Entries in Surveillance (3)


Storage Units Easy Prey for Thieves

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Across the country, people are losing the items they’ve placed in storage units.

Surveillance video at one Missouri storage unit shows a pair of thieves operating in broad daylight. The thieves take out a bolt cutter, clip off the padlock on an outdoor unit and begin loading their minivan with items from the unit -- including family mementos, generators and even a large leather couch, which they strap to the roof of the van.

It’s a wake-up call for the estimated 11 million Americans who pay self-storage facilities monthly fees to store their belongings. Personal treasures from storage units are an increasingly easy target.

Carol Lajoie bought a padlock and insurance for her belongings when she put them into storage in San Jose, Calif. Thieves broke into the unit and made off with $10,000 worth of Lajoie’s possessions.

“Most of it was family items and it was hard to put a value on it,” she said.

Insurance only covered $1,000 of her claim.

Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent and ABC News consultant, said it was difficult to “assess storage theft only because most of it, I think, does not get reported.”

He said the biggest problem with temporary storage facilities is that they aren’t built to store luxury items, such as expensive china or Persian rugs.

“The locking systems are extremely poor and the ability for people to go into them twenty-four hours a day sort of make them ripe for people to steal items if they have a pass to get in,” he said.

That’s why consumers need to do their homework before they decided on a storage facility,  Garrett added.

“In other words, what type of camera systems do they have? What are the locking systems? Can you control the type of locking system? Who has access? Do they have cameras 24 hours a day? All of those questions need to be answered to your satisfaction  before you store anything there,” he said.

“Deciding whether you want to place your goods at a temporary storage facility is really driven by you doing your own homework,” he continued.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Retail Surveillance Assists Authorities with Crimes Outside Stores

FBI(NEW YORK) -- Retail surveillance cameras are doing more than just capturing shoplifters, as authorities turn to businesses who keep a digital eye on their storefronts.

Surveillance footage played a critical role in helping authorities identify the two Boston bombing suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19.

Video surveillance outside the Lord and Taylor department store near the Boston Marathon finish line captured images used by the FBI of the Tsarnaev brothers.

Richard Mellor, vice president of loss prevention with the National Retail Federation, said he has seen retailers help capture everything from bag burglars to car thieves in store parking lots.

And the technology is improving in at least two ways.

First, the ability of video to be transported over long distances has expanded with digital capabilities; that is, “transporting the actual images of what is seen on one side of the camera and who is looking at it,” Mellor said.

“Now those images are being transported pretty quickly over thousands of miles to headquarters in retailing where they’re able to see images of cities around the U.S. where they have stores. That’s a new development over the last five years that has grown leaps and bounds.”

Second, the ability to view an enhanced, clarified image is another technological advance.

“Now the ability to enhance the video, and as we have all seen by first images of the Boston bombing, those images were better and more clearer as the hours passed. So the first images of individual faces, that gets enhanced over a computer system,” he said. “Those fuzzy black and white images of people for which we cannot make an identification now have been enhanced to the point they keep refining the image so it’s so clear that they can make an identification.”

In 2011, authorities used camera footage outside a Safeway grocery store to analyze the shooting of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz.

Mellor said many customers prefer to shop in retail stores with surveillance, despite privacy concerns, if the cameras are in plain view.

“Obviously, there’s a prevalence of cameras all over the place and the world,” Mellor said. ”Unfortunately that has become a necessary thing to do with types of crimes out there.”

When asked if retailers would ever take the desire for extra footage “too far,” and invade privacy in dressing rooms or bathrooms, Mellor said, “I’ve lived in the retail world a long time. That is an absolute ‘no no’. No leader of loss prevention would permit their people to do that.”

Security cameras inside a 7-Eleven also helped clarify information during the tense standoff that led to the death of an MIT campus police officer.

Police initially reported that the brothers had robbed a 7-Eleven in Cambridge, which turned out not to be true.

“There was an incident at a 7-Eleven store yesterday evening in Cambridge, but our local loss prevention asset protection manager was able to review the video tape and ascertain the description of who the robber was,” said Margaret Chabris, spokeswoman for 7-Eleven.

The convenience chain company has spent millions of dollars installing a state-of-the-art DVR surveillance camera system in the past year, said Chabris.

Like many retailers, 7-Eleven is glad to help authorities by providing surveillance footage for criminal investigations.

“They have helped solved incidents at our stores and police look to us as a resource to investigate crimes that have nothing to do with 7-Eleven,” Chabris said.

Lord and Taylor did not respond to an ABC News request for comment.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


WASP: Drone Plane Becomes Hackers' Tool

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LAS VEGAS) -- The age-old theory in warfare is that the best place to be is the high ground, from which you can see and attack your enemies. Richard Perkins and Mike Tassey decided to apply that idea to cyber warfare as well.

The result was the WASP -- short for Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform. The two men, who say they both have long experience as computer security consultants for the U.S. government, took an Army-surplus drone airplane and turned it into an airborne hacking platform that they say can infiltrate your Wi-Fi network, intercept your cell phone calls, jam radio signals, even hack websites wirelessly. They say it cost them a grand total of $6,200.

They showed off the WASP at this month's Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas, an annual haven for tech mavens talking -- often in programming code -- about cyber attacks they would like to avoid. One way to anticipate what might be coming, many of them figure, is to try inventing what they think the bad guys would.

The WASP, about six feet long, was based on a plane the military has routinely used as a training target. They opened up the plane and added a cell phone, tablet computer and a few other pieces of electronics. They wrote software to read signals from ground-based phones and computer networks.

The FAA requires that a plane that size fly no more than 400 feet above the ground, and that it be within sight of whoever is controlling it by radio -- but that was all right with Perkins and Tassey. The WASP would still be high enough not to be noticed by people in an office building below who might be making calls or sending data, including sensitive material. The plane is battery powered and can only stay airborne for an hour, but the men said other versions might easily fly longer.

At last year's conference, another engineer, Chris Paget, had shown how an airborne drone could be used to intercept cell phone calls, literally by pretending to be a flying cell tower. Its signals could fool phones on the ground into relaying calls through it. Once it did that, recording private conversations or data would be just one extra step.

Sound a bit over the top? That's the kind of thing that comes up at the annual Black Hat conferences. There was also a presentation by a computer engineer named Jay Radcliffe -- himself a diabetic -- showing that an insulin pump could be controlled by a less-than-scrupulous hacker. There were sessions on how to defeat antivirus programs, or make the battery in a stranger's laptop overheat.

Of course, a hovering drone that picks up cell phone calls could also be used for good. Imagine sending one to an area hit by an earthquake, where power and cellular service have been knocked out, they said. The problem is that cellular service providers already have portable towers that don't need to land for refueling.

So why try all this far-out hacking? Partly, said people at the conference, to warn computer specialists they may be vulnerable in ways they had not imagined. But some of them conceded there was also an element of sport involved, doing something hard as a way to prove it can be done.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio