The Internet of Things has been a popular phrase for a few years now – it symbolises the desire to connect all the technology in our lives through IP connections so we can control everything from one place. It makes complete sense, except what happens to your connected security systems? The short answer is you need to be very careful what you trust and include in your network!
With devices, buildings, vehicles and even a push for ‘smart cities’ the Internet of Things is unparalleled in the history of technology. With the convenience and undeniable benefits of connecting all these elements, there is, however, the darker side of connectivity - when it is hijacked by unauthorised and potentially dangerous influences.
The issue with any integrated network (as any IT security expert will also tell you) is that the whole thing is only as secure as its weakest point. If you introduce a new device or system to your network it needs to work in unison with the existing elements, but at the same time it becomes part of the whole structure and adds to its strengths and weaknesses too.
Integrating physical security systems
Despite concerns from some quarters, physical security is now fully embracing online connectivity and its benefits. In fact, many of the security systems we all rely upon need an IP connection to function! The security industry is very good at safeguarding itself and the expertise in the industry means it is very difficult for criminal elements to take advantage of these systems.
The potential issues don’t come from the security systems on a network, so much as potential weak spots from other unrelated systems. This is where we all need to be vigilant and security operators need to think hard about which networks they trust to connect to.
Take CCTV for example – obviously, this was originally literally Closed Circuit Television. Now, most security operators use IP CCTV, which is connected through a (secure) internet connection. This makes it far easier to install, to connect different cameras/recorders and to access from any secure device or location. These benefits make it highly worthwhile, but what if this network were compromised?
Only as secure as your weakest point
Open protocol solutions allow many different systems to be interconnected over an online network – but equally, they could allow a seemingly unrelated item to become a weak point for hacking security elements. The potential for misuse is vast, think of all the seemingly innocent devices that could be connected indirectly – household appliances, environmental systems, vehicles, commercial systems, utilities systems etc.
If the very best security system is openly linked to a private network, it is potentially compromised by any other system on that network. The answer may be to put a firewall around the security systems, but that could remove the benefits of systems integration!
At the end of the day, there is no magic answer to these issues. No one technology is totally infallible and whilst security systems are as tough to crack as possible, there are still potential weak points that could be exploited if the networks they use are compromised.
Therefore, it is more important than ever to design networked systems which are mindful of the potential security issues. In many cases, it is well worth speaking to an expert security installer or specifier to ensure there is no compromise of the systems that keep everything safe, whilst ensuring you continue to reap the benefits of a connected world!
John Davies, Managing Director of TDSi