Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Renters Want Keyless Entry, But Is It Worth the Risks?

Keypad entry
With the growing popularity of the Internet of Things (IoT), renters are looking for homes that reflect their connected lifestyle. Sixty-five percent of baby boomers and 86 percent of millennials would pay more for an apartment with intelligent upgrades such as thermostats, lighting or locks. In fact, the majority of millennial renters (61 percent) look specifically for apartments with electronic access features, believing these capabilities increase security.

With these figures in mind, you might be considering making the jump from traditional locks to smart locks at your property. Before implementing a keyless entry system, however, it is important to weigh the risks against the benefits.

Keyless Entry Systems Are Easy to Hack

Like other IoT devices, smart locks are typically powered by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Z-Wave connectivity, making them vulnerable to hackers. According to Berkeley researchers, “Flaws in the design, implementation, and interaction models of existing locks can be exploited by several classes of adversaries, allowing them to learn private information about users and gain unauthorized home access.”

Security researchers at the Def Con conference also pointed out that some locks can even be hacked by someone with minimal tech skills.

If a tenant uses their smartphone to control a smart lock, their safety could be at stake if their phone ends up in the wrong hands. Nearly 30 percent of people use no screen lock on their phones, so a criminal could easily access personal data stored on the device to determine where the phone’s owner lives and then gain access to their unit with the click of a button. Not only does this vulnerability put your tenant at risk, but it increases your property’s liability.

Managing the System Can Be a Full-Time Job

While keyless entry systems might make renters' lives easier, that is not always the case for leasing offices. Smart locks come with the administrative burden of programming fobs, cards, access codes or biometric fingerprints.

The locks need to be reprogrammed not only when a tenant moves in or out, but also if the locks have been compromised in some way, such as by hacking or a tenant losing a fob. If your property uses a keypad system, access codes much be changed frequently regardless of whether or not a breach has been reported. This is because codes can easily be figured out. A common problem is "shoulder surfing,” a social engineering technique where someone obtains the code simply by watching the tenant enter it. Even if the tenant willingly provides the code to someone, it could be overheard or shared without their permission. Depending on the size of the property, managing access rights could be a full-time job.

Even if someone hasn’t seen or overheard the code, criminals can simply examine the keypad for wear and tear. The buttons the tenant presses on a regular basis will show signs of use and thieves can try a few different combinations to discover the right code. To prevent this issue, the codes must be changed regularly, making it harder for tenants to keep track of their codes.

Some locks allow you to use biometric thumbprints instead of codes, but this can create an administrative burden for your employees, since they will have to scan new tenants’ thumbprints and deactivate former tenants’ thumbprints.

You Do Not Eliminate the Need for Key Control

You may be under the impression that key control is no longer necessary when you implement a keyless entry system. Although there are some smart locks that eliminate the use of traditional keys, many still have key slots that allow you to use backup keys in case the smart lock malfunctions. Some users have reported that certain models of smart locks frequently crash, so having the option to use backup keys is critical. If you do use traditional keys as backups, you will need to secure and control access to those keys.

However, regardless of whether or not your system requires a backup key, you will still need a way to secure and track preprogrammed cards or fobs for every unit to grant contractors access to specific apartments. While some properties will program a card or key fob as needed for all the units a contractor needs to access to complete a particular work order, this method requires multiple staff members to have programming privileges. The result is a system with little access restriction,
which is in effect like giving these employees master keys.

As CNET says, “A smart lock doesn’t necessarily equal a safer lock.” Renters might be willing to pay more for keyless entry, but is it worth the added administrative burden, security risks and increased liability? To help you decide, download our whitepaper "Are Smart Locks a Smart Move for Your Multifamily Property?"

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Missing-Key Incidents Highlight Need for Campus Security

Empty classroom Key control is an essential component of a school’s security program. When keys fall into the wrong hands, schools risk not only loss of assets but lives as well. This is clear from several missing-key incidents that have happened in recent years:

  • In Massachusetts, police were investigating a bomb threat at Newburyport High School when they discovered that a 16-year-old (who was not connected to the threat) was carrying a school master key and butterfly knife.
  • A missing set of master keys forced an entire school district in Oregon to rekey 16 schools, costing approximately $50,000.
  • At the University of Central Arkansas, the chief of staff lent his grand master key to a student, who used the key to enter an assistant director’s office and steal exam answers.

When it comes to school security, electronic key control provides two key benefits: restricting access to keys and automatically documenting an audit trail of key usage. To reduce the risk of incidents such as these, follow these four key control tips on your campus.

Store Keys Securely

Office drawers, pegboards and unmonitored lockboxes are all methods for storing your school’s keys. The problem with those methods is that keys could be easily stolen by anyone who gains access to the area in which they are contained. Storing keys in a tamper-proof electronic key management system will greatly reduce the chance for key theft and enhance the overall security of your keys.

Establish Access Levels for Users

Establishing access levels ensures that users can only take keys that are essential to their job functions. Enforce access levels by implementing an electronic key security system that requires users to enter a unique password or scan their fingerprint to retrieve keys. This nonreplicable access information ensures that only authorized users can check out certain keys.

Keep an Accurate Log

One of the pitfalls of using a pegboard or lockbox is that if employees don’t sign out or sign in the keys they use, locating unaccounted-for keys and updating the log becomes an administrative headache and, even worse, a liability for the campus. An electronic key control system provides an automatic verifiable audit trail of key activity so logs are always accurate.

Set up Alerts

With manual key control processes, there’s no way to know if a key hasn’t been returned, or if an unauthorized user attempts to access a key. Text message and email alerts can immediately notify system administrators when keys have not been returned or a user attempts to take a key to which they don’t have access.

By managing keys with an electronic key control system that controls user access, your school can cut down on incidents in which keys are either lost or end up in the hands of unauthorized individuals. If an incident does occur, the audit trail created by an electronic key control system can help police and school officials quickly identify who last checked out a specific key or set of keys.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Could Your Dealership Be on the Hook for Teen Crime?

Teen Driving Speeding Car Through Tunnel
Updated May 11, 2018
Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg compared the teenage brain to a vehicle with a good accelerator but a weak brake — a combination that is bound to lead to a crash. Steinberg meant the comparison figuratively, but a rash of juveniles stealing vehicles from dealerships made the metaphor seem like a prediction. Most of the thefts involved high-speed joyrides resulting in crashes, some of which led to fatalities.

Where Are the Crimes Happening?

In Pinellas, FL, the problem is reaching epidemic proportions. The Tampa Bay Times found that a teen crashes a stolen car every four days in the county. In 2015, police made 499 felony arrests for auto theft — that’s more than in Los Angeles. Most recently, there was a highly publicized incident in which a 14-year-old and two 16-year-olds stole an SUV from a dealership. The teens later died in a fiery crash following a police chase. A fourth teenager who was in the vehicle at the time of the crash was hospitalized.

But while Pinellas County is a hotbed for thefts, that doesn’t mean that other parts of the country are immune. Dealerships in the Chicago area, for example, have been repeatedly targeted by teens
(a problem that is made worse by dealership employees habitually leaving keys in vehicles). Young thieves have also stolen vehicles from Hemet, CA and Brooksville, FL.

Why Does a Thief’s Age Matter?

While some parents have begged for harsher penalties for juveniles who have stolen cars, that is not always the case. Some child advocates are leaning on the “immature teen brain” defense, saying that a person’s brain is not fully developed until around age 25. Before then, juveniles are likely to take more risks and are susceptible to peer pressure. It’s worth noting that in most reported cases of juvenile vehicle theft, two or more teens typically worked together, indicating that peer pressure played a role in the crimes.

According to the immature teen brain argument, juveniles shouldn’t be held fully responsible for their crimes because of their inadequate self-control and reasoning ability. In one notable case in Ontario, Canada, two teens who had been smoking marijuana and drinking stole a vehicle from a local shop that sold and serviced cars. The keys had been left in the car’s ashtray, making it an easy heist. During a joyride, the teens crashed the car, leaving the passenger with a severe brain injury.

The crash led to a trial in which the judge ruled that the dealership had a duty of care to the injured teen. The jury reasoned that the business owner should have anticipated that leaving keys in unlocked cars on the easily accessible premises might tempt minors to go joyriding in the vehicles and injure themselves — especially considering that there was evidence of theft in the area. In the end, the jury assigned 37 percent liability for the teen’s injuries to the business and 10 percent to the teen himself.

Although the decision was later overturned by the Supreme Court, it wasn’t until 12 years after the incident occurred that the business owner was cleared of liability.

How Should You Protect Your Dealership?

In its annual report on vehicle theft, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) said that “technology is working [to reduce theft], but complacency can defeat it.”

You might have cars with advanced security features or a security system at your dealership, but these precautions are all but useless when you make simple mistakes like leaving keys in unlocked vehicles. You can’t afford not to implement proper physical security measures, which includes securing keys. In addition, make sure you have an audit trail of key usage to demonstrate that you’ve taken reasonable efforts to exercise duty of care in protecting your inventory and community.

If the trend of juvenile thefts continues, we could see more dealerships being held liable for a stolen vehicle involved in a fatal crash or used to commit crimes. Don’t let poor security put the brakes on your business.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Multifamily Package Problem Is About to Get Worse

Today, 51 percent of Americans prefer to shop online. While e-commerce is helping consumers save time and money, it’s having the opposite effect for multifamily communities. The more packages leasing offices have to manage, the more they struggle with issues such as lost productivity and liability for lost or stolen packages. According to the National Apartment Association, this problem could get worse for some complexes, due to a new offer from Amazon.
stack of packages
In June, Amazon announced that customers receiving government assistance would be able to sign up for a discounted Prime membership. The subscription service includes unlimited free two-day shipping on more than 50 million items and a 20 percent discount on diapers and wipes. Customers can qualify every 12 months up to four times, so apartments with low-income tenants should prepare for a flood of Prime deliveries over the next several years.

Some communities may choose to stop accepting packages — a decision that won’t sit well with tenants. Others are implementing package tracking software that streamlines the package drop-off process and automatically notifies tenants when a package has been delivered. Not only can properties advertise this capability as an amenity, but  they can reduce liability by cutting down on lost or stolen packages.

To read more about how the increase in online shopping is affecting multifamily complexes, read this post. How will your property respond?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chicago Dealers Driving up Crime: What All Dealers Need to Know

Car key in ignition
Losing thousands of dollars in inventory is reason enough to do everything in your power to prevent auto theft, but what if your stolen vehicles end up endangering the community?

Police in Chicago are seeing an alarming number of vehicles being stolen from dealerships and rental agencies. Many of the vehicles are then used for illegal activities, including robberies and homicides. The rash of thefts is attributed to dealers leaving keys in vehicles on their lots — so frequently, in fact, that two ward aldermen are proposing an ordinance requiring dealerships to secure keys outside of business hours.

The situation in Chicago is a sobering reminder of why locking up your keys to protect your inventory is critical. Here are three reasons why.

Reckless Driving Endangers Communities

Reckless driving and severe crashes are just two of the ways stolen vehicles can threaten public safety. One recent incident in Libertyville, IL is a prime example. Late one Sunday night, thieves stole five vehicles from a local dealership and were spotted speeding and driving erratically without their lights on. One of the thieves led police on a high-speed chase that reached 115 mph before the stolen vehicle crashed into another car.

You Could Be Liable for Crimes Committed in Your Vehicles

Negligent key control could leave you liable for crimes committed in your stolen vehicles. Fresno My Auto Maxx was sued for negligence after employees repeatedly left keys in vehicles, allowing criminals to easily drive vehicles off the lot. After one of the stolen vehicles was involved in the death of a 55-year-old man, the dealership paid a $950,000 settlement to the victim’s widow. If you’re storing keys in a negligent manner, you’re leaving your dealership vulnerable to this type of lawsuit. Take steps to control your keys before you’re taken to court.

Losses Can’t Always Be Recouped

If your vehicles are stolen and/or damaged, you could be forced to take a loss on the value of the vehicle(s). It’s easy to say, “That’s why I have insurance,” but the truth is, having insurance doesn’t guarantee you’ll recoup all your losses. After paying your insurance deductible and, in some cases, coinsurance penalties, a theft could end up costing you thousands of dollars.

Even if your insurance policy were to reimburse you for 100 percent of damages, some inventory can be difficult, if not impossible, to replace. At one dealership in Missouri, two stolen cars that were totaled by reckless driving were among some of the rarest on the lot and would take months to replace. Time spent on filing claims and fees paid for lawsuits brought against you will negatively impact your bottom line as well.

Simply securing your keys protects not only your inventory but your community. How do you secure your dealership’s keys? Let us know in the comments.