The Security Week That Was: A Recap - Dec. 2-8, 2006 doesn't normally closely follow stories of convenience store robberies, but there was a story on the wire this morning that piqued our interest mainly because we thought that the tragedy of it could have been avoided, and I want to use this story as a brief education talking point for both security directors, security officers and even security installing dealers.

The story happened in the Houston area, where a man robbed a gas station and then struck off in a car. A Good Samaritan -- a local volunteer firefighter who happened to be on the scene -- pursued the thief's vehicle in his own car and was on the phone to police dispatchers when he was reportedly shot dead by the thief he was pursuing. That's the tragedy of the story, but the aside on this is that the gas station had a video surveillance system. Except it's not that easy… According to the news story on the shooting, the video recorder was broken and therefore no surveillance footage from inside the store was unavailable to help identify who the murderer was. Read the full story at this link.

There are three lessons here. The first is for your security officers, who encounter these situations in their line of work. The lesson there is if the job calls for observe and report duties, then that duty needs to be done in the safest manner possible. The contents of a cash register are not worth the cost of a life; maintain a safe distance as you record the situation and information like tag numbers. The second lesson is for the security director or the business owner who oversees security. Equipment purchases are not a one-time expenditure; budgets need to be created for maintenance. Develop a sound plan, also, for checking to see that equipment is working so that video systems are checked at least once a week, if not daily. Neither a $10,000 DVR nor a $150 VCR are worth the shelf space they're taking if they are not functional. Finally, for security installing companies, have you considered the possibility of long-after-the-sale maintenance calls? Is it in your marketing plan to follow up with a postcard to former clients asking them if that surveillance system you installed five years ago needs service? The fact is that most business owners look at security equipment as a "buy it once and then forget about it" type of expenditure. With digital systems where they don't have to swap tapes, it's even easier for them to forget to check their recording systems. It's your role to remind them that security is an ongoing process (and so is maintenance).

Dallas continues to stir the pot
Industry and police at odds over new statistics

The Dallas Police Department, which earlier this year got its wish of a verified response policy for commercial alarm systems, is out with data claiming that the program works. The DPD reports that there were almost 19,000 fewer alarm calls in November than March due to the policy. But local alarm industry leaders are saying, "That's great – but what about the crime increase?" Business robberies have gone up about 3 percent in the same time period. It may be too early to tell whether this policy was a good one for Dallas citizens.

Widening the surveillance angle
Korean researchers create new design for wide-angle lenses

Some years ago, I pulled in a little extra income by working as a magazine photographer. One of my favorite lenses was the wide-angle lens, which allowed me to capture the scene just as if I was seeing it through my own eyes – which can see a panorama. One of the challenges, of course, was that the wide-angle lens tended to distort the image, so that it felt "bent". On the surveillance side, software like DvTel's SceneTracker overcame this problem of not having a wide enough perspective by stitching images together (the SceneTracker does more than just stitch images into a wider perspective, but that's the basis for the system). And wide-angle lenses became available for surveillance cameras, but with these lenses you either ended up with a fisheye type perspective or a typically panoramic view with a narrow height, a lot of width and some bending. However, if the news out of Korea's research community is correct, then advancements from Homan University in South Korea may solve this wide angle problem. The research team thinks it has created a lens that is not only cheap and easily produced, but also gives a 151-degree field of view (yes, 151 degrees!) without the bending. CCTV system designers are probably salivating at their desks.

Yet another headache for security directors
VoIP wiretapping a new concern

Security of VoIP systems is a new concern. Scanit, a security consulting and management firm is warning that phone tapping has been made easier because of lax VoIP security, and that many businesses in the Middle East are falling prey to this trend. In fact, Cisco's public relations department issued a similar statement about VoIP security this week when it said "Message tampering, eavesdropping, voice spam, registration hijacking, server impersonation, session teardown and denial of service are some of the security risks companies might be exposed to if they do not take appropriate security measures." The systems' weaknesses don't usually stem from placing an electronic bug on a phone; instead the systems are hacked. Chalk this up as the newest converged security threat.

Finally, a look at our most read stories of the week: