Video surveillance systems have been a critical element in the security landscape for decades, helping to monitor and protect retail, commercial, residential, and public property. Today, as the concern for enhanced security grows and the construction community embraces the intelligent building concept; video surveillance - and especially IP video - plays an increasingly crucial role in providing a safe and productive environment.
"It is no secret that police departments and governments have been monitoring city streets for years, with security cameras proving invaluable in crime investigation and prevention. However, as a result of research conducted by Kaspersky Lab researcher Vasilios Hioureas and his fellow researcher Thomas Kinsey from Exigent Systems Inc., “wireless systems could also be used in a harmful way", the security firm said.
Wireless surveillance systems (still a very small percentage of the total market) are starting to be connected via a mesh network, a type of network in which nodes are connected with each other and serve as stepping stones for data on its way from a node to the control centre. Instead of using a Wi-Fi hotspot or wired connection, nodes in such networks simply transmit data to the closest node which transmits it further through other nodes right to the command centre. Kaspersky Lab fears that if a hacker connects himself to a single node in the network then he will be able to manipulate the data transmitted through it.
Mesh-network based video surveillance systems are increasingly being seen as an inexpensive solution, which don't require multiple hotspots or miles of wires. But the security of such networks is heavily dependent on how the whole network is set up.
“We undertook this research to highlight that cyber security also affects physical security systems, especially critical public systems like video surveillance. When building a smart city, it is extremely important to not only think about the comfort, energy and cost efficiency that the new technologies will bring, but also about the cyber security issues that might arise”, said Vasilios Hioureas.
Although the findings of this research were presented last august Kaspersky believes that its findings are still useful for city authorities that are planning to implement mesh-network based surveillance systems or those who have implemented it.The total value of world production of video surveillance products at factory gate prices stands at $13.48 billion, according to a recent Memoori report The Physical Security Business 2014 to 2018; Access Control, Intruder Alarms & Video Surveillance.
In 2014 the product sales for video surveillance grew by 9.9%, within an environment of continued growth in the smart buildings sector.
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The concept of designing and building "intelligent buildings" has come into its own over the past 2 decades. Many definitions have been bandied about over the years, but the most comprehensive and accurate one seems to have been offered by the Building Intelligence Group's Paul Ehrlich, who defined an intelligent building as one that includes the "use of technology and process to create a building that is safer and more productive for its occupants and more operationally efficient for its owners".
While the intention is to support the users of a building, such technology can make the building vulnerable to very physical, cyber attacks. Through smart building systems, hackers can take control of the building’s heating and crank up the thermostat to make inhabitants uncomfortable and cause permanent damage temperature-sensitive servers.
“Whether it’s a lighting system, HVAC, physical access control, video surveillance, elevators, they’re all computer networks”, said Rob Murchison, co-founder of North Carolina based Intelligent Building. “Since they’re computer networks with servers, they are susceptible to the same vulnerabilities and exploits”.