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USpyStore Blog

  • Copyright Office Unleashes iPhone; Legalizes Jailbreaking

    The U.S. Copyright Office announced that jailbreaking (software modifications that liberate iPhones and other handsets to run applications from sources other than those approved by the phone maker) the iPhone, and basically any Apple O/S, is legal. The decision stems from a request by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the new ruling rewrites the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Read More

  • Hotels Top Identity Theft List

    Identity theft is the new watchword; hackers, thieves and criminals are continually discovering new methods to twist technology in an effort to steal personal information. Social media networks, cell phones, discarded utility bills and outright theft of personal property are all means employed by thieves to hijack your personal information.

    Trustwave, a security and compliance company, provides security information services and end-to-end solutions for businesses in an effort to protect confidential information systems. A recent report shows that hotels are now the top source for credit card data theft, surpassing restaurants for the top spot; nearly 40% of all personal data in 2009 came from hotels/motels compared to just 13% of thefts from restaurants.

    Hackers target hotel/motel booking and reservation centers due to the high-number of credit card numbers these entities keep "on-file." Like the Internet, once a credit card is in the system, it's available. A successful hacker can steal thousands of credit card numbers and, in essence, thousands--or millions--of dollars. Credit card numbers are used for numerous hotel services, such as bars, beaches, golf courses, swimming pools, gift shops, spas, and other recreational areas; however, they're all processed through one main database.

    Since hotels use proprietary systems, they're easy for hackers to exploit: a computer system at one hotel is similar, if not exactly the same, as the computer system at a competing hotel.

    The other unavoidable fact of hotels and motels are the number of employees who have access to the computer system and your personal data. According to an ABC News Report; "You have so many different employees going through the system that it allows them to either skim cards or put in malware that lets the bad guys hack into the system."

    In June 2010, Destination Hotels & Resorts had its computer system hacked and the credit card data of more than 700 guests from across the country was stolen; in January, Wyndham reported that their computer systems were breached and hackers accessed information from 31 hotels between November 2009 and January 2o1o. They never reported how many cards were compromised.

    Credit card companies usually don't require consumers to pay for unauthorized charges, but credit card users must report the theft in a timely manner to ensure their identity remains safe; the best method to is to check statements regularly and keep tabs on credit reports.

  • When Transformers Needs CCTV Equipment, They Call The U-Spy Store

    It was Friday, July 16, 2010 at 4:45pm when we received a call at our U-Spy Store Chicago location from the production crew for the movie Transformers currently being shot in downtown Chicago. The Transformers producer knew what she wanted but didn't exactly know what it was called. She described the product as being a larger bullet or cylindrical shaped camera that can automatically pan back and forth with a controller. But she in fact already had the described camera. All she really needed was the mount that could move the camera as well as the controller.

    Quickly our team contacted several of our area vendors who are scattered all over the Chicagoland area. One by one, our vendors told us the same story. This is actually very old technology replaced by the dome shaped PTZ camera. But the producers made it clear they did not want the more modern dome shaped PTZ. They needed something that could move the large bullet camera. It's all about the visuals and in a movie, capturing the mood and atmosphere is much more important that having the latest technology.

    After about 10 calls, we finally struck gold. We found the controller and panning mechanism in one of our vendors located in the Northwest Suburban area. It was now 5:06 and we needed to get approval, payment and retrieve the equipment before the 6pm closing time. About 5:30, after a flurry of calls and emails with attachments of images showing what the mechanism looked like, we received their approval.

    Now the hard part for us arrives. We needed to get to the vendor by 6 to pick up the equipment and find a willing U-Spy Store team member to personally deliver the equipment. Gabriel was heading back to the office after a long day of service calls. I called him and he agreed to delay the start of his weekend by a couple of hours by diverting his route home and stop at the vendor. He arrived minutes before close and then called me to say he couldn't make it on time. Gabriel likes to practical joke but didn't terrorize me too long. He said he had the equipment in hand and wanted to know what to do next.

    Meanwhile, back at U-Spy headquarters, German was more than willing to drive the equipment down to the Chicago Loop area to personally deliver the goods and perhaps get that Hollywood career jump started. I made sure that German had everything they needed to make things work including power supply, wiring and connectors.

    A better than average Friday afternoon rush hour helped make things run smoothly and soon German took the hand off from Gabriel and was delivering the much anticipated equipment to the movie set. At 7:57pm I received a text message indicating Operation Transformers was completed. A little more than 3 hours after the call, our U-Spy team accomplished our mission. Damn good on a Friday afternoon!

    Did we save the movie? Probably! Would the movie have figured out a way to continue shooting and production without The U-Spy Store? Probably not! Is the movie going to get 4 stars, 2 thumbs up and favorable reviews because The U-Spy Store saved the day? Absolutely Yes! In fact I am personally endorsing this movie right now by stating this will be the Movie of the Year!. Any questions of payoffs should be discussed with our legal team as soon as the trail of our former governor is complete.

    So the moral of this is, when you need something fast and hard to find, give The U-Spy Store call. Even when shooting a B movie, The U-Spy Store will transform that script into an Academy Award winner. Or at least a movie that was saved by The U-Spy store and not in the editing room. And remember to keep an eye out for those panning cameras and remember who saved the day? The U-Spy Store!

  • Social Media Results in Thief Bust

    Jacob Stone was having some bad luck last week.  His car was burglarized outside of a Seattle-area convenience store. The items stolen included high-end camera equipment and, of all things, his pants and a belt.

    One of the store's employees recognized the man who broke into Stone's car as a man who had stolen items from the store previously during the week. Stone--obviously knowledgeable about photography and videography, retrieved copies of the store's video surveillance footage and retrieved still images from the video footage.

    Stone created "wanted" posters of the thief and the car he used to flee the scene and posted them around the neighborhood. Then, he went a step further and posted the flyers on Facebook. Anyone recognizing the now hunted man were given a dedicated Hotmail address so that they could submit tips.

    In just a few days, he received the tip that local police used to nail the suspected shoplifter-cum-burglar. Someone in the area saw the man and emailed Stone. Stone called him back and later met with the tipster to give the man a reward of $250.  Plus, he got his equipment back, although he had to remove the images that the thief had taken of random items, like scenery in Seattle, a dog, and the perpetrators messy bedroom.

    Stone is thankful that his idea for using social media paid off, and appreciates everyone who helped him during the investigation. Stone will be much more careful where he leaves his car, and it's our opinion that he should invest in some automotive security if he's going to keep expensive equipment in his car. Just saying...

    And you thought Facebook just kept tabs on your friends...

  • U.S. & Russian Spy Rings Mimic Hollywood

    If you've been reading or watching the news lately, you undoubtedly know that the United States and Russia are in the midst of a so-called spy swap.  On June 27, the FBI arrested 10 people on charges that they were deep-cover spies working for the Russian government but living for years in the United States. Their job, according to the DOJ, was to determine U.S. "secrets by making connections to think tanks and government officials." Read More

  • Don't Forget to Secure the Garage!

    Securing a home is something with which most of us are familiar, even if we don't own one. Security bars, electronic locks, home security systems, video cameras, and motion-sensor lighting are all tools that help deter crime. Too often, however, the focus is on the home's living areas, leave a "weak link" in home security that's easy to exploit. Read More

  • 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 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.

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