Funny, But True: Low-Tech Security Works, High-Tech Fails

Sometimes those “smart” houses aren’t so smart. Apple fan Marcus, a homeowner in Illinois, decided to outfit his home with every gadget available that claimed to be compatible with Apple HomeKit. His home had Hud LED lightbulbs, Ecobee thermostats with sensors through the home and an August Smart Lock. He could control the lighting, temperature and locks in his house with an app on his iPad.

Marcus enjoyed being able to walk up to his front door and having it unlock for him when his phone got within a certain range. He could let his dog walker in when he was not at home. When he was home, he could enlist his trusty assistant Siri to help him by giving commands like, “Hey Siri, dim the lights.”

Excited by these new fun features, (and thousands of dollars poorer), he invited his neighbor Mike to come over and check it out.

The Apple HomeKit is great, if you take certain precautions.

Then one morning as Marcus was leaving, Mike showed up and asked if he could borrow some flour. Marcus started to get out of the car to open the front door for him, when Mike said, “I’ll let myself in.” He walked right up to the door, and called out, “Hey Siri, unlock the front door.” The door unlocked.

So, what happened? His neighbor had figured out that if he called to Siri loudly enough through the door, she would hear him through the iPad Pro sitting inside and unlock the door. It worked. Marcus has since removed the August Smart Lock.

The story reminded me of when I installed my own security system at a company I was running. We were losing a lot of merchandise to theft through the back door of the warehouse. I needed a solution fast, so I put a “camera” next to each of the 10 doors. Actually, I just drilled a hole in the wall and fed a wire through it with a battery-operated red light right next to it. The camera and the wire didn’t go anywhere—and neither did my merchandise after that.

The camera functioned as a psychological theft deterrent that scared those who considered stealing. After reducing shrinkage, I had the money to upgrade the security and improve the inventory tag system.

My method worked for me in that particular case, but I know it wouldn’t have taken long for the thieves to catch on to my fake camera system. So, I don’t recommend it. But I can’t recommend the more expensive smart home system, either.

Unethical Tech Workers Pose Danger to Your Business

Fraud and embezzlement are two dangers to every company. I’ve written a lot about instituting policies and steps to take to help make your company safe from employee theft. These tips primarily focus on those employees who have access to your financial accounts.

But they aren’t the only employees you need to worry about. Your IT employees may also be capable of potentially causing massive damage to your company, as pointed out in a recent article in Fortune magazine, “How much do you really know about the tech worker you just hired?”

We have all read the headlines about companies like Sony, Target and Anthem/Blue Cross being hacked by outsiders. What is less common knowledge are the problems that can come from within the company. Yes, your own IT employees could be a threat. They have access to valuable information, and if they desire, can threaten to make it public if you don’t pay up. It’s the new age of blackmail.

There is really no way to know how often this happens, because like with many cases of fraud or embezzlement, the corporation often keeps it quiet so it won’t draw unwanted publicity.

And even if an employee leaves, he or she can still potentially blackmail you. It’s been reported that Nokia regularly deals with security issues, including being blackmailed by a former employee who obtained classified information. According to an article in the Helsinki Times, in 2007 a blackmailer asked for millions of euros to protect an encryption key of Symbian phones. The release of that information could have caused millions of dollars in damage.

At least he’s a charitable blackmailer — he asked for half of the money in cash and for the other half to go to charity. Nokia made the donation and paid the ransom, delivering half of it in an ice hockey equipment bag. The blackmailer took the money and ran. The crime is still under investigation.

So how do you protect your company? Your tech employees most likely have access to potentially damaging information about your business. And it can be a whole lot more difficult and complicated to prevent tech blackmailers than it is to set up checks and balances on your financial accounts.

How to prevent problems with tech employees

The key is to start with your hiring practices. Companies desperate to hire qualified tech workers have been guilty of skipping over crucial steps when selecting new employees. Ken Springer, a former FBI agent and founder of Corporate Resolutions, suggested these steps in the Fortune article: Verify everything on the resume, ask your current IT people to check their references, let prospective employees know you will do a thorough background check and reward employees for referring good tech people to hire.

In addition to these tips, I would add some of my previously recommended tips on fraud prevention that can apply here as well, including:

  • Conduct credit checks. Exercise caution in considering any employee in a dire financial situation.
  • Always prosecute fraud. Make it clear you have a no-tolerance policy.
  • Train your managers to pay close attention to their employees’ behavior and for any changes in that behavior. See More Red Flags of Fraud and The Red Flags of Fraud.

Sadly, threats to the wellbeing of your company can come from both internal and external sources. It’s worth the time and expense to make sure you are hiring ethical and honest tech employees.



Leverage Technology to Look Smarter Than You Are

It was a great “gotcha” moment. I had been negotiating the sale of all of the assets on a receivership in another state for a month. The deal was pending in a motion filed with the court. The attorney for the other side had been dragging his heels over every development. But of course, when I go on vacation, he goes to court and tells the judge that he needs a change and that I’m not a professional receiver because we’ll have to delay the change for a week while I’m gone.

iPad-explainer-video-NEW--007So I get an email from my counsel, who is in Boston, telling me the other side wants to amend a document and they need my signature. Not such a big deal, right? Well, it is if you’re on a boat traveling from Sweden to Russian and just after I received the email, the Internet and all of the electronics on the boat, including printers, stopped working.

All technology was dead in the water – no pun intended.

I figured there must be some Internet available somewhere on the ship, and sure enough, turns out the Captain has his own proprietary system that they use for navigation.

Now I had access but how to get a document signed from onboard? Fortunately, I had an app called SignEasy that allows you to legally sign documents from smartphones and tablets. I had the attorney send me a PDF of the document I needed to sign, inserted my signature and sent it back.

Yes, it cost me $150, the minimum the Captain wanted to access his Internet, for a job that took less than five minutes. But in my clients’ eyes I need to be seen as a guy who gets things done and is accessible to them, no matter what the circumstances. The attorney in Boston was so impressed with how fast I turned that document around (and that he could tell the other side to stuff it), he referred another piece of business to me. “If you can get stuff done like that, I want you on my team,” he said.

I’ve learned that using the right technology can make you look smarter than you are. Before I had gone on a previous cruise I took some computer classes at Apple, then hired the teacher for an additional two hours to sit with me and educate me on the best iPad applications for my business. It was well worth the investment. I wanted to be able to conduct business from anywhere in the world, whether I was on land or at sea, with just my iPad.

Another app he told me about that I now use daily is called Evernote. I can make notes, take photos, create to-do lists on any of my devices and they are updated on all of them. These notes are also completely searchable so I don’t waste time hunting down a phone number or note I’ve made. I can share notes with friends on social media and record voice and audio notes, perfect for when I’m traveling.

Some people seem to pride themselves on not owning a smartphone or don’t see the use for an iPad. I would just say this, if you’re not using the latest technology, you can bet your competition or the guys on the other side of the negotiating table are. If you want to compete in today’s world, you need to use every tool available to you. And that includes the latest in technology.

Don’t you want to have your own gotcha moment?