IP Surveillance

When managers discuss physical security, it’s usually restricted to what types of locks to place on what doors.  This is a good start, but locks are only one component of effective physical security.  In fact, a lock is intended as one of many safeguards to delay an intruder until he is identified and intercepted by security guards or police officers.  Good physical security requires the combination of locks, barriers, and sensors.  But these safeguards must be supported by the capability for human assessment of alerts or alarms.  The quickest method for gaining visibility into sensitive areas is the use of cameras.

Until recently, CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) technology was the principle means of viewing physical assets.  Today, IP Surveillance systems are taking over and providing significant improvements.  

In this article, I define IP Surveillance, explore how it works, and list the potential value it brings to your security efforts.   

IP Surveillance is the use of an IP network to gather or view information collected by network-ready surveillance cameras.  An example of an IP surveillance configuration is depicted in Figure 1 (D-Link, 2005).  Three Ethernet switches are connected to the core network infrastructure.  Cameras are either directly attached via Cat 5 Ethernet cabling or via a wireless connection.  The use of 100 Mbps or greater connections is recommended for high resolution images. 

   IP Surveillance Figure 1 

 Figure 1 (click to enlarge)

Security personnel can access camera output in two ways.  The first method is by direct connection to one or more cameras.  This is typically facilitated by using web services embedded in the camera.  Real time visibility into coverage areas and camera adjustment for better viewing are possible using vendor-supplied or third party software.  Password protection prevents eavesdropping.  

The second method involves accessing camera output stored on disk.  Cameras can send information to a recording station for storage in one of many popular video formats.  These recordings are quickly available for investigation, audit, or other business purposes. 

OK, so this is “cool” technology.  But how can it help strengthen your security program?

Barriers like fences, gates, and locked doors and windows are only a temporary frustration for a determined intruder.  Again, barriers are intended to delay an intruder’s advance – not stop it.  The delay provided by an organization’s physical barriers should be long enough for human intervention.    

Cameras provide the means for local or remote monitoring personnel to quickly identify an intruder and direct local law enforcement or onsite security guards to the appropriate location in order to apprehend and remove the threat.      

Even organizations that use motion or vibration sensors gain significant benefit from cameras.  Sensors are not 100% accurate.  False positives and false negatives are possible.  Strategically placed cameras can help ensure costly human security resources don’t continuously run after false alarms, and that intruders are unable to circumvent non-visual safeguards.  Finally, cameras can provide continuous surveillance of sensitive areas. 

Installation of IP surveillance cameras is pretty easy.  If used with Power over Ethernet (PoE) capable switches, cameras can be placed in locations where no electrical outlets exist; power is delivered over the Ethernet cable.   

CCTV systems used coax cables to transmit unencrypted information.  Once an intruder gained physical access to a cable, it was easy to tap into the data stream without being detected.  Security personnel can protect IP camera output by using LAN encryption technology.    

Cameras might not be necessary for every business.  But if you’re protecting critical intellectual property or other sensitive information, consider at least limited use of video technology; even if it’s just around your data center.  Cost shouldn’t be an issue, with cameras ranging from less than $200 to under $1000, depending on the feature set you need.

Author:  Tom Olzak

Sources:

D-Link (2005, July). IP surveillance: the next generation security camera application. Retrieved February 27, 2006 from ftp://ftp10.dlink.com/pdfs/products/IP_Surveillance_Solutions_Brief.pdf

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