The biggest stories of 2012

As we come to the close of another year, it’s time to reflect on some of the stories that grabbed headlines during 2012. This year, there were a number of different events – from mass shootings to business restructurings and acquisitions - that will shape and impact the industry for years to come. Here are our editors’ picks for the top news stories of the year (listed in chronological order): 

Ex-TSA chief rips agency practices in book 

Earlier this year, former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley called out the agency’s current practice of enhanced pat-down searches and pushed for a scaled back list of prohibited items in a new book entitled, "Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security."  In an interview with SIW, Hawley said that the much-maligned agency needs to “get back on the same page” with the flying public, which has started to tune it out. Among his recommendations to improve the relationship between the TSA and travelers is “an immediate” scale back of the prohibited items list. "Change the rules! It’s literally as simple as that," Hawley explained. "You take the prohibited items list, you get out your red pen and you just go through the list and take out everything but bombs, guns and toxins. It takes a real risk management approach because when I did that at TSA – the couple of times I did it – we had to get an act of Congress to change the prohibited items list and we heard about blood running in the aisles when we tried to put scissors back on."

AT&T makes push into home security and automation

Following in the footsteps of other telecommunications and cable firms such as Comcast, AT&T announced plans in May to roll out a new home security and automation offering to customers under the banner of “Digital Life” services. Kevin Petersen, senior vice president of Digital Life for AT&T mobility, said that the company believed the industry was ripe with opportunity given the evolution of wireless technologies. While the announcement may have been cause for concern to some alarm dealers, most people in the industry saw it as “a rising tide lifts all boats” scenario given the awareness that AT&T would undoubtedly bring to security with any marketing campaign. "This is not something new to AT&T. They have tried (home security) one or two times before… but I think they’re of the ilk if first you don’t succeed, try, try again and I believe the climate now is considerably different from what they’ve tried in the past," ESA Industry Affairs Committee Chairman Bob McVeigh said at the time. "They’ve got a real shot at making this one successful for them and their business and I believe they’re going to be successful in this effort."

Aurora, Colo. movie massacre

The country was gripped with fear earlier this summer when a man entered a midnight screening of the “The Dark Knight Rises” and opened fire on the crowd of moviegoers, killing 12 people and injuring 57 others. The accused shooter, 24-year-old James Holmes, faces multiple charges of murder and attempted murder in connection with the shootings. The killings created uneasiness for many people about going to the movies in the week and months that followed the tragedy and also sparked new debate about increasing security at movie theaters nationwide. Click here to listen to SIW Editorial Director Steve Lasky and Editor-in-Chief Frank Borelli discuss the implications of the massacre.

Investment firm buys Vivint for $2B

Home security and automation services provider Vivint was acquired earlier this fall by investment firm Blackstone for $2 billion. The acquisition was the culmination of a company rebranding strategy that the Utah-based firm, formerly known as APX Alarm, launched more than two years ago to transition from an alarm installation company to a provider or home technology services. "We do a lot of other things besides security and some of them are very capital intense," said Vivint co-founder and CEO Todd Pedersen. "You install a solar system and its $20,000 a system. Now we’re only installing like 20 systems a day, but it’s a lot of capital and we intend to get to hundreds of installs a day at some point. Really, the Blackstone move is partnering with a group that is right there at the top of ability to access the capital markets and the credit markets in an efficient way to help scale the company."

Organizations bombarded by cyber attacks

It seems that every year, data breaches and other intrusions by hackers become bigger and more prolific. This year was no exception. In September, the websites of some of the largest banks in the country including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, were shut down due to coordinated Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. While these attacks only targeted the public-facing side of these websites and no customer data was taken, they highlight the ever increasing threats that banks, as well as other organizations face from cyberspace. According to the results of a recent study sponsored by HP, the average annualized cost of cybercrime incurred by a benchmark sample of U.S. companies was $8.9 million.  "From what I see, people don’t have clue when a breach occurred or if they have a breach, the level of analysis and due diligence isn’t really there," said IT security expert Kevin Beaver. "You cannot secure what you don’t acknowledge. I see so many organizations that have no real grasp of what’s really taking place in their environments and I suspect, based on what we see and hear in the media, the problem is a lot worse with security incidents that go undetected and unreported."

Tyco separates into independent companies

More than a year after its board of directors agreed to split the firm, Tyco was officially separated into three independently traded public companies in early October.  These companies include flow controls business Pentair Ltd., ADT, and the new Tyco, which is comprised of Tyco Security Products (American Dynamics, Bentel Security, CEM, Software House, DSC, Kantech, Visonic, Elpas, Sur-Gard and C24), Tyco Integrated Security (formerly known as ADT Business Solutions), SimplexGrinnell, Ansul, Scott Safety, and Chemguard. “When you look at the value that was unleashed here, the business models are different, trade differently within the market and now have been setup with their own capital structure with the currency that enables them  to be able to grow in their markets,” said Tyco CEO George Oliver.

Flir buys Lorex

Thermal imaging solutions provider Flir recently agreed to acquire Canada-based Lorex, a maker of surveillance cameras for the small business and consumer market. While the deal may have initially seemed odd on the surface – a manufacturer of high-end thermal cameras buying a company that makes traditional security cameras for the do-it-yourself market – the company said that acquisition is part of a larger goal to bring thermal imaging to the market at large.   "It plays into our strategy of not where we are today, but where we are headed," said Andy Teich, president of Flir’s commercial systems division. "We’ve told our investors for some time and have been executing along the lines of a continual reduction of the costs of thermal imaging technologies with the ultimate goal of providing thermal imaging technology to a very broad base of users at very low cost."

Superstorm Sandy’s wide-reaching industry impact

In late October, Hurricane Sandy, which would later merge with a winter storm to become “Superstorm Sandy,” slammed the Northeast coast of the U.S., killing more than 100 people and causing billions of dollars in property damage. The storm’s impact on the security industry was also vast, causing the rescheduling of ISC East, which was scheduled to take place in New York City that same week, and also putting the redundancies of central stations based in region to the test. The lives of many who work in the industry were also disrupted by the storm. "Unfortunately, (Sandy) affected us in a pretty significant way," Steve Gorski, general manager for the Americas at Mobotix, which has an office on Wall Street, said at the time. "Basically, we lost power and the whole area is flooded."

Ingersoll Rand announces spin-off of security business

Earlier this month, access control manufacturer Ingersoll Rand took many people in the industry by surprise when it announced plans to spin-off its security business, which includes Schalge, Von Duprin, Steelcraft, and Falcon among other brands, in an effort to enhance shareholder and company value. Under the plan, Ingersoll Rand’s commercial security business (Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies) will be combined with its residential security business (Ingersoll Rand Residential Solutions) to create a new company that is expected to have annual revenues of $2 billion. The company said it expects the spin-off to be completed in approximately 12 months.

Sandy Hook Elementary shooting  

Ironically, one of the biggest stories of the year occurred just last week when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children and six adults.  The shooting shocked the nation and raised new questions about the kinds of security measures that schools should be taking. "It’s heartbreaking and because it’s heartbreaking, there will probably be a louder cry for change to be made," said school security expert Paul Timm, who serves as president of Illinois-based security consulting firm RETA Security. In addition to how the shooting will impact school security nationwide, SIW also examined what it will take for Newtown to recover from a K-12 security director in the Columbine community, as well as what the shooting will mean for companies in the security industry moving forward.