for that product nested on the page. It's hard to take what they say seriously if they get paid to send someone to buy a product.