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Monthly Archives: June 2010

  • Bugnets: More Than Backyard Pests

    Meetings with friends or clients. Private phone conversations. New business presentations. Financial transactions. Personal/family interactions. All items that we, as citizens of the United States, assume are private interactions, protected, and respected, by others. Read More

  • Covert Video Recorders

    Have you ever run into a situation where you needed to take a picture, or record an event on video, but didn’t have your camera with you?
  • How Does a DVR Work?

    The DVR automatically records on motion. The problem is, with the trees blowing, cars moving etc, there is plenty of motion happening. We can screen out the unwanted motion so it does not activate the recording. The DVR will still record the entire view of the camera but the areas that are screened will not activate the camera to record. I hope that makes sense.

    It stores up the video recording onto a hard drive of various sizes, depending on what you buy and the capacity of the DVR. Once your DVR reaches the storage capacity it begins recording over the oldest data. So there will be a rolling block of time that moves along. It’s hard to calculate what that total time is until the hard drive gets filled. But you can experiment by checking the DVR to see how far back you can go in time. Then you will have an idea of the amount of time you are getting before the video starts to disappear. We can increase the hard drive up to the capacity of the DVR. Some DVRs can take 2, 3 or more hard drives. But the size if each drive may be limited by the DVR specifications so you must check whatever that limit is. We have some standalone DVRs that are limited to 1 Terabyte (1000 GB) per drive.

    To make a backup of an event, follow the various directions for backing up with a USB flash drive, CD-ROM, or DVD or by the Network as specified for your particular DVR. Events are usually short time periods, easily less than 30 minutes at a time. Usually 1-5 minutes. You don’t save the entire hard drive since you will be watching 99% of boring daily life around you and nothing of value. Plus the cost of hard drives will add up. If there is an incident that you wish to archive or save, you go to that date and follow the directions provided for your DVR. Then take that backup which will be on a flash drive, DVD or CD-ROM or to a computer and save it in a safe place or give it to the police or insurance company. Or play it on any computer (usually Windows) as the backup will usually contain a small player that can play the video file on any PC. Some DVRs record directly in an AVI format that can be played with a common media player such as Windows Media Player, QuickTime, Real Player or other video player If the file is recorded in that special format, you can convert the file to AVI from the player to give to police, Once it is in the AVI format, any PC or Macintosh computer will be able to play it.

    I hope this makes sense. Each DVR is unique but the above is the case for most. Some cheap DVRs don't offer the backup methods of above and require you to play the video you want to save directly to another recording source such as a DVD recorder or VCR. And remember, even the Macintosh compatible DVRs we sell will not be able to play the proprietary format of the DVR recording. You will need to convert the file to AVI with a Windows PC before viewing the backup on a Apple or Mac machine. Call or email me any questions so I can clarify. Good luck and stay secure.

  • Setting Up Remote Access

    So you were enticed to buy a DVR because you see that it remote accessible. Great! Just plug that puppy into a router and a way we go. Right? Not so fast.

    The DVR side is fairly simple. Just change or make sure your setting is DHCP (automatic assigning of an internal IP address) and check whatever the IP address was signed. That’s the easy part. At least now you can use the IP address assigned to use for IN-Network access. This means you will be able to see your cameras by using the appropriate browser or software to log into your cameras. But wait! You want to see your home from work or see your work from home. Or see your cameras from anywhere in the world.

    Now comes the hard part. Your router now needs to be configured to allow the traffic requests from the outside. You will need to port forward whatever ports your DVR designates. Each DVR is different and most are changeable. The reason they are changeable is that there may be conflicts on your network so when port 80 does not work, you can change the setup to use port 80.

    Inside your router, depending on which router, you will need to setup the router to ROUTE traffic for this port to the DVR i.e. the internal IP address that was assigned.

    If you have no idea what I mean, you best hire us or an IT professional to handle the rest. But in case you are adventurous or just want to learn how to do this, here are a couple of free tips DVR network setup for you.

    Make sure that your Internet provider is not blocking ports. This means that they may be blocking anything you do so no matter what you do, your camera or DVR signal will not make it through your provider’s firewall. Test this by visiting http://www.canyouseeme.org. Test various ports to see if traffic is allowed. If it is great. If not, you may need to call your provider to ask them to allow access to specific ports. Or you may need to buy what is called a Static IP address.

    If you have setup the router and configured the remote access successfully, you may still have a lot of work ahead. If you are using Internet Explorer, you may need to add certain add ons to make your browser work. These add ons are mini programs or active X modules that will make the video visible to you. And your browser settings may be set too high to allow this. So you may need to go to Tools – Internet Options – Security Settings – Custom Level. Here you will need to either set everything to either Allow or Prompt (if allow is not secure) and apply the changes. This change now allows your browser to install what it needs to see the video.

    If you prefer to use the DVR software, then do that as there are no security issues with that part. That software is usually headache free but it too may need certain settings such as antivirus anti spyware or other settings adjusted to make it work.

    U-Spy offers this service to all customers and installers with special discounts. We also offer a Dynamic IP forwarding service for $24/year that will allow you to keep the cheaper Dynamic Internet service instead of the much costlier Static IP setup.

    Call 888-338-1881 with questions. We know you will have plenty.

  • Hey Smartphone Peeps, Read This!

    The Smartphone industry has become as hot, and unavoidable, as social media.  As company and government offices move toward providing smartphone for "indispensable employees," people who don't want to be chained to their office 24/7 are finding a new reality.  Moreover, let's not forget to mention the millions of high school students that need smartphones...
    I know, I know; it's a school requirement.

    Increasing use increases risk of phone viruses.  Consumer demand for "the latest and greatest" has ignited competition between manufacturers that are eager to outsell competitors and sate consumer appetites.  Today's smartphone doesn't need a ton of features.  There's an App for that.

    Apps, or "Applications" are software programs that run on a smartphones operating system to make the phone, and its owner’s life, simple.  In most cases, this is true.  However, the introduction of the iPhone redefined the smartphone industry: Why buy a Blackberry, with 10,000 buttons on it when you could own a touch-sensitive phone that was sleek, easy to use, and fit nicely in your pocket?  Soon after the iPhone came Google Android and Verizon's Droid.  Recently the Kin became available; its main selling point is social media integration.  Other "cool" smartphones include Aria, Panther, Symbian, and--of course--Blackberry Bold 9800 (better late than never).

    The nuclear smartphone race launched the app race.  All good stuff.  Nevertheless, like all good things, they come to an end, in this case meaning that more malware and spyware applications' manufacturers that want to steal your intellectual and physical property.  Malware on cell phones isn't new, but it's become more prevalent on smartphone platforms.

    These "bad guys" are targeting smartphones at higher rates, and, according to mobile security provide Lookout, an average of 9 malware/spyware infections were discovered every hundred Smartphones as of last month (May 2010).  A Dark Reading article on the malware highlights the fact that electronic infections took 15-years to reach their current levels.  Mal- or spyware on smartphones has reached the same level in a couple of months.  (May's infection rate doubled November's).

    John Herring, founder of Lookout, stated, "We call this the 1999 factor: It feels like about 10 years ago in terms of prevalence of threats.  There was a tipping point between 2000 and 2002 [for PC threats] that was driven by broadband.  The same trends are going to hold true here" (with smartphones).

    Veracode, another mobile phone security provider demonstrated why malware is dangerous;  Tyler Shields, senior security researcher with Veracode, developed and released a spyware app that targets Blackberries, steals all contact info, both text and e-mail messages, plus allows hackers to listen in on calls.  Scarier still, the spyware application can track the infected phone using GPS.

    Blackberry infections are usually spying programs due to the Blackberry's early introduction to corporate America.

    As smartphones become more user-friendly, it's important to understand that our phones provide more information than our computers, including location (GPS), automatic payment info, e-mail, text, phone call records, voice mails, text, and a record of numbers called by the phone.

    If you need your smartphone scanned for viruses or malware, call U-Spy Store's corporate headquarters in Chicago at (773) 529-2SPY (2779), or send us an email.

  • Why IP

    The U-Spy Store is building a large selection of IP Cameras to choose from. For those who may think IP is a bodily function, this mailer will help you understand that IP technology is the latest and fastest growing segment of video security. IP stands for Internet Protocol but don’t let that scare you. It simply means your camera is connected by a wire to your network instead of a recorder. This allows you great advantages. First it allows you great flexibility as to where you can view the cameras and where you can record. Imagine a break in at your home and the burglar steals your DVR. All of your evidence is gone. With an IP camera setup, you can record your home cameras at work, your work cameras at home and you can even record in multiple locations. And you can do all this without a DVR! And there is more......

    Not only are you getting the flexibility of off site recording and multiple site recording but now with the IP camera, you have the capability of tripling your resolution or more. A 1.3 Megapixel IP camera has about 4 times the resolution of a typical VGA or analog camera. And there is no hope of ever being able to send a better image on the original camera on RG59 or RG6 cable.

    What does better resolution mean? Not just better images with ore detail. The higher resolution camera means you can use less cameras and potentially eliminate the PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) camera. When you record in higher resolution, you have the flexibility to enlarge or zoom into the image at a greater capacity after recording. With an analog camera, you have very limited zooming capabilities. Keep in mind that a 5 Megapixel camera is not uncommon which translates into 12 times the quality of a typical analog camera. There are 16 Megapixel cameras on the market now but at a huge price.

    Another great feature of the IP camera is that you will no longer need a DVR to record. Any PC with sufficient storage or even an external hard drive will suffice to record your cameras. And remember, you can configure this recording anywhere in the world with Internet Access.

    There are issues to overcome with IP cameras. One issue is network bandwidth. If you are considering more than four 1.3 Megapixel cameras in your home or work network, then you should consider a separate network for your cameras. The heavy data stream from these cameras will big down the network unless you have a sufficient capability.

    Another advantage of the IP camera is that most are viewable on a Mac computer. Mac compatibility is always a plus to a Mac user like me. I want to be able to get my Mac Book and view cameras without starting up my Windows software.

    Encrypted wireless transmission is another feature on some of the IP cameras. Encrypted or digital signal means you no longer need to fear that your wireless camera will be viewed by others. I am not saying it is impossible, but the chances are greatly diminished since the interceptor would need to hack into your wireless router to do it. It also means no interference from wireless networks and cordless phones. This is a huge benefit to anyone who ever tried using wireless cameras in the cluttered 2.4 bandwidth.

  • GPS and Video Surveillance in School Buses

    In Richmond County, Georgia, the  Board of Education wants to install GPS tracking devices and video cameras in the county's school buses in an effort to make the bus routes safe--or safer--for children.

    If installed, parents will be provided with accurate times for pick-up and drop-off, which will enable families to keep better track of their children. Some parents, however, feel that GPS trackers and video cameras may result in stalking and spying. While many parents feel that this new technology is a good idea, some parents feel that video cameras and  may lead to stalking and spying. The parents' concern is two-fold; it's unethical to "spy" on children, and they (parents) fear that others may be able to track their children in order to abduct them.

    The school district takes a different point-of-view: The buses are state property, and according to Georgia law, schools are allowed to monitor their assets.

    The cost of installing a system for the district will run in the range of $40,000; money that the district will have to raise if they wish to install two video cameras and one GPS unit on every bus, and will ask the Richmond County Board of Education to purchase the equipment for 128 buses.

    According to WJBF-TV in Augusta, the district's intent is to install a camera in the aisle and one in the front of the bus, monitoring activity on the bus on a consistent basis.

    GPS trackers and cameras will operate when the bus is running, and drivers won't be able access either piece of equipment,  "but school authorities will be able to view any recorded information at their discretion. The school has attempted to reassure parents by stating that the new equipment is being installed to increase efficiency, and that the school board is not interested in spying on students."

    The umbrella benefit is that bus drivers, responsible for keeping children safe, fall under the scrutiny of the district, ensuring that bus drivers “…are conducting themselves in a professional manner.” Corporations, like UPS, have used GPS trackers to ensure employees stay within company guidelines while using corporate assets.

  • Is Your Cell Phone Safe from Prying Eyes?

    It's a given that your computer's been exposed to Spyware or Malware, attacks that have hopefully been thwarted by anti-virus software. However, what about your cell phone?

    According to police detectives, cell phones are infected with both spy- and mal- ware.  Aware of the danger of computer viruses, most users, for the most part, are not familiar with similar threats that can infect cell phones. Detective Ernest Ward (Jonesboro Police Department) stated that cell phones are "infected with spyware and malware and they [users] don't even know about it."

    Searching the Internet will reveal numerous websites that offer downloads that will track and record text messages, phone numbers, pictures, and call logs. The general assumption--and manufacturer's sales information--is that these applications are to be used for practical purposes. Parents tracking their children, or corporations ensuring the proper use of company resources.

    However, many such programs can replicate themselves and are difficult to detect to those not familiar with cell phone operating systems. The spyware programs often run "below" areas where users operate their smart phones.

    Some of the applications send reports in real-time, displaying information on a parent's phone as a child  receives the call, allowing the parent to record the number and listen to the call.

    Since many smart phones have the same capabilities as laptops, the risk is heightened because phones don't have in-depth defense programs. Some of the viruses on cell phones can activate micro-phones or cameras, allowing other parties to eavesdrop on conversations or view areas captured by the phone's camera.

    Recently, spying via technology was boosted into the national spotlight when it was reported that a Pennsylvania school district school that provided students from two high schools with free Macbooks was sued in federal court. A theft-tracking program on the laptops, allegedly used to track missing units, was deemed to be invasive because of a feature that activated computer webcams on the laptops.

    Users were never informed of the software, and district officials concede that their monitoring of students had gone too far. The original intent of the software was to capture images of the "desktop and whatever is in front of the screen for law enforcement to help track down a missing computer."

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