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It is no surprise in the world of video data storage, there is an evolution from on-prem to the Cloud and Video-Surveillance-as-a-Service (VSaaS). However, we have all witnessed the sensational headlines drawing attention to the shortcomings of first-generation Cloud solutions. That is why the single most important factor for cloud adoption, especially in video surveillance, is cybersecurity.

The convenience, ease and scalability of the Cloud is undeniable, but how much risk should you be willing to absorb for these benefits? To add an additional hurdle, unlike IT, video surveillance is typically managed by a third party. With management outside of the company, the question is do they have trained staff and sound operational practices to manage remotely with the utmost care and security? Finally, adding a VSaaS provider and the public Cloud there are now three organizations that have access to your information. Where is the weakest link?

Whom Can You Trust?
Once you connect your infrastructure to a VSaaS provider, you have to trust the following:

  • Public Cloud infrastructure used by the VSaaS provider, which needs to be as good as the enterprise
  • VSaaS staff and their best practices
  • Integrators, if they access through VSaaS for remote management

Can you trust the public clouds? Public Clouds have the most advanced technologies and the best practices in order to protect their environment. Hacking still happens. A recent example in August 2021, Microsoft warned its Azure Cloud customers that main databases had been compromised.

Can you trust the VSaaS provider? If you subscribe to a VSaaS that operates the VMS in the Cloud, the VMS has all the information. The VSaaS provider not only has access to your videos, but also the site information such as the map, camera locations, types and configurations. VMS can even control cameras from the Cloud. This is not a back door, rather a front door to information. Obviously not a small act of trust on part of the VSaaS organization and staff.

What about using encryption to protect your information? If VMS is running in the Cloud, encrypting the video is impossible. VMS has to process the videos in their clear format, like H.264/265.

Can you trust your integrator? Something to keep in mind, if the integrator uses the same VSaaS to manage the sites remotely, you will need to trust them as well. Access restrictions are set as most VSaaS software has ability to limit information for integrators.

Where are the attacks? Look at the recent SolarWinds hack. The hackers were able to embed their logic inside of the enterprise’s environment through a “trusted” supplier, SolarWinds, even though the affected enterprises had closed networks. This is the so-called supply-chain cybersecurity.

This threat concerns not only software, but hardware as well. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) regulation that exists in the US tries to address this. A closed network cannot protect supply-chain cybersecurity, so imagine if the corporate networks are open to surveillance management.

Peer-to-peer vs. cloud. VPN is popular for remote access. Its biggest advantage is to create a peer-to-peer pipe between two known ends. Unfortunately, VPN is inconvenient; especially when the other end is inside the enterprise, which requires going through an enterprise’s authentication process. Using cloud, people can easily sign in from anywhere.

What is the solution? Is there something that can close the gap on these trust and cybersecurity issues? Luckily, yes and they are already out on the market. The best solution is “zero trust” to the public cloud and any organizations touching the videos. The ideal scenario is this:

  • Keep VMS and all its information at the edge. Transfer only the videos to the cloud.
  • Encrypt the videos before sending out, and keep videos encrypted in foreign locations at all times. Zero-knowledge key encryption is best.
  • From remote locations, only allow to monitor the health of the systems, not remote control of the cameras.
  • For remote video viewing, only allow selected videos to be viewed peer-to-peer.

The ideal solution needs to integrate and work with a plethora of VMS, cameras, and cloud platforms, to avoid the “brand lock-in” that many manufacturers force when using their products/service. Choice is key when it comes to building internal best practices that are secure and fit your company’s procedures as well as shortening both cost and time by eliminating the need to learn new systems and/or software.

This is important when considering a VSaaS provider as well. Once subscribed, it can be difficult to leave. You must assess the cybersecurity carefully before any deployment. A “zero trust” cloud solution is your best choice.

What is “Zero Trust?”
A Zero Trust Cloud Solution encrypts video before it sends it to the Cloud, and it keeps the video files encrypted while in the Cloud as well. If compromised, the video remains protected. The encryption key is controlled at and by the edge. Whomever owns the key, owns the videos. It is imperative that the edge (user) treats and shares their key with the utmost sensitivity and care. Not even the manufacturer has access to or can change this key.

The fact that the VMS stays at the edge means all sensitive information remains local. Additionally, having a solution with a health-monitoring tool can provide a few important indexes for remote management, without opening the door of a control tool.

With the ever-increasing need for security, using the capabilities of the Cloud makes sense for many video surveillance operations. Be sure you have carefully looked into and employed the software, services and companies you can trust, and be willing to bet your business on it, because that may be exactly what you’re doing.

This article originally appeared in the January / February 2022 issue of Security Today.

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