residential

15 Most Common Home Security Weak Points

15 Most Common Home Security Weak Points

Foxfire Armory focuses exclusively on performing security assessments for residential/private residences. These are the fifteen most common problems that we find when conducting home security assessments, along with some possible solutions for remedying these problems.

#1 – Inexpensive Lock Hardware Used on Exterior Doors

Builders typically use inexpensive lock hardware when they build a home, sometimes even at homes which cost millions of dollars. Most inexpensive lock hardware made with cheap materials, which can easily be forced open or otherwise compromised by a potential intruder. These inexpensive locks use traditional pin tumbler lock cylinders, which can be “picked” or “bumped” open by a potential intruder.

Solution: Replace existing locksets on all exterior doors with heavy-duty lock hardware from a reputable manufacturer. We recommend the use of ANSI Grade 2 locks at a minimum, with the use of ANSI Grade 1 locks preferred. For the highest security, the use of high-security lock cylinders (such ASSA or Medeco) help reduce the risk of picking, bumping and unauthorized duplication of keys. Many residential handlesets come with only a deadbolt, but for added security, a lock set with both a high-security cylinder and a high-security deadbolt lock is preferred.

#2 – Inadequate Reinforcement of Door Frames

One of the most common and easy ways for an intruder to gain entry to a home is to kick-in the exterior doors. The reason this is so easy is due to inadequate support provided by standard door frames and cheap lockset. Often, the bolt and/or latch enters a wood frame that provides a 1/4 inch or less of support for the door bolt or latch. A swift forceful quick kick to the door near the lock set provides enough force to split the wooden door frame, allowing the door to be easily opened.

Solution: Install heavy-duty strike plates in conjunction with minimum 2 1/2 inch wood screws on all exterior door frames. Use longer strike plates with a greater surface area that permits the use of more mounting screws. Fasten strike plates with longer screws, we recommend minimum 2 1/2 inch, that extend into the wall stud (2×4) next to the door rather than just into the door frame itself. For added security, consider using door and frame reinforcement kits, such as the StrikeMaster II Pro or Door Armor MAX.

#3 – Exposed Hinges on Out-Swinging Doors

Some homes have out-swinging doors, which leaves hinges that are exposed on the outside of the door. To open the door from the outside, an intruder simply needs to remove the hinge pins, allowing the door to pulled out of the door frame.

Solution: Security studs added to all the hinges on out-swinging doors will prevent someone from removing the door even with the pins removed. Commercially-made security studs can be purchased, or studs can be homemade ( For homemade studs, 1/2 inch round metal stock is recommended, but 3/16 inch at a minimum. For best results cut 3x – 2-inch pieces with an angle grinder or hack saw. Drill the proper hole size through the center of each hinge on both sides making sure the holes line up correctly. You can also place these above/below the hinges if you choose, but through the hinge is more secure. Once your holes are drilled and pieces cut you can now install your studs. [Professional installation is recommended] ).

#4 – Poor Locking Hardware on Windows and Sliding Doors

The standard factory-supplied lock hardware on many residential windows and sliding doors is of very poor quality, allowing the window or door to be easily forced open or lifted from its tracks. Casement windows and other non-sliding types usually don’t have the same issues, but can still be broken to gain entry.

Solution: Providing supplementary locking devices on sliding doors and sliding windows helps not only to deter but to slow speed of access. These devices are available in a wide variety of different types and are sold online and at larger home improvement stores, they can also be homemade from wood or metal.

#5 – Unprotected Glass Used In Vulnerable Locations

Exterior glass is used at nearly every residence. Some homes have only a few exterior glass doors and windows, while at other homes glass makes up a significant portion of the exterior wall. While all glass is a potential entry point for a burglar, certain glass can especially vulnerable. This glass includes Glass panes within doors or beside doors. These windows can be broken, allowing the burglar to reach inside to unlock the door. Glass windows located at grade level in concealed locations. These windows can be broken and allow the burglar to enter unobserved. Glass windows located in window wells ( Egress Windows ) that are below grade. These windows allow a burglar to crawl into the window well, break a window, and enter unobserved.

Solution: Installing Window Security Film on windows that are in particularly vulnerable locations is a great option. While an intruder can shatter the glass, the security window film keeps the glass shards together, making entry through the window opening much more difficult. Security Film can also slow entry by requiring more time to break and remove the glass.

#6 – Unlocked Doors and Windows ( Simple I Know )

Surprisingly a number of home, exterior doors and windows are left unlocked, even at times when the homeowner is away. Often, homeowners feel leaving second-floor windows open is safe because of the height that these windows are from the ground. The reality is burglars have no trouble at all gaining access to windows that are located two, three, or even four floors above ground. Some homeowners even make things easy for the burglar by leaving an unsecured ladder somewhere on the property, this includes garages.

Solution: All exterior doors and windows should be kept locked at all times at night, when away from the home, and even when in a basement or backyard. If certain windows must be kept open for ventilation purposes, consider the use of alarm window screens connected to the home’s intrusion alarm system or the use of two magnets. One for the closed position and one for the open position. This way if the window is pushed open the alarm will sound. Likewise, the screen alarms cause the alarm to activate when the screen is cut or removed. Alarm window screens are custom-made for each window and are available from most companies that sell and install alarm systems.

#7 – Spare Door Key Left Hidden Outside

In this day and age, this is just a big mistake. Many people continue to leave a spare key to an exterior door “hidden” somewhere outside the home. Keys are commonly left under a doormat, beneath a flower pot, or hidden in “concealed” location, despite the fact that nearly everyone knows to look for keys in these locations. No matter how clever your hiding place seems to be, burglars have a way of finding it.

Solution: The practice of hiding a spare house key outside or even your in your garage should be stopped at all costs. Spare keys, if needed, should be left with a trusted neighbor, family member, or friend who can bring them to you when you are locked out.

#8 – Shrubbery and Trees Block View of Home From The Street

In many cases, the trees and shrubbery are overgrown and block the view of the house from the street and neighboring homes. This creates a condition where burglars can break into the home unobserved.

Solution: We recommend that recognized Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principals be used when installing and maintaining landscaping at the home. These principals suggest that clear sight lines be maintained between the home and the street to discourage criminal activity. To achieve this, it is recommended that shrubs and other ground cover be trimmed to no higher than three feet off of the ground and that the bottom of tree canopies be pruned so that they are at least six feet off of the ground.

#9 – Home has an Alarm System Installed BUT is Not Used

Sadly there are a high number of cases where an alarm system is installed at the home, but the homeowners have stopped using it. This often happens due to high monthly costs or the fear of false alarms. Even at homes where alarm systems are being used, homeowners often fail to arm the system when they leave for only a short period, such as when running an errand.

Solution: We recommend that the home’s alarm system be armed at all times when the home is unoccupied, even for very short periods of time. The alarm should also be armed to home mode at all times when home if possible. Most burglaries are committed in under ten minutes, and burglars often watch homes and make an entry just after the resident leaves. If the intrusion alarm system is difficult to use or causes false alarms, a qualified alarm company should be hired to upgrade the system and/or make repairs so that the system is easy to use and isn’t prone to false alarms. False alarms are most often triggered by pets and most modern alarm systems have remedied these issues.

#10 – Problems With Older Alarm Systems that Use Telephone Lines

Most older alarm systems use standard telephone lines to communicate with the monitoring station. In many cases where the homeowner has replaced their traditional telephone service with services offered by the cable company, the connection to the alarm system was not transferred as well. Recently cases the homeowners rely exclusively on their cell phone and have discontinued the use of wired telephone entirely, forgetting the alarm system depends on a wired connection.

Solution: Homeowners should understand the method that their alarm system uses to communicate to the alarm monitoring center. If the alarm system still relies on a telephone connection, homeowners should look into upgrading their system to an internet/cable-based system that will also work with no internet connection. For added security cameras should be used at all entry points of the house and tied to your alarms system.

#11 – Garage Door Vulnerability

This is probably one of the most overlooked security flaws all homes have. Residential garage doors are equipped with garage door openers, which have an emergency release mechanism that allowing the door to be opened in the case of power failure. In the majority of cases, the emergency release mechanism can be released from the outside of the garage using a coat hanger or other stiff wire. The coat hanger is inserted at the gap at the top of the door and is used to grab the cord connected to the emergency release. Once this cord is pulled, the door can be freely opened from the outside. This technique is often used by more sophisticated intruders as a method to gain entry to garages.

Solution: The simplest solution is to remove the pull cord and to tie back the emergency release lever using a plastic wire tie, but this is not recommended if you are in an area with frequent outages. There are commercially-made products that can be purchased to provide a shield around the emergency release lever, preventing it from being pulled except inside the garage. Likewise, homemade solutions such as removing just the T Style pull handle and leaving the bare rope also works well.

#12 – Older-Style Radio Controls Used With Garage Door Openers

For many years, simple radio controls were used in conjunction with garage door openers. These radio controls used a limited number of different code combinations, often 256 codes or less. An intruder with a compatible transmitter can manually try various code combinations until they find one that works. There are also homemade devices that can rapidly scan through all code combinations quickly, allowing the door to be opened in a manner of minutes. One way to tell if your radio controls are one of the older types is to look at your garage door transmitter (“clicker”). Transmitters used with the older systems usually had a “DIP” switch that allowed the code combination to be set. Opening the case of the transmitter will allow you to see if a DIP switch is present. If it is, you probably have one of the older systems.

Solution: Older radio controls should be replaced with newer radio controls that use “rolling code” technology. A rolling code system selects a new code from 4.3 billion possible combinations each time the system is used, making it nearly impossible for an intruder to ever match the code. New radio controls can usually be added to existing garage door openers without requiring that the opener itself be replaced.

#13 – Inexpensive Fire Safe to Store Valuables

Many homeowners are using an inexpensive fire safe purchased from big-box retailer to store their valuables. Safes of this type have been used to store hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry or investment grade precious metal. Safes of this type are A – not actually safes at all, but locked storage containers and B – they are specifically designed to withstand fire and water in the home, not a burglar.

Solution: A UL Listed burglary safe should be used to store jewelry and other valuables in the home. We also recommend getting a larger heavy safe that can be bolted to the floor or wall making it almost impossible for the burglar to haul the safe off for future entry.

#14 – No Secondary Line of Defense Within The Home

Most homes have no additional locked doors or barriers within the interior of the home. Once a burglar makes his way through an exterior door or window, he has free access to all areas of the home, including your family.

Solution: “Concentric Circles of Protection”, the premise of this is that security will be greatly improved using multiple layers of security, each of which must be penetrated in order for an intruder to gain access to the high-value assets within a home. For example, an additional layer of security could be created by installing a deadbolt lock on both the master bedroom door and the master bedroom closet. These doors would be kept closed and locked when the resident was away from the home. High-value assets such as jewelry could then be stored in the master bedroom closet. A burglar who was intent on stealing jewelry would have to make his way through three locked doors before achieving his goal. If the home had a safe, and this safe were installed within the master bedroom closet, this would create a fourth layer of security. These extra layers of security would also give a secure place to hide in the event someone forced their way into your home while it was occupied.

#15 – No Asset Inventory of The Home

Most homeowners fail to keep an inventory of the valuable assets in their home. Consequently, when they are burglarized, they find it difficult to provide the police and their insurance company with an accurate list of what was stolen. It is common to file a burglary report and then continue to find additional items missing weeks and even months after a burglary occurs.

Solution: A complete written inventory that lists all major assets (furnishings, antiques, equipment, jewelry, etc.) in the home should be created. This inventory could be used to provide information to law enforcement agencies and insurance companies in the event that assets were stolen or destroyed. The inventory should list assets by type and include make, model number, and serial number of each asset. A picture of each asset should also be taken. Pictures are particularly valuable to enable the identification of items such as jewelry or antiques which may not have a serial number and may be difficult to describe. Copies of the inventory and pictures should be stored in secure locations both on and off the premises. The inventory should be periodically reviewed and updated to add items that have been recently purchased and to delete any items that may have been disposed of. Companies now make software to help keep this list updated and easily maintainable from your computer or smartphone.

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