What are you Talking About?

An IT dictionary for physical security pros

IP n : Internet Protocol. This protocol provides the ability to have data transferred from one network to another as it traverses the Internet. In the security industry, it is now common to hear the phrase IP camera or IP-addressable camera. This simply means that the camera uses the Internet Protocol and can be connected to either an internal network or the Internet. If one of these cameras is connected to the Internet, you will be able to monitor that camera from anywhere with Internet access.

Every device on the Internet is assigned an IP address that looks something like this: The IP address is unique to that device. To put this in perspective, every time you visit a Web site, you are actually connecting to that site’s IP address. When you type something like www.ilovecheese.com into your browser, the browser looks up that site’s IP address—which in this case is—and then connects to the Web site.

To find your own computer’s IP address, simply visit a site like www.whatsmyip.org. If you are unable to connect to the Internet, you may need to identify whether your computer has been assigned a valid IP address. One way to check this is to click on Start and then Run. When the Run window opens, type “cmd” in the Open field. A command prompt will appear. At the command prompt, type “ipconfig” (without the quotes) and you will learn your IP address.

mal•ware n : the collective term used to describe all of the nasty pieces of software designed to plague computer systems. These include viruses, Trojans, spyware, adware, and rootkits.

mega•byte n : Equal to 1024KB. A standard floppy disk holds 1.44MB. Abbreviated MB. Understanding storage capacities is a requirement for security professionals who are switching to digital video systems. How much storage capacity is needed? If you use a high rate of compression to reduce your cost of storage, will you lose image quality? Storage terms such as these will become a standard part of the security professional’s vocabulary.

node n : any device on a network. Desktop PCs, servers and printers are all nodes. In an IP-based security system, any device on the system could be considered a node.

P2P adj : peer-to-peer. This is a type of networking that allows users to connect directly with each other in order to share files. Peer-to-peer networking has several implications for the security professional. One of the most important is that peer-to-peer applications can bypass poorly configured firewalls. Also, while P2P technologies are a unique way to share information, many users use them to illegally distribute copyrighted materials such as music, movies, software and games. Security professionals should be aware that they, their team members or family members could end up the target of a copyright infringement suit if these tools are being used on a regular basis.

In addition, many file-sharing programs may install spyware applications on systems. P2P applications include Kazaa, Morpheus, eDonkey, BitTorrent and Limewire. To determine if one of these applications is installed on your system, you can download the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America)-sponsored Parent File Scan from dtecnet.purestatic.com.

peta•byte n : Abbreviated PB. One online statistic states that you could store the equivalent of 500,000 hours of movies on 1PB—a volume of data that is difficult to comprehend.

port n : virtual points of connection in a computer system. This is a tough concept to grasp, even for some in the information technology industry. While “port” can be used to describe a physical connector that will accept a cable and allow data to be transmitted, when IT professionals speak about ports they are discussing virtual ports on a computer system.
In order for applications to communicate with other systems, they use a designated virtual port with which to accept communications. As an example, whenever you connect to a Web site, your computer is really communicating with Port 80 on the Web site’s host computer. Standard applications will use standard ports. When you use Outlook express to download mail from your ISP (Internet service provider), you are really connecting to Port 110 on your ISP’s mail server.
Why would physical security professionals need to understand the concept of ports? Physical security applications that run on standard operating systems will communicate via a recognized port. Troubleshooting communication issues between security devices may mean identifying what port is used by those devices and whether conflicts exist with other applications or devices.

RAID n : redundant array of independent disks. This is a collection of hard disks that are configured to function as one storage unit. Using multiple hard disks provides increased throughput, performance and fault tolerance. Properly configured RAID systems can provide some level of data protection, because if one hard drive fails, the data on the system will not be lost.

This does not mean that you should rely on your RAID as your only method of data protection. If the RAID contains mission-critical information or, in the case of digital video, material that might be used in litigation or criminal investigation, the data should be backed up on a regular basis. I once worked in an environment where two hard drives and a RAID controller card failed at the same time. Had a backup of the system not existed, all the data would have been lost.