The Connected World

The Connected World

Vital requirements exist for convenience and efficiency

The abundance of networked solutions and devices—both security and nonsecurity— has exploded in recent years, providing unparalleled convenience and efficiency. At the same time, every device that is added to a network could potentially offer an additional means for hackers and others to access that network.

Networked Video Management Systems (VMS) are designed to take advantage of the many benefits of this connected world while also addressing the vital need to lock down networks to prevent cyberattacks. Below are the key features, functions and capabilities that make these solutions ideal for meeting and exceeding both of these equally important needs.

Key Benefits

Integrated systems. A major trend today is the movement toward broader and deeper integration between previously disparate systems and technologies. Integrating video surveillance, access control, analytics and more transforms what started as a video implementation into a comprehensive, end-to-end solution that delivers a larger menu of available options. Often serving as the hub of overall security applications, VMS are capable of collecting, sorting and analyzing the ever-growing amount of data generated by multiple systems. Analysis generates intelligence that can help keep people, property and assets safer and more secure.

As an example, the integration of video analytics and access control could enable a VMS to alert appropriate individuals when someone enters a location after hours. When reviewing incidents, the intelligence gleaned from combining video and other data allows organizations to implement new policies and procedures to identify and track a variety of incidents and events. The seamless integration between diverse systems shifts the functionality of video surveillance and security systems from detection and documentation toward prevention.

Centralized management and control. With an enterprise VMS, organizations are able to manage and control their video and security systems from a centralized location using a single interface, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of security programs and initiatives.

For example, one municipality in California installed video cameras in public parks, busy intersections and other key locations throughout the city, with images from these locations transmitted wirelessly to a control center in its public safety complex. Cameras can be viewed or managed easily, which is particularly helpful for traffic management, and operators can quickly switch cameras, zoom in or play back video.

From this central location, the city can also create user groups with different permission levels, allowing certain users’ views to be restricted while providing others with access to a higher number of cameras and a higher level of security that allows them to create their own views by selecting the cameras they wish to monitor.

Reliability. Security is an extremely critical function, and continuous system operation is critical in any application. Leading VMS solutions offer both recorder server failover and management redundancy to ensure maximum system uptime. The most advance VMS also includes critical camera failover protection that allows cameras to automatically and instantly switch to designated backups if the primary camera is compromised in any way.

Recording redundancy is also a critical function of VMS. Video servers may be installed at multiple locations to enable local recording and video transmission to a central server for monitoring and recording, for example. The on-board storage capability of many IP cameras further ensures video is continuously recorded and available even if there is no network connectivity or if the connection to a particular camera is lost.

Mobile. We live in a mobile world, as evidenced by the ubiquitous smartphones most of us have with us at any given time. Networked VMS can leverage this trend to serve as a force multiplier by enabling remote video access. An example of this potential might be police officers’ ability to perform regular patrols throughout an entire municipality rather than focusing on high-traffic or high-crime areas. Instead, these locations can be “patrolled” by surveillance cameras.

Should an incident or event occur, the VMS could alert officers to a potential problem, transmitting relevant video to in-car computers or smartphones for improved situational awareness. At the same time, the video is also transmitted to the command center for recording and viewing images and data from that location. To preserve the quality of high-resolution video while reducing the bandwidth requirements large video files place on networks, VMS are capable of compressing video to manageable sizes to deliver full-motion video from multiple megapixel cameras to mobile users. This allows users to monitor, manage and control live or recorded HD video streams from virtually anywhere.In addition to the operational benefits networked VMS provide, these solutions are also well-equipped to protect networks from unauthorized intrusion, which has become an increasingly vital need.

Network Security

Unfortunately, cyberattacks have become a way of life, with a number of high-profile data breaches gaining significant attention in recent months. In many cases, attackers were able to leverage third-party systems, IP devices and outdated software to find an open door that enabled access to networks and sensitive data.

Even the government is not immune, as a recent cyberattack resulted in the theft of 22 million people’s information, underscoring the vital need to protect all infrastructure and data from cyberattacks. This example is also indicative of the reality that as networked systems continue to capitalize on their extreme efficiency and capabilities, they also open up new potential threats from multiple sources with less-than-honorable intentions.

End-to-end encryption. Securing networks has become a major concern for everyone, and video surveillance networks are no exception. This is why providers of advanced VMS solutions take network and video security very seriously, incorporating strong security into their offerings.

The first line of defense to achieving network security is to deploy IP devices and components that support strong encryption solutions, as end-to-end encryption of networked systems and devices provides the most effective means of reducing the risks associated with misplaced, lost or stolen data.

In an IP video system, there are multiple points along the network infrastructure where a variety of devices and systems are integrated. These include IP cameras and peripherals like heaters, infrared lighting, routers, switches and other devices often deployed remotely, all the way to the headend where VMS manages these devices and other integrated systems in a single platform. Full integration of video, access control and other security solutions represents the best the security industry has to offer, but when put in the hands of the wrong individuals, these models can also be used to exploit the people, property and assets they are supposed to protect—leaving no doubt about the critical need to protect these systems against cyber invasion.

Many devices incorporate the proven Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to ensure secure communication between devices, servers and clients while also supporting HTTP, which serves as the foundation for Internet-based data communication. Initially designed to protect sensitive banking information and later adapted by the healthcare industry to enforce strict HIPAA regulations, AES encryption has been accepted by the U.S. and Canadian governments as a standard for encrypting data both transmitted data and data at rest.

Essentially, AES is a block of algorithms that “scrambles” data into unreadable code for transport, then when reconnected at the receiving point, is unscrambled using the same algorithm when the designated permissions are provided. To date, there have not been any confirmed hacks of AES encrypted systems with the exception of faulty implementations.

In addition to enhancing network security, encryption helps reduce legal liabilities from sensitive information residing on misplaced or discarded devices, as well as the risk of common virus attacks. With National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) certification, IP devices and servers with AES encryption greatly help to prevent intruders from reconfiguring devices or gaining unauthorized access to stored data. The optimized safety and security of an AES encrypted solution can be best illustrated in municipal-wide surveillance and security applications.

The need to protect large venues are areas where masses of individuals frequent, such as stadiums and arenas, and mass transit terminals and stations, represents a new challenge for public and private law enforcement and security management personnel. Networking surveillance and security systems, and providing access to outside authorities provides an invaluable means of protection to help prevent incidents from occurring and to conduct immediate analysis of unfolding situations using real-time video and data. Conversely, such vast integrations need to be bulletproof against cyberattacks.

Automatic updating. In addition to providing strong encryption, leading VMS providers—like all software providers— continuously develop and deliver updates, upgrades and patches to ensure the ongoing stability, performance and security of their solutions. The main reason for this is hackers’ and cyber criminals’ tendency to focus on software vulnerabilities, which are a favorite target given the rate of success exploiting them. Once a vulnerability has been discovered, it’s only a matter of time before it is shared online, which increases the potential for successful attacks.

Software providers are aware of these risks, and are tireless in their efforts to close “open doors” with security patches that are delivered in regular updates. The unfortunate reality is that many organizations fail to install these updates, leaving their systems—and to a larger extent, their networks—vulnerable to breaches and their potentially disastrous outcomes.

In fact, a recent study found that almost all of the network software vulnerabilities detected in the last year could have been prevented by software fixes and patches that were readily available before a breach occurred. More alarming, particularly considering the critical nature of security is that a good percentage of these fixes had been available for five years or more—but had simply not been installed.

Obviously, keeping any software up to date is critical. Given the importance of security, this is especially true for VMS. However, even the most robust update will not do any good if it’s not installed. Fortunately, some VMS providers now include the same auto-updating capability as smartphones and laptops in their solution to ensure end users are running the most current—and most secure—version.

In today’s connected world, there are many solutions that excel at taking advantage of the benefits of this increased connectivity, while others deliver high levels of cybersecurity. Serving both equally critical functions is difficult for most solutions, but this is precisely the strength of networked VMS, making these solutions the best choice for providing the best of both worlds.

This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Security Today.

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