back to article Nest's slick IoT burglar alarm catches crooks... while it eyes your wallet

Not that long ago, a thermostat was just a thermostat. It was a beige box that was often installed by someone who came out to your house or office. It did what it did. Turned the heat on, turned the heat off. Had a schedule. Then came Nest, which promised to bring the ugly beige box into the internet era with sexy styling, …

Anonymous Coward

First question about your alarm on your insurance quote:

"Has the alarm been professionally fitted and maintained? "

So self-fitted alarms without a maintenance contract aren't going to help much.

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Anonymous Coward

We've never bothered declaring our professionally fitted and maintained alarm to our insurers.

We lose the discount, but it saves risking a failed claim in the event the alarm is not set or is malfunctioning during a break in.

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Tesco offered me a generous £6 off for having a professionally fitted alarm - but then required it to be switched on at night and every time I left the house.

No. Its there, it works, I dont bother to tell the insurance company.

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FAIL

"Suddenly, your thermostat looked cool, it automatically figured out your best settings and saved you money yet didn't save you money over your old 7-day programmable to boot."

FIFY

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Flame

It depends on your use model. Working in and out intermittently, frequently being away, and generally living on my own with regular bursts of visit from friend and family, the Nest system is significantly better than a traditional system and saves money *while* keeping the house appropriately warm and given in is out beyond the sticks it matters

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Anonymous Coward

@BebopWeBop

I have 5 relatives who replaced 7-day programmable thermostats with NESTS. They all raved about them like you. Yet when challenged to prove they saved on bills, the heating/cooling billing history showed no statistically significant change before & after. If you plotted the data for about a year before & a year after the swap, you'd never pick out the swap in a million years on any of them. They'd be better named PLACEBO.

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My insurance co, which has provided good quotes and service (reimbursements for damage claims) requires hard-wired heat sensors in the attic. Mandatory. On 24/7 regardless of security setting. They also require radio contact and battery backup. No choice except an identical system from another similar security company. The requirement is nothing more than a result of the house's appraised value and age. As for the motion detectors (2, usually turned off)....we have a cat. laugh.

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I did tell the insurance company. "Silly", "stupid", "f*cking idiotic man" are the lesser choice words that my wife used to describe my decision. I thought that with any alarm you reduce your insurance premium by 20% so we got ADT Security to fit alarms, detection points and entry systems to front, back and garage doors.

Next time I will just install mini-gun turrets around the grounds - it will be cheaper and I won't have to sleep on the sofa for 2 nights.

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That only matters if you're getting a discount for having an alarm system. If you don't care about that, then self-fitted alarms are the better way to go.

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Anonymous Coward

Without an outside siren or battery backup then it's doomed to fail. A burglar will simply cut the power to the house taking out the wifi, the main box and the camera. Current alarms have a battery in the box and the outside siren.

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The outside siren box also alerts neighbours (something an internal siren is unlikely to do unless very very loud) and acts as a visible deterrent. Granted in won't stop everyone, but all it needs to do is make one would be burglar go, 'hmm, I'll try next door', and its done its job.

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"A burglar will simply cut the power to the house"

Someone's been watching too many films. You are much more likely to be burgled by your local addict looking for a few quid for his next fix than by Danny Ocean.

Cutting power to a UK house is not easy, involves finding and excavating the hurried cable to start with. The "get inside and kick it hard" technique, as mentioned in the article, is more likely.

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Anonymous Coward

Outside meter? Thought so

Virtually every UK house built in at least the last 30years (and many more besides) has an outside electric meter which on it has a fuse that can be pulled. Now, I wouldn't generally want to do that while it's under load but compared to 'cutting a cable' it's substantially easier.

Carry a clipboard and wear a reflective vest and no one would even look twice as you open up the meter cabinet on the side of the house.

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Much easier than it used to be.

A while ago, access to the power cables would mean digging them up or getting into the garage. But for years now, there's been access to the main fuses in the meter box, easily accessible from the outdoors. Open it with a standard key, pull the fuses, power is gone.

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My house is two years old. Gas meter is outside, but 'leccy is inside the garage.

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Wait.. no connection to a siren? WTF is the point in an alarm you can only hear from *inside* the house?

I presume it has battery backup just not mentioned. It's trivial to add and would be bloody stupid without it..

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Unhappy

Battery life on the sensors?

Should be long as all it's got to do is "Sensor N has activated"

But IRL it's sending "Sensor N is still here" X times a minute (second?)

So cut the power and phone lines and you're good to go.

Isn't that SOP for serious burglarization in the US?

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Re: Battery life on the sensors?

"Isn't that SOP for serious burglarization in the US?"

"The US" is a really large place, so I'll just comment on my little corner of it -- no, I've never heard of burglars doing that except in the movies.

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Re: Battery life on the sensors?

What is "burglarization"? Is it what burglarizers do? (Hint: 'burglary')

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No, it's stupid

It's still a bad design and a waste of money.

The security features are rubbish as is ANY wireless alarm or any alarm that can be controlled from the Internet. Look also how secure Apple and Amazon's door locks have been!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No, it's stupid

Look also how secure Apple and Amazon's door locks have been!

I like the casual way you're trying to seed false data (very up to date), but that works better on Fox news. When was there ever an Apple doorlock?

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Re: No, it's stupid

"When was there ever an Apple door lock"

Hmm, if only we could *root* out the answer to that...

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Re: No, it's stupid

Controlled from the internet? You are assuming that anyone who would break in a house has some sort of technical expertise.

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FAIL

Re: No, it's stupid

You are assuming that anyone who would break in a house has some sort of technical expertise.

Wrong section of the Venn diagram: consider that not everyone having the technical expertise has no intention of burgling your house.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No, it's stupid

Homekit, and of you have it, anyone could walk in. Apple didn't take security seriously at all..

https://venturebeat.com/2017/12/20/apple-developer-details-homekit-vulnerability-that-left-locks-and-cameras-open-for-a-month/

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Re: No, it's stupid

"You are assuming that anyone who would break in a house has some sort of technical expertise."

If a technically savvy burglar became aware of your alarm brand and type, they might specifically target your house since they would know how to defeat your alarm. If they picked a random home, they might be up against an alarm they didn't know (or there might not be an alarm, but that doesn't help in my assertion).

An alarm doesn't mean that one should ignore all of the other safety/security suggestions. Stuff like not giving Amazon delivery sub-contractors the ability to enter your home when you are away.

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Re: No, it's stupid

Any alarm system with the keypad integrated with the base station and/or siren is pretty much useless.

Or even worse than useless if there's a sticker advertising the specific brand, since then burglars will know who to target since they know the alarm system can be trivially disabled.

And yes - this actually does happen. Including burglars specifically targeting those houses which display particular stickers.

The same thing does apply to wireless systems as well, although to a smaller extent since radio jamming requires more than simply smashing the panel. See for example http://www.thesidebar.org/insecurity/?p=856

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Re: No, it's stupid

"since radio jamming requires more than simply smashing the panel."

Yeah, about $20 more. Radio jammers are readily obtainable, cheap, and require no expertise whatsoever to use. If a crook can't afford the $20, they can easily find plans for building one that would cost them about $3. Building one requires almost no actual skill.

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Re: Working as intended

No technical expertise required, just cut the nice cable from the box to the outlet or just brute force rip it from the socket. Nice Nest Alarm box to fence for 100 USD or equivalent.

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Anonymous Coward

And who owns all this generated data about your comings and going?

Reg readers are going through this article and thinking to themselves "Any minute now the author is going to drop the G-Bomb and contemplate the possibility that this might just be yet another mechanism for Google to track actvity" ... and it didn't come. Honest review or paid for advertising? You didn't mention Nest being a Alphabet company once!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And who owns all this generated data about your comings and going?

I guess that was just too obvious..

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Anonymous Coward

'Nest's bricking of Revolv serves as wake-up call to industry'

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/04/06/nests_bricking_of_revolv_a_wakeup_call/

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Re: And who owns all this generated data about your comings and going?

Who on Earth would trust Google after what they said they collected in Street View, what they later admitted, what they said they collected on Android, and what they later admitted? There is absolutely no guarantee the camera is off. But the shiny is very shiny.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And who owns all this generated data about your comings and going?

Lol, you seem to have rewritten history to fit your agenda, fully knowing all the other brain-dead cretins that read it are too lazy to bother checking the truth.

Sadly there are too many plebs here that will believe your version of history

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Re: And who owns all this generated data about your comings and going?

Here you go, a link which covers the Android privacy story, and in the first paragraph of that you'll find a link to the Street View privacy story.

So, whether employee drinking the kool-aid or fanboy you are, of course, wrong.

Oddly enough, it took a few goes to pursuade Google News to come up with the right story. Funny, that.

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Anonymous Coward

Another massive fail.

They just don't get it do they.

Either the manufacturers or the idiots who fall for this IoT shit.

Nay, nay and thrice, NAY!

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Re: Another massive fail.

My £170 purchase of Nest smart thermostat 3 years ago has already paid for itself. During the winter months, I saw a £12 a month saving on heating bills, AND the house felt warmer. My previous thermostat wasn't set wrong, it was just very dumb, not taking into account outside temp, weather forecasts, time to heat up the house, cool-down times, and when people are likely to be around.

Don't be an idiot that falls into the trap thinking everything IoT is crap, it's not. There are real savings to be had. You have just shown the world that you really shouldn't be working in the technology sector with your closed minded black and white attitude. May I suggest a career at McDonalds, they are always on the lookout for people like yourself.

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Re: Another massive fail.

"Don't be an idiot that falls into the trap thinking everything IoT is crap, it's not."

That depends on how you define "crap".

You could have bought a non-IoT thermostat that would have provided the same amount of benefit, so the IoT aspect of it brings nothing to the table. But it does involve relaying even more information to a third party and poses an additional security risk. So, on the whole, I'd say it's crap.

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Nest's smartphone app really is the best

For as long as they maintain it and its compatibility with current generation Nest equipment.

Traditional alarms are just switches, wires and relay logic (emulated by a microcontroller) - they just work and go on working.

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Re: Nest's smartphone app really is the best

Oddly enough, "Traditional alarms are just switches, wires and relay logic" also describes Nest's first market, the thermostat. I think I see a pattern.

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Facepalm

Re: Nest's smartphone app really is the best

"Traditional alarms are just switches, wires and relay logic"

That would be 'very traditional alarms'. Even four decades back the controller would sport a circuit board sprinkled with transistors, opamps and logic gates, if not some microcontroller already.

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Re: Nest's smartphone app really is the best

" I think I see a pattern."

The pattern of selling trendy, stylish garbage to people with money to waste? Yes, I see it too.

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Re: Nest's smartphone app really is the best

You'd be surprised - the alarm I ripped out when it broke is still a current model, was 3 years old when I disposed of it.

Not an IC on it.. all transistor based, so it was about 5 times the size it should be about 12" by 8".. I doubt the design has changed since the 1980s.

Replaced with an ESP8266 that does the same job in a 1.5 inch square piece of silicon (and gives me wireless status as well plus remote arming if I'm in wifi range).

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"far more pleasant to have a voice than a beep"

I hate machines that speak at me. Give me a beep over a voice any day!

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FAIL

Re: "far more pleasant to have a voice than a beep"

That Beep is shorthand for a longer statement, one we are familiar with and does NOT need to be read out longhand every flipping time. It's a time saver and convenience.

Imagine the horror if the simple one or two beep security arming for vehicles was replaced with voice responses. And for what gain?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "far more pleasant to have a voice than a beep"

It could save time.

For example you could get it to say,

"One Beep"

"Two Beeps"

"Three Beeps"

etc...

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Re: "far more pleasant to have a voice than a beep"

Imagine the horror if the simple one or two beep security arming for vehicles was replaced with voice responses.

"Warning! Everyone in ear shot has been successfully irritated! Warning! The owner of this vehicle is a selfish, pretentious prick!"

Every time I hear one of those car horn alarms activate with a "HONK" I really want to light the damn thing on fire, wait for the owner to show up and beat the swine uncontious with large frozen fish.

Oh, and merry xmas everybody.

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Re: "far more pleasant to have a voice than a beep"

Where I once lived a car alarm went off one Friday night for about 5 minutes at 1am. It was outside my flat and I could see that there was no one near it when I looked out. Obviously the thing had triggered accidentally as I had a view in both directions down the street and there wasn't anyone. If it had just been the initial alarm it would have been fine. Sadly though this was a high end motor and as a result it had a reminder bleep. That sounded every 30 seconds or so and would have driven me nuts had it not been for ear defenders and ear plugs. It did drive someone potty as they left the owner of the vehicle a note under the wiper. It wasn't so much a threat as a promise to do in the windscreen and windows if it was left bleeping all night. I did sympathise because the bleep was as loud as the alarm and as annoying.

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Re: "far more pleasant to have a voice than a beep"

Where I live, between the hours of 10PM and 8AM in residential areas, it's illegal to make so much noise that it can be heard inside of other people's houses. I would have called in a noise complaint on that car every night that it happened, just to watch the owner get saddled with a series of fines.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "far more pleasant to have a voice than a beep"

"Imagine the horror if the simple one or two beep security arming for vehicles was replaced with voice responses. And for what gain?"

I used to live in a house which was cllose to a restaurant where one of the emplioyees who left late at night (often midnight-1am) had a car that announced to all an sundry "take car, this car is reversing" every time he left. While a simple beep would have also have been irritating it would have been a whole order of magntiude less irritating.

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