Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) is one of the most popular means of securing a commercial facility or an institution that there is. First and foremost, the very sight of overtly-installed cameras help to deter crime, so the first order of business associated with CCTV is that of Crime Prevention.
Secondly, where a burglar alarm can detect and summon police response only, a video surveillance system will document things that go bump in the night. A picture is worth a thousand words, and so a single video image can give you the who, what, where, when, and how behind any event that occurs within a camera’s view.
If you already have a camera system, then you know about the many benefits associated with having one. However, unless your CCTV system is connected to the company LAN (Local Area Network), you’re missing out on a number of benefits that you really need to have.
There are two basic kinds of CCTV systems on the market today–Analog and Digital. Analog is an older technology, having been around since the 1940’s, where Digital is relatively new. No matter which one you happen to have, your video surveillance system will work with and through almost any network made today. There are definite advantages associated with connecting your video surveillance system to your company LAN, and we’ll cover some of them in this article.
Here’s Why You Should Connect to Your Network
One important advantage of connecting your CCTV system to your LAN is that you and any other authorized individual(s) can review video in real time and after the fact from any authorized terminal on the LAN. Additionally, placing network-connected, two-way intercoms at each entrance also allows audible interaction between a visitor at the door and company personnel.
A network-connected video surveillance system can then be accessed by anyone at the enterprise-level using the appropriate VMS (Video Management System), which is usually located at your corporate headquarters. This is accomplished using the Internet in conjunction with a secure point-to-point connection, commonly referred to as a VPN (Virtual Private Network), over an encrypted (secure) line.
Online access through your LAN also enables managers to review cameras at will in real time to assure the wellbeing of employees, visitors, and your physical assets. Recorded video also can be reviewed after an event has taken place.
Network tech also enables you to take advantage of off-premise analytics and data storage by way of Cloud services specifically designed for video surveillance applications. Not only that, but operators at a 24/7 Central Monitoring Station (CMS) can be given access to the video stored there, enabling them to verify alarm drops in order to minimize false police dispatches, which carries the side benefit of eliminating or at least reducing false alarm fines.
In the interest of reducing police response where there is no need for one, some services will send the pre & post video clips to your security manager via his or her smartphone for verification purposes. When response is necessary, your manager has the option of clicking on a soft button to approve immediate police dispatch.
The Dangers Associated With Network Connections
If there’s a single downside associated with the security of network-connected video it’s the additional time and effort involved in protecting the integrity of the system so hackers do not gain access to your data. This naturally includes the video feed(s) from the IP cameras installed throughout your facilities, especially where it involves an enterprise-level network. Industrial-based applications can and often are a target for hackers, especially manufactures who directly work with the Federal Government.
A recent example of this involves the creation of a “backdoor” in the software used to operate the cameras and other video surveillance devices manufactured by several Chinese companies. Because these devices connect to your network, someone with knowledge of this could possibly enter other segments of the network, thus gleaning things like credit card data, personal information, product design details, and much more.
“We must face the reality that the Chinese-government is using every avenue at its disposal to target the United States, including expanding the role of Chinese companies in the U.S. domestic communications and public safety sectors,” says Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a senior member on the House Armed Services Committee. “Video surveillance and security equipment sold by Chinese companies exposes the U.S. government to significant vulnerabilities and my amendment will ensure that China cannot create a video surveillance network within federal agencies” (Hikvision, Dahua Swept Up in Potential Sales Ban to U.S. Government; as reported by Security Sales & Integration magazine on May 30, 2018.)
According to SSI, the bill, which since publication received Senate approval, also prohibits the U.S. government from purchasing equipment made by several other Chinese firms. These include Hytera Communications Corp., a provider of radio communication devices; ZTE Corp., the Chinese telecom giant; and Huawei Technologies Co., China’s largest telecom equipment maker.
Protecting Your Investment
By now it’s probably occurred to you that a determined hacker will get access to your video no matter what you do to secure it when it’s connected to the Internet. This assessment may be true for those in the corporate world who refuse to take time and appropriate the necessary funds to stop it, but it’s not true of those who actively seek ways to slow or stop hackers from doing what they do.
One of the most recent problems that corporations have had involves the experience of plugging into a centralized, Cloud-based service package on the Internet. “As businesses of all sizes move computing resources to the Cloud, new security concerns require careful attention and planning,” says Mike Chapple, IT pro and associate teaching professor at the University of Notre Dame.
According to Eagle Eye Networks, a Cloud-based service specifically designed for remote video surveillance services, “VSaaS, or Video Surveillance as a Service, refers to hosted Cloud-based video surveillance. The service typically includes video recording, storage, remote viewing, management alerts, cyber security and more. 93 percent of businesses have now adopted Cloud solutions. Cloud technology advances and greater bandwidth availability are making VSaaS – also called Cloud video surveillance – is increasingly attractive.”
According to Chapple, Cloud Security Mistakes to Avoid, published in Biz Tech Magazine, fall 2018, there are four basic things to avoid:
- Don’t publish sensitive information
- Avoid unvetted solutions
- Watch out for weak encryption
- Guard against poor incident response
There also are systems available, such as a Web Application Firewall (WAF), that sits up front on a network, monitoring every packet of data that attempts to enter your network from the outside. Good for SMB’s (Small to Midsize Business), it protects against DOS (Denial of Service) attacks.
“Placed at the front of the data path, the WAF functions like a reverse proxy, intercepting all traffic and allowing only packets that comply with policy to get through,” says John Breeden II, author of Entry Denied, published in BizTech, fall 2018 (http://bit.ly/2zqgcn4).
With these precautions, as well as new generation firewalls, virtual server segmentation, and many other techniques, it’s quite possible for you to prevent the compromise of video data on your network(s).
Where Do You Get It?
Moving video to and from your network via the Internet isn’t rocket science, but it is complicated and it requires the magic touch of qualified technicians in security as well as IT (Information Technology). With that in mind, the first place to start in your quest to connect video surveillance to network is with the security company that installed your CCTV system.
Many security-oriented firms have taken steps to enter the IT world either directly by training and certifying their existing technicians, by hiring IT professionals to work on staff, or they’ve developed a close relationship with outside, third-party IT companies whom they work with on an everyday basis. Or, if you have your own IT department, putting Security together with them will usually glean the results that you want.
Although you can certainly host your own data storage, VMS, and other aspects of an Internet-connected video surveillance system, most commercial concerns have turned to Cloud-based VSaaS to do the work for them. Not only does it mean eliminates the upfront cost of the servers and other hardware necessary to make it happen on a local basis, but it also defrays the long-term maintenance costs associated with keeping everything running.
As to why companies of all sizes should connect their CCTV systems to their LAN, Mike Reed, owner of SAFE Solutions of Hurst Texas, “There’s less initial cost, lower service cost and down time, higher redundancy with reduced manpower or infrastructure which would impact insurance and liability costs–I can think of plenty of reasons. I always recommend that they view options for local only, Cloud only, and local with Cloud redundancy.”
The typical cost for Cloud-based VSaaS will vary depending on where you are and the security company you use. The security company is actually a partner to the Cloud service who will, in turn, bill you according to whatever price plan you choose to go with.
“I would easily say $75.00 per month per TeraByte would be sufficient, and we have solutions that can record to off-site Nas and Dropbox/Google Drive thus using the customers existing filespace,” says Reed. “$19.99 a month for four cameras on Alarm.Com; +5 months for additional four up to 40; $49.00 per month per camera for video verification with alarm, $100 per month per camera for solar/cell site cameras with video verification and site alarm (construction, new builds, etc).”
Reed adds that Cloud service and storage past that point depend on site site, bandwidth, number of cameras, days backup, storage regulations by industry etc.