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How poor cam choice becomes security risk

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Poor surveillance camera placement along with a bad solution design could end up compromising a security system and may render some cameras of little to no security value, says MARC VAN JAARSVELDT, consultant for The Surveillance Factory.

Despite the exciting features of today’s video surveillance cameras, poor solution design and poor camera placement compromises the end result and renders most cameras of little or no security value. He says that this ultimately results in a camera-system that may fail to solve security challenges on a site.

There is a clear lack of risk-analysis skills and the ability to design a solution that offers to maximise security value. What clients need today is a detailed site-audit and a resulting solution that solves security challenges and enhances the client’s awareness of their security environment.

Traditionally, video surveillance systems have been poorly designed and are still compromised despite the plethora of advanced features that cameras now have: Todays IP cameras can take advantage of some incredible features that they now offer: ultra-high resolution, advanced WDR (wide dynamic range), built in analytics and edge storage. But the design methodology used often does not make the best use of these features and fails to deliver on a security level.

The Surveillance Factory has seen many camera solutions constructed using what is referred to as a “general-overview” camera: These cameras are chosen to provide a wide or broad overview of a large area giving the sense that this area is adequately surveilled, but in reality, they offer nothing more than a bird’s-eye or panoramic view with no specific intention to manage risk within that area. If there is an incident of any kind, there is often no forensic value contained within the video footage because the overview is too wide and the camera, despite the fact that it may be a high resolution camera, is not performing a specific function by viewing an identified target.

In nearly all cases the video-camera position selected was incorrect. Placing it too far away and not using it to manage a specific area, makes it generally impossible to identify a target. The issue lies in the camera’s inability to capture the right number of pixels-on-target required for identification from that distance and position.

The solution lies in selecting the correct video camera suited to a specific area and more importantly, making certain that the camera addresses a specific risk and does not fall into the general overview trap: “You will then get excellent, high quality footage all the time and when video evidence is required, it will offer forensic value as the camera will provide clear images that cannot be contested.

Interestingly, he says that in South Africa, with its high crime rates, cameras are frequently pressure-tested and security managers often end up with useless footage that has no evidentiary value: This brings into question the entire premise that the camera system installed is valuable to the organisation and is actually enhancing security.

The average number of cameras deployed per site has steadily been increasing and this trend reinforces the need for system integrators to design solutions more carefully.

Here are some tips for selecting a camera and designing a solution:

1.    Choose your video cameras and positions carefully. Have a specific surveillance goal in mind for each device.

2.    Avoid general-overview cameras unless they are needed for an operational or process-control reason (e.g. to view an assembly or production line in a factory).

3.    Make sure that the camera resolution is high enough so that the footage it generates has evidentiary value. i.e. the number of pixels-on-target should agree with the standards for detection and identification, that the camera and VMS manufactures all publish.

4.    Select fewer high-resolution cameras that record at a decent frame-rate (no less than 15fps) for a shorter time frame, as opposed to many lower-resolution cameras recording at low frame-rate for a long period of time.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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