A few summers ago I read an article on a popular, international news site about locking up your home for vacation.
"Leave your car on the street in front of your house so criminals think someone's home."
I thought, really, leave one of the biggest embodiment of an expenditure most people have right on the street when you can't be around? That can't be right.
"Post dog warning signs around your home even if you don't have one."
I thought that was interesting because there are criminals who watch target houses over weeks to determine when they are empty so it won't fool them. So it might be for the opportunists, right?
But then I thought that the same crack-heads or thugs who break into places for quick cash are the same type of people I see in the park playing tug-of-war with their pit bull, certainly not the type of people who fear dogs or lack the ability to dominate them.
This is a good example of why the OSSTMM 3 requires that you don't look to the threat to prepare your security because it's too easy to only make changes which affect a small portion of the threats. That's especially true when you consider how unpredictable human behavior can be.
"Make sure you clearly post the sign that your house is armed with an alarm, most alarm companies supply them freely so ask them if you didn't receive any."
The alarm signs from companies give information about who they are and you can easily go to their website and look up the standard installation packages. These packages are often the type that offer magnetic window alarms for the first floor windows and a sensor by the front and rear door.
Many crooks are not afraid to climb to the second floor to penetrate the building. Some sites are much more specific on what you get exactly. Besides informing your criminal opponent, signs also provide visibility that you are protecting something.
Finally, it takes away the element of surprise (unless you count the less surprising "Hey, they don't haven an alarm!" type of surprise) which can catch a crook off guard when the siren sounds before they even get to your front door.
The worst thing about it is a prepared thief who will use force and violence to get you to disarm the alarm quickly even if it means waiting for you to get home within your own yard.
"Use lights or television on a timer...."
Again, some crooks will not be fooled by this due to the patterns of time or which lights go on and off and when. Normally, a light goes off at random times when a person leaves a room and a new light goes on in the adjacent room.
Then again some thieves don't care as they will just avoid the rooms where the lights are on.
There were many such pointers. I wondered how such advice could be given when it seemed so wrong. So I searched around and found this to be the same advice offered by police websites and general, government-sponsored security websites as well.
I realized there was a real lack of research into this area. Home security has a strong product focus with strong product-based advice. It needed OSSTMM 3 type research injected into it.
The biggest piece of misinformation in home security turned out to be that us non-criminal types can trust our gut and our reason to say what a criminal will do. Even criminals have a hard time saying what other criminals will do.
It's a fact. Yes, Vegas employed fraudsters to watch the floor for other fraudsters but there is no evidence that it really worked well. Actually, most casinos have moved to extensive database systems now and carefully track identities and behavioral pattern matching.
So there is no real evidence that crooks will read signs and beware of anything, choosing a neighbor's home over yours. If you apply the OSSTMM 3, you want to improve barriers to places of interaction, have controls which alert you and the crook before they can enter the home, reduce your visibility by closing all blinds and shutters, and keep your assets away from being quickly grabbed (or sitting on the street).
Physical security is hard. There is almost no limit to what physical separations can be built or overcome. Authentication systems like locks are fairly useless because to make them usable they have inherent flaws.
Cameras and the like are easy to hide from. Just the introduction of a lock into a door weakens it and not to mention if the frame can handle it. Additionally, the human factor makes it easy to get inside by exploiting trusts when the physical barriers are beyond breakable for the crook.
Most of all, nobody wants to make their home their prison with bars everywhere and living under their own surveillance system. This is why most home systems are so poorly created because it's by design to catch a low-hanging fruit which doesn't really exist anywhere but in our heads.
Combine that with the fact that most people who install the alarm systems have little idea what they're doing and you have real trouble. You can check your own alarm system to the following guidelines on how an alarm system should be installed at the Answers wiki.
Finally, the OSSTMM does state that "Eliminating the threat" is a form of security (separation). So that's good news to you gun owners. However, keep in mind that our research also shows a gun loses effectiveness to the point of adding to the homeowner's own danger when,
1. there is more than 1 person with keys to the home or lives in the home,
2. there is no alerting system,
3. the gun is locked away with trigger locks or in a cabinet, and
4. the location of the bedroom is also an entry point from the outside, and
5. the gun owner has insufficient gun handling training (and Die Hard a dozen times does not count as training).
Sometimes a can of pepper spray which is used to fumigate the space, like a hallway, between you and a thief, will not be noticeable until they stumble into it and start coughing and crying their heads off.
Pepper spray also can't be easily removed and needs time to dissipate unlike a sonic stun alarm which can be removed or destroyed. Either however will give you time to identify the person as a thief rather than a family member, time to unlock your gun, and time to choose whether or not you need to still use deadly force rather than just more spray while awaiting the police.
Just remember, there's a reason why soldiers, samurais, and ninjas wear body armor in the field because to eliminate the threat with a weapon you need to interact with the threat and that puts you in danger as well.
A bullet proof vest is nearly no good within the confines of a house because most are only helpful at more than 14 feet away and that doesn't count getting knocked off your feet or hit in the head. So the best answer is to be alerted early, stay protected behind a barrier, incapacitate or deter the trespasser, and get help as quickly as possible.
You can get the full document called the Home Security Vacation Guide at the ISECOM website. Since it's open source, we are always happy to have your input for making the checklist even better.
By the way, for those who have other "feelings" about the research and ideas within the post, I recommend you watch for my next post on why Humans are bad at Trust and why we can't trust our gut feelings.