Economy Size Geek - Who Goes There? Adventures in Amateur Security

“Firewalls are a hardware solution to a software problem.”—Someone at ShmooCon
Wrapping Up

I actually was really surprised at how far I was able to get. Barring some hardware issues (stupid dongle), I was able to wire up a system that monitored my door and notified me (and the entire world via Twitter). Long term though, I ran into some problems with my solution.

In the end, I was not able to convince my wife to sacrifice her camera permanently to improve the quality of my security system. I will have to find a cheaper digital camera.

I also ran into a number of problems getting my event to trigger properly. I thought it was the result of poor programming on my part, but I discovered I had a defective dongle ( I'm not sure whether that was the root cause of my problem, but as a software developer, I feel it is my responsibility to blame the hardware first. I still was waiting on a replacement when I wrote this article (more because I just submitted the request five minutes ago), but I will assume that the new dongle has showed up and everything works like a charm by the time you read this. If you get this far, and it does not work, contact me, and I'll tell you what I had to do to fix it.

There is one last thing to discuss—security. When I started this project, the goal was to increase the physical security of my office. Assuming everything I did always works, I now will receive a notification when someone enters my office (through the door). Assuming that I find a replacement camera, I also will have a picture that I can quickly check to see whether the person should be there. On the surface, it seems like things are more secure than before.

As I mentioned previously, I have a door with a keypad lock. To get in, you have to get a PIN or break down the door. Thanks to my new security system, there now is a third option. If you compromise the Vera, you can add your own PIN to the door. Then, you can enter the office with a minimum of fuss. There are a number of guides on making the Vera more secure, so maybe it is not actually a big deal. I guess this is the reason security is so difficult. I thought I was making things better by improving the monitoring of the room, but my implementation may have weakened my security on other fronts. For me, the trade-off is an acceptable one, but I'm mentioning it so you can make your own decision. I suppose that's why I'm so terrible at security—I am too happy to make the trade-off.

Dirk Elmendorf is cofounder of Rackspace, some-time home-brewer, longtime Linux advocate and even longer-time programmer.



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