Many years ago I was having lunch with a technology guru called Dr Alan Solomon (you can tell it was the 1990s because we were actually having lunch in a proper restaurant rather than sandwiches around a meeting room table).
Between munching on a large plate of spare ribs washed down with quite a few bottles of Tiger beer, Alan explained to me that it was inevitable and indeed imminent that PC users all over the world would soon be deliberately compromised by what he called ‘viruses’. He went on to explain that these viruses would be used to steal data and would be spread un-checked by diskettes promiscuously passed from user to user.
I didn’t believe him; I thought he’d had one Tiger too many.
But he was right. His foresight proved, as with so much that has happened since the early 90s technology revolution, that if it could be imagined, it could happen. Alan went on to specialise in fighting computer viruses with Dr Solomon’s Anti-Virus Toolkit; as well as helping millions of PC users, he did very well into the bargain.
Fast-forward 20 fascinating, frightening and downright freaky years and we are living in an era where we’re constantly, either consciously or unconsciously, connected to the internet via various smart devices or smart objects that have become part of the internet of things.
Thanks to experts like Dr Solomon, when it comes to protecting our PCs and connected devices, we are all very much alive to the threats posed by malicious hackers, viruses and the plethora of malware that’s out there.
It’s just part of life. And like much of our lives, the things that are really important get overlooked or ignored. Which is perhaps why we’ve not really woken up to the threats posed to our data and networks by the connection of ‘things’ to them.
Gartner reckons that in 2016 5.5 million additional ‘things’ will be connected to the internet each day. That’s quite a lot, and I daresay that quite a number of them will be so-called security devices such as IP cameras and other CCTV systems.
CCTV systems generally record their data back to DVRs or NVRs which often contain considerable processing power and data storage capability. Once compromised, this makes them the perfect gateway for launching an attack on a corporate network. The obvious way to guard against such an attack is through the use of VPNs but this is both clunky and expensive.
So what’s the alternative?
Before unashamedly pitching Cloudview as a highly reliable and secure solution to this problem, it’s probably worth examining why CCTV systems needs to be connected to the internet anyway.
The answer is pretty clear, even if the pictures often aren’t. CCTV is pretty ineffective when it can’t be reviewed remotely and, as the housing stock under the control of housing providers grows, so does the need to have oversight of an increasing number of remote sites.
However, the cost and practicality of locking down broadband connections with VPNs to all sites with CCTV equipment is prohibitive. Even if this were possible, most legacy CCTV systems require a special client software package or app, severely limiting their usefulness to mere ‘point to point’ access that demands separate log-ins to access each and every camera.
However, despite those drawbacks, using such systems is not as time-consuming as actually going on site to retrieve footage, as many organisations still have to do. This can take hours. It is a painfully slow process and, in addition to the time spent getting to the site, it often requires a calm demeanour to sift through the badly-designed Anglo-Chinese interface.
Being blunt, the old crop of CCTV systems were not designed to be connected to the internet and have been (in most cases) poorly modified to do so. Once sold, the vendors have little interest in ensuring the ongoing security of their hardware against compromise. Even if they did, it remains to be seen how they could responsibly access those devices to update them with new software patches or bug fixes.
In contrast, Cloudview has been designed from the start to be a cloud-based service. As such, our ability to perform effectively is intrinsically linked to our ability to ensure that the visual data of our clients is secure, not only from being hacked but from physical theft and vandalism at all points in its life.
As you’ll see, we take the subject of security extremely seriously. Once upgraded to Cloudview, visual data originated from a site’s CCTV cameras is transported via encrypted tunnels to Cloudview’s remote EU-based, ISO-27001 servers where it is encrypted, cryptographically hashed and mirrored across multiple instances. This ensures that clients’ visual data cannot be compromised and is securely stored for as long as required.
Cloudview will work with legacy CCTV systems and there’s no need for the assortment of extras required by traditional systems, such as VPNs and fixed IP addresses, to enable effective, secure access to CCTV data from anywhere on any device. What’s more, as the data and the system that manages it resides in the cloud, a fully administered ‘people, places and cameras’ permission structure allows broader, controlled access to the visual data.
So, like chocolate fireguards, DVR-based CCTV systems can look useful but, in the white heat of the internet, where instant access to vital data is essential to remain effective, they simply melt away. Cloudview on the other hand is more akin to the latest hi-tech fire protection system. It’s strong, light, effective, can be installed quickly, works automatically and won’t buckle, break or melt when things start to get hot.
And, if you’ll forgive me for flogging this analogy to within an inch of its life, Cloudview will make sure your fingers don’t get burnt by the security risks inherent in old-fashioned legacy CCTV.
James Wickes is CEO of Cloudview.