Finding The Hidden InfoSec Story

How Convenient

Photo Credit: bradleygee via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: bradleygee via Compfight cc
My daughter recently babysat a 5 year old girl whose parents were out until 10pm. Around 7pm, my phone rang.

“Dad,” my daughter whispered, “the garage door just opened. No one is supposed to be here. The mother isn’t answering her cell phone because she’s in her class. What should I do?”

“You can call 911, or check out the garage to see if you can close the door. I trust your judgment. How is the girl?” I asked.

“I moved her upstairs to play quietly after I heard the garage door open. I just checked out the downstairs floor and didn’t see or hear anything,” she said.

Just then I heard an unfamiliar high pitched voice, “Do something! Dooooo something!” the girl pleaded. Obviously the girl had overheard our conversation, in spite of my daughter’s best efforts to problem solve discretely.

“Dad, I’m going to check out the basement and try to close the door. I’ll call you back in a few.” She hung up. A few minutes later, the phone rang again. She had closed the garage door, the house had remained locked, and she was confident no intruder was present.

When she returned home, she shared more details. When she tried go down stairs to clear the basement, the young girl did not want to be left alone upstairs. My daughter found that a locked basement door separated the house from the garage.  She decided to leave things as they were, since nothing of extreme importance was in the garage, and the house was presently secure.  To access the electric control for the garage door would require unlocking the basement door.

Unfortunately, it was futile to try to explain to the girl that it was more important to retain control of the home by leaving things as they were than by trying to close the garage door to protect possessions therein. After looking as best as possible through the small basement door window, and seeing no intruder, my daughter quickly opened the door, shut the garage door, and locked the basement door again. The rest of the evening passed uneventfully.

When the parents returned they explained that the door had automatically opened more than once in the past, necessitating service calls to try to set a frequency for the door that did not conflict with neighborhood signals.

My daughter and I had a good discussion about home security, the expectations of people (like the girl’s emphasis on property protection rather than personal protection), and the failures and weaknesses of technology. A malfunctioning, vulnerable home security feature, the garage door opener, created unnecessary tension and uncertainty which completely undermined the sense of security such a device should provide.

Too often we may depend on cheap, poorly designed technology which provides visible convenience, but at the invisible cost of degraded security. How convenient is that?

Author: Stephen Patton

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