1993-11-21 - Duress Codes

Header Data

From: nobody@shell.portal.com
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 005ca3c906661522370ebae4afb9a71d5a8ccedd864461e035f107ac2cced1c4
Message ID: <9311210357.AA19408@jobe.shell.portal.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-11-21 04:12:11 UTC
Raw Date: Sat, 20 Nov 93 20:12:11 PST

Raw message

From: nobody@shell.portal.com
Date: Sat, 20 Nov 93 20:12:11 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Duress Codes
Message-ID: <9311210357.AA19408@jobe.shell.portal.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

> From: baldwin@LAT.COM (Bob Baldwin)

> A fellow I know has a central-office alarm in his home.  When
> the alarm goes off, the office calls his house to ask if it was a false
> alarm.  They ask for a password to verify, and no matter what password
> you give they say "OK, I'll log it as a false alarm."  If you gave the
> wrong password, they call the police and notify them of a crime in
> progress with hostages.

For many years, I worked for a small company that provided various
protective services to government, diplomatic and executive accounts.
One of the services was electronic security and direct monitoring of
emergency EDCs [electronic digital communicators] and other signalling
devices connected to security equipment.

At the beginning of my employment, the procedure you mention above was
standard throughout the more mainstream electronic security industry.  A
series of unusually violent robberies changed this in the mid-1980s.

The problem with the system is that call-backs on "panic button"
or duress code activations make it clear - or at least suggest - that
the victims have alerted the authorities.  In an increasing number of
cases, answering the callback was literally the last thing the victims
ever did.

In spite of frequent complaints due to false-alarm fines levied by the
police and moments of great embarrassment, the common procedure became
immediate notification of of the police or "other security," with no
callback then or later.

All duress codes on our electronic equipment was modified to perform the
exact functions as non-duress codes, but activated silent duress alarms.

Since that time, most manufacturers and programmers of security devices
have taken that approach - identical function, but with silent alarms.