Misstep 15: Tryharder

Exposed RCA connections to Camera
Exposed RCA connections to Camera

I truly would prefer to leave organization’s names out of posts I make, but any American will know in a second anyways. My goal isn’t to embarrass companies or share mistakes like I wouldn’t make them. I do this because I think it provides a mild service to people interested in security — I look for flaws, and I share them in a way that conveys my thoughts on the problem. I also have a comments section for the eventual time I make a mistake too.

Wally Prison, CA

I must admit, with cleaner stores like Meijer and better stores like Amazon, I often do not find myself entering one of this brand’s stores as much as I used to. It just happens that I end up there every time I’m on vacation and need swim trunks, soap, or whatever else.

This time, we stopped in. You can always tell you’re in a higher crime area by the types of folks by the doors:

  • Nobody watching the doors = Low Crime
  • One person playing on their phone, sitting on a stool by the door = Deterrent-tier, low crime
  • Two people actively checking receipts and using a highlighter = Moderate Crime
  • Two people from above + Uniformed Security = High Crime

This place was the last option above. The surrounding area was near a large abandoned military base that had the housing fenced off (though the tops of the fence were obviously collapsing from frequent travel over them). For this reason, I suspect a large transient or homeless population, which may drive the security precautions I mention next.

The entrance was hostile to rapid egress (lots of visual and physical barriers, uniformed guards and employees actively monitoring exits). As we entered, we noticed the cosmetics section right near the door. We both assumed shampoo would be sold in this area, however when we got there, we saw a large collection of security cameras (and monitors) and several lock boxes. The cosmetics area was one way enter and exit. A uniformed employee would take your purchase and place it into a larger clamshell box which presumably had an anti-theft tag in it. You then had to purchase it at the checkouts and request that they remove the box.

To me, this isn’t worth the hassle. If you can’t trust your customer base in an area where you have to be this hostile, it’s a great time to pull out of the area. But, we did it.

I’m a huge proponent of automation, and will always elect self-checkout where available. I scanned the makeup through the clear box, and I noticed a loud buzz from the terminal when I did so. I’m assuming that, if this clear clamshell box had a tag, it was now inactive. (Though it may have been inside the makeup box too, not sure).

While I complain that it was inconvenient to me, I also understand that security is often that way, so I could appreciate the design even for its flaws. Then, I noticed the photo above. The camera is hung just above my head, and the two RCA connectors (red and yellow in the photo) are easily accessible. I could easily unplug them and reduce visibility in the area.

That said, I’m sure this isn’t even a monitored camera since nobody uses RCA for building security anymore (not even my house). It is more likely for one of the video displays that everybody makes funny faces at. The fact still stands that unguarded cable runs are easy to tamper with and obvious for even low-skilled attackers.

Whew! That was a lot of words!

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Robert Lerner

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