IT trends impacting IP video: Wi-Fi security for network video

Advances in wireless technologies have made it a more secure, viable option for installers and end-users

IP video surveillance installations are expected to finally outpace analog install revenue in 2013, according to IMS Research. However, while IP technology has seemingly won the war, there are many analog vs. IP battles still taking place, especially in vertical markets like banking and finance, retail, small business and residential. The majority of camera installs in these markets are classified as small – with 16 or less cameras per site – and experts estimate that at least 80 percent of these small installs are still analog.

So why is analog winning the battle of the small install? Two reasons: perceived cost and complexity.

The first hurdle is being fought by the continued dropping costs of network cameras and digital storage. Vastly superior digital cameras and a multitude of storage options (server, hosted, NVR, PC, NAS, SD card, or a mix of these) will soon make the cost vs. performance argument negligible.

The perceived complexity of installation, however, may be a tougher barrier to break down, particularly for those installers who service small business owners and have sold analog CCTV for decades. With the introduction of local and wide area networks (LANs and WANs), some security professionals unfortunately lack the technical knowledge – or perhaps the confidence – for an IP installation. However, recent advances in simplifying wireless networking connectivity could help close that gap and enable the adoption of affordable network video for many small business owners.

Taking a cue from wireless consumer electronics

Consumer electronics vendors have become masters at creating ever more sophisticated, yet simpler-to-use products. For example, the broadband internet router that provides your home’s connectivity is basically a plug-and-play device. This is a far cry from the bad old days of dial-up modems with their high pitched shrieking, manual initiation and limited bandwidth. Today’s routers are always connected, providing instant access to information either through a wired or wireless link. The benefits of wireless connectivity for surveillance are obvious, but can also raise red flags for some small business users.

Data security issues

In the beginning, wireless data transmission was often considered less secure since it could be intercepted by parties other than the intended recipient. Encryption was added to combat that problem and over the years has gotten progressively better – going from Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) to Wired Protected Access II (WPA2), which became available in 2004 and was soon adopted as the industry standard for wireless encryption. WPA2 security includes limiting access to authorized users as well as protecting the data those users send across the network.

Setup complexity

Despite the availability of highly secure communications, many small business customers still haven’t deployed encrypted solutions due to the perceived technical complexity of doing so. For instance, if you wanted to use WPA2 to protect your camera transmissions from prying eyes, you would need to know the wireless network’s Service Set Identifier (SSID) as well as the device’s passphrase. The passphrase is a predetermined string of characters used to develop a public key that is entered to connect the camera to the wireless router. If you don’t enter that phrase correctly during setup, access is denied.  

Given this complexity, many home offices and small businesses have taken to running their wireless networks without turning on the encryption feature. Without such protection, strangers can gain access to the Internet through those routers and freely consume bandwidth that is being paid for by the home office or small business owners. In worst case scenarios, such hijacking can lead to hacking opportunities like denial of service, disruption of business operations and compromising of confidential personal and company information.

Removing the last barrier to Wi-Fi security

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