Video monitoring solutions capitalize on the many benefits of modern IP data networks - from open standards and low-cost connectivity to simplified support needs - to create a new generation of flexible, highly affordable solutions for security and surveillance.
Networked video monitoring solutions offer many advantages over traditional CCTV systems. These range from greater flexibility and simple scalability to reduced hardware installation costs, thanks to the use of standard IT industry components like PCs, web browsers and file servers to record, view, manage and distribute images. Since video, audio and camera control signals are carried over standard data networks, there are no theoretical restrictions on the distance between a camera and server or other recording device. With IP-based video monitoring solutions, it’s as easy to site a monitoring camera in the next room as it is in another country. The only limitation to the scale of your security and surveillance system is the Internet itself.
In contrast with the ‘closed’ CCTV world of proprietary hardware and cabling, IP-based video solutions run over the Internet and corporate intranets. This implies that video images and audio may be transmitted over networks that are very much ‘public’. With hacking, data theft and cybercrime figuring in the minds of governments, IT managers and the population at large, it is therefore important that networked video solutions are deployed in a secure environment that does not compromise commercial, governmental or public interests.
Perhaps the most often asked question relating to the security and integrity of video monitoring networks relates to the most obvious threats in today’s on-line environment. Specifically, there is a perceived risk that an unauthorised party could intercept video images being transmitted over the Internet or take control of a network camera. The ubiquity of email and other applications running over the Internet and public networks is reflected in the spiraling volume of viruses, Trojans, and other ‘back-door’ applications that can infect an unprotected PC.
The most malicious of these can install an application on the host computer that records every keystroke made by a user – including passwords and other sensitive information such as personal banking details – and transmits them to a remote server. In the context of a networked video monitoring solution, therefore, it clearly makes good sense to ensure that normal counter-measures including anti-virus software and firewalls are implemented and up-to-date, particularly when the network is open to other ‘public’ traffic via the Internet.
In addition, Sony networked video monitoring solutions offer a number of distinct security features, making it effectively impossible for network users to view, control or steal video images without permission – whether they’re a cyber criminal or an unauthorised member of staff. A valuable first safeguard is provided by password access that is required for a user or group of users to view images, control a networked camera or browse stored recordings. In addition, Sony RealShot Manager software offers sophisticated control over the set-up and management of ‘permissions’. These can be assigned on a per-user or group basis, setting precise rules from who may or may not view images from a specific camera, adjust camera settings or make, view and erase recordings.
These password and permission-based measures can help IT managers set up and manage an effective security regime to ensure the appropriate use of a video monitoring network. In addition, they are complemented by other sophisticated features embedded in the camera itself to safeguard system abuse by other parties – either within an organisation or outside it. A camera attached to a network is identified by its own unique IP (Internet Protocol) address – a set of numbers, such as 220.127.116.11 – that it uses to communicate with other devices including PCs and servers on the same network.
All Sony network cameras feature IP filtering that effectively defines who can ‘see’ that camera and communicate with it. By ‘masking’ the camera’s IP address from unauthorised users or groups, IP filtering ensures that other parties can’t view pictures or control camera settings without permission. Indeed, with its IP address ‘hidden’ from other devices and users, they won’t even know that it’s there on the network.
Aside from guarding against unauthorised interception and viewing of video images, ‘security’ should also be considered in a broader context of the user and society at large. Whenever a camera is sited in a public place, its use for security and surveillance purposes may be governed by legal and regulatory constraints. Some European countries including France have imposed legislation (the First and Third Data Protection Principles) that prohibits images of private houses appearing in images captured by CCTV cameras.
Sony RealShot Manager offers Dynamic Masking – a powerful feature that allows a system administrator to obscure specified areas within a camera’s field of view. ‘No-go’ areas of any size or shape can be drawn on screen, and that portion of the image obliterated by a colour or blurred to prevent recognition. Dynamic Masking thus gives security professionals greater freedom to place cameras exactly where they are needed to cover an at-risk area without being compromised by other elements in the camera’s field of view that could otherwise limit placement options.
Looking to the future, Sony is already working on other measures to enhance the overall integrity and security of video monitoring networks. An example of this is research into the area of Digital Rights Management – an issue of vital importance where establishing the authenticity of a particular video sequence may impact on the outcome of a court case. Sony is developing methods to ‘watermark’ video images with a digital signature that cannot be altered or erased.
Today’s video monitoring networks offer an environment that’s at least as secure as analogue CCTV systems, if not more so. Just as the current generation of GSM digital mobile phones exposed the intrinsic lack of security in analogue mobile phones, the flexibility and integrity of modern IP networks is making them an increasingly preferable option compared with their analogue predecessors.