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THE SIDEBAR: MARC WEBER TOBIAS

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HIGH TECH MODULAR STRONG ROOMS: When they are really after you or your valuables!

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Marc Tobias interviews CitySafe’s CEO Karl Alizade at their facility in New Jersey in May, 2007 about their portable strong rooms and vaults and why they are sought after by the military, banks, diamond merchants, cash handling facilities, foreign diplomats, VIPs and even drug dealers.

http://video.security.org/forced_entry/citysafe_interview_2007.wmv

CitySafe is a small innocuous company located in New Jersey, about an hour south of Newark airport. Their CEO has thirty years of experience in designing, building and opening safes and vaults. Karl routinely consults with major insurance companies in the U.S., UK, and other venues with regard to protection and burglary prevention of high value assets, and the analysis of burglaries and the resultant failure of safes and vaults.

His company produces a modular strong room, built around individual concrete panels for which CitySafe holds several patents. These safes can be transported on palates and easily constructed in the field in a matter of hours by two or three men. They can be much more economical than traditional construction techniques because of their cost and versatility and are the only type of strong room enclosure that can be installed within an existing structure such as an embassy, royal palace or private home.

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The heart of the system is a special mixture of cement that is produced in Germany then refined in the United States. The compound will withstand pressures of up to 30,000 pounds per square inch. In layman terms, that is a lot! The concrete is set around an extremely strong re bar matrix, shown in the photographs below. If you need protection against rocket propelled grenades (RPG), small and large arms fire (like fifty caliber machine guns), explosives (including shaped charges), twenty-pound sledge hammers and gas-powered grinders, then this is definitely what you need for your government facility, power plant, business or private residence.

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CitySafe produces custom-sized safes and strong rooms for a wide array of users including diamond mines, third world dictators (who are always worried about their safety and that of their family in a coup), military organizations, public utilities, large jewelry stores and precious stone processing facilities, banks, CEOs of large corporations, diplomats, embassies, cash handling facilities and residences of the wealthy, including drug dealers. Even they have families that they need to be concerned about in the event of a hostile attack or vendetta raid by the competition!

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These photographs show methods of attack and the results. Note the matrix of re bar that fortifies the concrete liner.

The company has a large manufacturing facility and because the size of the enclosure is based upon the use of a standardized modular panel, they can produce strong rooms, personal safe rooms and vaults to any requirement with short delivery times. The company is also negotiating licensing arrangements in several foreign locations that will allow local military and security personnel to meet their needs on a more urgent and local basis.

Normally strong rooms are constructed of concrete which is the most secure against attack and does not degrade with age. The problem with this type of construction is that strong rooms and vaults must generally be created at the time of building construction and very expensive vault doors must be set, often with cranes. Obviously, once installed these strong rooms are not movable. In addition, at least thirty days is required for the concrete to set.

The alternative (and less secure) construction technique (and also less expensive) is to employ several layers of wood, surrounded by relatively thin sheet-metal walls. Wood has been used as an insulator for both burglary and fire proofing for hundreds of years. From the security perspective it can lead to real problems. Over a period of twenty years all of the moisture can disappear and the wood will virtually disintegrate, leaving no real protection whatsoever. Some of New York’s Fifth Avenue jewelry stores might want to pay attention to this issue, as Karl Alizade and other experts can attest after evaluating successful burglaries. Many are at risk and do not know it.

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The photograph shows wood material that was virtually worthless in a UL listed strong room that was the subject of a burglary of a jewelry store in New York. Karl analyzed the crime scene and was utilized as an expert witness. UL rated this material and certified that it would resist penetration of a ninety-six square inch hole for thirty minutes. According to Karl, it took the New York City Fire Department about four minutes to cut a large hole through the material, as shown in the video.

The CitySafe platform have been tested against a number of threats, including small arms fire, thirty rounds from a Russian Kalashnikov 4.45mm automatic rifle AK74, Kalashnikov SVD super rifle 7.62 APmm, GP25 grenade launcher, 40mm (Russian military), Laws type anti-tank weapon (Russian military), Rocket propelled grenade RPG7, and a variety of explosives and super-attack tools like gas-powered grinders, long crowbars, and twenty-pound sledge hammers.

Conclusion
If you need a strong room, vault, or personal safe room for your family or staff that is impervious to most forms of attack and can be transported to meet individual requirements, then you might want to look at this unique system. The firepower that this concrete will stop is unreal.

During the final firefight, Al Pacino screamed at his attackers in the 1983 movie Scarface “come and get me.” If he had been in a CitySafe enclosure I imagine the movie would have turned out quite differently. But then, we would not have been able to enjoy the farewell plunge of his bullet-riddled body into his swimming pool.

See also

http://video.security.org/forced_entry/citysafe_dvd.wmv
This video describes how the safes are constructed.

http://video.security.org/forced_entry/citysafe_russia.wmv
This video was shot in Russia and documents the tests that were conducted by the Russian army.

Detailed information about the CitySafe technology can be found in LSS+. You may also contact me if you have questions regarding the security of these enclosures.

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THE NETGEAR WIFI PHONE: ET Only Phone at Home

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When I travel overseas I rely on Skype as my VoIP carrier for almost all of my long distance traffic. So when I saw the new Netgear WIFI handset (SPH101) I thought this would be a convenient and useful piece of gear to add to my communications arsenal, thus eliminating the need to use my laptop to make phone calls when sitting in airports, hotel rooms and offices. My optimism would be short lived.

I contacted Netgear and asked that they provide a unit for evaluation. Unfortunately, they said they did not have any product samples that were available to them. I suspect they were all trying to call each other to locate one, but they couldn’t get any of their new WIFI phones to connect! So, being the eternal optimist I picked one up on a recent trip to New York.

First impressions: if you are looking for a WIFI sniffer then this is the gizmo for you, although a bit expensive at just under three hundred dollars a copy! However if you are actually seeking what they are advertising: an 802.11 handset preconfigured for Skype, save your money unless you only want to use this device on a totally open network which in my case would prove just about worthless.

The handset itself is a great size, but in this case, size really doesn’t matter! It even sports a mini-USB plug for power and recharge which I prefer over most other connectors. My CDMA and GSM Blackberry handsets, Motorola Bluetooth headset and Garmin GPS are also mini-USB so one charger does all. This is important when I travel to far away places because I prefer not to carry a million different power supplies.

The fact they chose mini-USB was smart and encouraging but my praise did not last long. If you try to use the Netgear-provided adapter overseas I would definitely stand back when plugging it in to mains power. Plan on using the charger just once because it only allows for 110 volt operation. Sorry, no 220 allowed, which is odd given that Skype can be used from just about anywhere. Maybe they did not want to go through the European certification process.

Netgear did not provide for any computer interface on their USB connection either, which would have made a lot of sense. That means, for example, that you cannot program WIFI access point authentication information into the phone. That ability would be rather important if you subscribe to commercial sites like T-Mobile or Boingo or Waypoint. It doesn’t make any sense to offer a phone that cannot be used in the vast majority of locations, especially for the steep price of this one.

There is absolutely no provision for any log-in whatsoever other than WEP keys. This, in my view, is a primary defect in this device and is the main reason why I definitely would not recommend it for any professional that uses Skype. But as I said earlier it does work great if you just want to search for networks and see what you can’t use! The software will display the type of network, its status, security, signal level and IP address. But allow log-on, forget it. Of course if the phone tries to log onto a network and fails it won’t give you the reason either. I guess the geniuses that wrote the code somehow knew that you would also know what was wrong. Yeah, it’s called engineering!

And speaking of auto log-on, the software is glitchy at best. That means that sometimes it does and sometimes it does not automatically locate and log into a totally open network. Real convenient and reliable, wouldn’t you say?

The Hardware
The phone is slick looking but in my opinion the buttons are, well, cheesy! The audio is actually pretty good once you get a call through. Setting the volume or activating the speakerphone, well, that is a different matter because those buttons on the side of the unit are almost unusable due of their size and placement. And speaking of the speakerphone, it is a misnomer because you really cannot hear the audio very well which I always thought was precisely the point of such an option. Oh yes, and the processor is sluggish, which is quite noticeable when using their tiny track ball mouse. There is a delay when scrolling and selecting menu items and the size of the thing is not conducive to smooth operation.

The Operating Software
The software in my view is elementary at best. For starters, there is no place to store any user data so if the phone is lost, good luck unless the finder figures out who you are from the Skype contacts list, which depending on whether the user logged out before losing the phone, will still be there. Also, when you try to store your user name and password, the software may not remember it and keeps asking you to reenter it every time you try to log on. As I said it is glitchy. And the clock, it forgets the time and date, but then I suppose after trying to use the phone for a few calls, it might not matter anyway! And when setting (or resetting) the time, there is a menu label error. It is a small thing but indicative of the apparent hurried manner that the software was developed.

Skype software
As to how the Skype software works, it replicates their regular operating system but with limited functionality related to calls only. No chat, of course, nor any messages. The best part: the cost of making calls! I subscribed earlier this year to the special offer for unlimited flat rate service for Skypeout. Yep, that works great on my notebook and desktop but when I started making calls on my Netgear phone I noticed that charges were accruing. Why? I have no idea, but somehow Skype knows that this phone is not what you normally use so per minute call charges apply to connect to the PSTN. Kind of defeats the whole purpose don’t you think?

What you can do with the Netgear WIFI phone
Well, (other than the obvious) if you want to have a very expensive cordless phone for use around home or on a completely open wireless network then this little gem will work just fine, although they claim only about two hours of talk time. One of the conveniences of Skype is that multiple computers can be logged in at the same time with the same Skype name; all will ring simultaneously which is very convenient. So this technical marvel will allow you to wander around your house and make and receive Skype calls which I guess is ok unless you wanted to roam somewhere else, like the hundreds of thousands of hotspots around the world that don’t have open networks. And don’t forget the added bonus; that it will actually find WIFI networks even if you can’t use them. This is truly a piece of net-gear!

What you cannot do with this phone
You cannot connect to any access point that requires user authentication. That means any subscription hotspot, virtually every hotel, airport, train station, and any location that offers free WIFI, (like Starbucks, and Borders and hundreds of thousands of other places) are off-limits. Only completely open networks are accessible which in most cases would also exclude the workplace.

And if you might be thinking that I have been a bit too critical of this latest WIFI handset here is the best part. Evidently the Geniuses at Netgear (or whoever designed this phone for them) have never heard of end-to-end signaling; you know that system where you send DTMF tones for command options or to select different menu functions. Like maybe for accessing your voice mail, for example. Well, it turns out that the feedback tones for the soft keys generate the * tone set and pass the audio down the line. So if you try to bring up an option item on the handset it will send the * DTMF tones to the far end which in my case screws up certain voice response systems that I use. Brilliant. Maybe these people should next try their hand at producing locks!

My suggestion: save your money. If you want Skype rates from a wireless portable (like your cellular) then load a piece of free software called voxlib from Skype and run it on your desktop. It works quite well and provides a digital bridge through your computer (when it is logged onto Skype). Call your Skype number from any phone and connect. Quality is excellent and allows you to dial any international number at low Skype rates or for free, depending on whether you are calling a PSTN number or another computer. For receiving calls through Skype if you have a SkypeIn account, just set up call forwarding to your cell. Save yourself the aggravation, frustration and cost of dealing with the Netgear phone, because in this case, talk is cheap; they don’t charge for calls you can’t make!

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Targus Defcon CL Armored Cable Locks: Not Secure

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The Targus Defcon CL Armored computer cable lock is touted as the most secure in the industry, but is it? Read the feature article by the author at
http://www.engadget.com/2006/09/08/the-lockdown-your-new-targus-defcon-cl-lock-hacked-by-beer/

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TSA Luggage Locks Are Not Secure

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The Transportation Security Agency has approved certain locks to be used by passengers to secure their luggage against theft of contents. An investigation by the author has determined that these locks are not designed to provide any measure of security and should not be relied upon to do so. Each of the mechanisms that are examined in this report can be easily bypassed without any special tools or expertise, often in a few seconds. Detailed photographs within the report allow a thorough understanding of the TSA 002, TSA 003, TSA 004 and TSA 005 locks.

See the detailed report at http://download.security.org/tsa_luggage_locks_report.pdf

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The Targus Ipod Lock: A Modicum of Security

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Targus is offering what they call a “mobile security lock” that they claim is a perfect “solution” for the millions of iPod owners who are hoping to keep their music players secure from theft. After evaluating the device from three different perspectives, I was not quite sure exactly what the “solution” was that they were describing.

Read the feature article at
http://www.engadget.com/2006/10/05/the-lockdown-the-targus-ipod-lock-or-a-modicum-of-security/
and view the video demonstration by the author.

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Locks that Protect Your Computer: Many don’t

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Read the detailed report on how some computer locks will not protect your laptop from being stolen.
See http://download.security.org/computer_locks.pdf

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