The Cloud Can Change Everything for Law Enforcement
Looking at some of the developments taking place in the market
- By Dave Denson
- Oct 01, 2014
Many people envision law enforcement agencies around
the country as resembling mythical portrayals on TV
and in movies, with leading-edge technology that can
track every suspect’s move across the grid. In fact,
law enforcement is often behind commercial enterprises, lacking
the budgets and mission requirements to install costly security systems.
But, advances in and acceptance of cloud technology and other
trends within the law enforcement community are changing that, and
agencies need to adapt to keep up.
Here are some of the developments that we are seeing in the market
for law enforcement agencies.
Look to the Cloud
First and foremost, it is all about security, whether physical surveillance
or inside networks. Let’s start with the physical.
Only a few years ago, video surveillance was a difficult and costly
proposition, requiring a proprietary video management system to
collect and monitor the various available video cameras. Cloud technology
has altered that landscape dramatically, though, eliminating
the need to invest in cameras and video infrastructure. Now, an
agency can hang a camera virtually anywhere and run it through a
cloud system. Coupled with new IP cameras, a world of possibilities
has been opened. Instead of collecting video for analysis, live feeds
are a reality.
More importantly, agencies charged with law enforcement and
homeland security responsibilities can use IP cameras to get crossagency
feeds in real time, allowing police departments, for example,
to view feeds from a school during an emergency. This has ushered
in a new era of cross-agency collaboration. And, those cameras no
longer have to be static, but can now be on-the-move on cars, aircraft
and drones, and officers themselves. None of this is possible without
The focus on the use of cloud technology calls into question
which cloud configuration is the most appropriate. Advances in cloud structure—public, private or hybrid—allow law enforcement
agencies to move elastically from one cloud to another, allowing for
shifting data and information to different cloud environments.
The cloud, in general, is opening up the law enforcement world
in other ways, as well. Software as a service is beginning to penetrate
the law enforcement approach, helping to eliminate the capital investments
and human resources that would otherwise be prohibitively
expensive. This enables small municipalities to purchase surveillance
in ways that previously would have been unrealistic. In addition,
some forward-looking agencies see ways to generate revenues from
these services in the form of what the Department of Homeland Security
is calling “regional solutions” to data center requirements and
Cybersecurity Needs Play a Vital Role
Apart from physical security are the trends in cybersecurity that require
law enforcement agencies to closely monitor and guard their
own networks. Much of this is driven by public awareness and the
recognition that cyber-attacks are proliferating at an ever-accelerating
Just as agencies need to know who is entering and leaving their
physical locations, they also need to understand who is coming and
going on their networks. That means building smart firewalls to make
sure everything is scrutinized, while at the same time allowing information
to be obtained and analyzed from many outside sources. And,
this surveillance has to include access to servers in a data center, for
example, to discourage insider threat.
Agencies are becoming more adept at leveraging technology for
lawful intercepts for criminal and security investigations. Today,
these can range far beyond the traditional phone call to text messages,
tweets and a variety of other media and platforms—all of which
can paint a picture of where a criminal enterprise may be operating
and how to obtain evidence that can be used to stop crimes and prosecute
This need for security information management has led to advances
in building infrastructure, paving the way for imbedding this
type of security information management right into the structure itself,
tying the physical into the virtual. That allows agencies to see
whether someone inside the building may also be accessing a VPN,
either deliberately or inadvertently, and passing information beyond
the firewalls. Additionally, as new buildings are being designed, a
cloud infrastructure can be incorporated right into the layout.
These types of advances can come at virtually no cost, if planned
in advance, as the energy savings will more than pay for itself. In
some designs, the heat recovered from the building data centers can
be used to heat the hot water. With the right design, desktop computers
that might be sitting idle for much of the day can be reallocated to
provide computing power for data collection and analysis.
While none of these advances can be a substitute for traditional
law enforcement practices, new IP-based technology and cloud services
can provide capabilities long sought after but never before practical
This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Security Today.