Security advance cuts both ways

Security advance cuts both ways

A single digital platform for security applications creates its own possibilities and risks.

Anyone in charge of securing a building or restricting access to a network will be puzzling over whether to welcome fast-moving advances

in electronic security in which previously disparate technologies are

converging onto a single internet protocol backbone.

Until recently, physical access systems that restrict entry to a

place, and logical access systems that restrict use of a network, have

operated as two separate entities with two separate cost centres.

And electronic security has been a patchwork of technologies including

smart cards, biometric systems, sensors, radio frequency

identification and video surveillance.

But in the past five years, analog security technologies such as video

surveillance have been progressively moved onto a digital format,

putting them on the same platform as IP-based technologies.

That means IT departments are starting to take over security

surveillance, feeding data collected from IP cameras and

access-control readers into local area networks and accessing that

from an authorised workstation.

That's both good news and bad news for security specialists of any

sizeable organisation.

"By linking these systems on an IP network, it creates many

possibilities down the track," says David Chadwick, senior solutions

adviser, identity & biometrics at Unisys Asia Pacific.

Chadwick points to a recent implementation at the Port of Halifax in

Novia Scotia, Canada, where arctic conditions made keys or fingerprint

scanning to control access for its 4000 workers unworkable. The new

system uses instead back-of-the-hand vascular scanning supported by

data embedded in smart cards.

That is linked to web-enabled databases integrated with the port's

existing credentialling-reservation system.

In other possible scenarios, an intelligent video surveillance system

can be added to this kind of security system to monitor anomalies in

movement - such as a bag left unattended for too long in one spot -

and check those against a database of more than 40 rules.

Or it could be linked to an automated track-and-trace system in which

data is downloaded from RFID tags to interact with any IP device so

that not only does the organisation know where something or someone is

at any time, but can also control movement.

"It opens up opportunities to do innovative new things with security

systems," says Chadwick.

Some recent technological advances in electronic security are poised

for development.

For example, the international standards body the Institute of

Electrical and Electronics Engineers has approved 100Gbps Ethernet,

which will bring a 1000-fold improvement in networking and computer

performance for security solutions that depend on high-volume,

media-rich data traffic.

That will boost the capacity of smart tracking services and

intelligent video analysis.

"Instead of having a team of operators looking at a bank of screens

all the time you can have intelligence within the camera that can pick

up abnormalities to the norm and send that data to the control room,"

says Roger Jowett, chief operating officer at Signature Security.

By embedding RFID tags on GPS devices attached to containers, tracking

systems go from being fixed to mobile, says Jowett.

And since the approval of the next generation internet, IPv6, the

number of available internet addresses is set to expand vastly.

"That means that every RFID item could have its own IP address and be

linked to an IP network," notes Chadwick.

These developments are feeding into access-control and track-and-trace systems.

"The exciting thing is that we are being asked to come up with

electronic prototypes which we then turn into new security solutions,"

says Jim Stamatelos, chief executive officer of Bio Recognition

systems. "There's a lot of customer-driven development happening."

He cites biometric security systems that combine RFID with optical

sensors to capture very high resolution images at 500 DPI beneath the

epidermis of the skin to overcome identification errors caused by skin

blemishes or dirt.

The image is then recorded as a digital number which is much harder to

hack into.

Running these systems over the existing ethernet network delivers cost


But while industry insiders welcome these developments, they warn that

that putting all aspects of security onto the same network

significantly broadens the scope for attack.

"Some people argue that shifting to a common network protocol in fact

lessens security because it opens an organisation up to threats

directed at other systems," says Andrew Wells, research director at

Gartner. "And they may have a point. Organisations have to be careful

that they manage the network in terms of the robustness appropriate to

different levels of security."

On the other hand, says Wells, moving logical access control systems

onto an IP network has the spin-off effect of positioning surveillance

in the same market for research and development as information


Brave new world

* IT departments are starting to take over security surveillance.

* By embedding RFID tags on GPS devices attached to containers,

tracking systems go from being fixed to mobile.

* Experts warn that putting all aspects of security onto the same

network significantly broadens the scope for attack.

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Tags securityRFIDnew technologies

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