RMR: Nitty-Gritty Command Centers

Command centers need safe practices for success

We have all seen rooms with hundreds of computer screens and people monitoring moving graphs and streams of data in the movies. There are examples of real life practical situations for different types of command centers and they are becoming more prevalent every day in order to match physical and digital security. In real-life situations, you do not need hundreds of monitors and a staff of 30 people to set up a basic but fully functional command center. This can be done with relatively limited resources.

There are a million different combinations for hardware but the basis is a good reliable machine. What hardware you need will depend on what exactly your goal is but some of the things you might need are: computers, monitors, DVRs or other storage devices, cameras, access control devices and router(s) (or some type of network). Less then you expected right? In this article we’re going to be covering a few types of monitoring such as: network monitoring, physical access monitoring, system monitoring and camera monitoring.


Setting up your network

For the ideal setup, use two routers as diagramed in the illustration on page 40 to set up a stable network to transmit all information through. These days, this can be done very inexpensively with almost any router. Even home routers provide the basic requirements. The first router will be the one connected directly to the Internet or outside world. This is where employee’s computers will be safely contained away from secured systems. The second router will be hooked into the first router creating a sub-network. This network can still access the outside world and receive information from the first network while being more secure. All cameras, monitoring computers and storage servers would be hooked into the second router.

Every packet transmitted to the computers in your network has the potential to be a virus or infection that has the ability to reduce a productive work flow or produce a security flaw. Using network packet monitoring you can gradually set up filters to notice unwanted network activity, stop viruses before they can spread, stop hackers in their tracks, or just notice an employee surfing the net on the company dime. It is great to have this information but you must also make sure people regularly monitor the data and make updates to filter the rules to keep your system running efficiently. As you build the network monitoring part of your system, it is essential to add filters. If filters are not created a mountain of useless data will have to be sorted through in order to find useful information. In the long run, filters will save time and money when setting up software.

Network Monitoring Software Choices:

WireShark and WinPCAP—This software is free and open source. It scores big in the price department but the remote capture functionally is still in beta. Although no major bugs have been found, beta products are not the best for a production environment.

Snort—Another free piece of software. This program has a very stable history with lots of functions. It also serves as a fully functional IDS system. The down side is it can be cumbersome to set up.

Building a custom solution would be the most effective way to tackle the problem but not everyone has a team of developers on standby ready to start their next task. More solutions can be found online as long as they are able to transmit data from your network card to the remote internal monitoring systems. The software, mentioned above, has worked reliably as long as it is set up correctly and the time has been taken to read the documentation provided by the software distributors.


Monitoring physical access

Additional monitoring can be accessed to see a video a few seconds before and a few seconds after someone successfully authenticates with an access control device to see if buddy punching occurred or unauthorized admission has been given. This can also be used to easily show access video from a few minutes before and a few minutes after any alarms have gone off. Most DVRs found online offer some form of API access that allow you to grab sections of video based on time stamps and save them to a specified location or play back locally.

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