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CSAA focuses on cybersecurity

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

At CSAA's upcoming annual meeting—to be held on Marco Island, Fla., Oct. 22 through 26—there will be a panel devoted to cybersecurity, which the association announced more about this week.

I spoke with Jay Hauhn, CSAA’s executive director, recently about the meeting as well as other focuses for the association.

Hauhn said that the annual meeting's cybersecurity panel was going to approach the subject in a new way, looking to focus on what companies should do about cybersecurity.

“We are not going to repeat what has been done ad-nauseum and have someone stand at the front of the room and scare everyone about cyber threats,” Hauhn told SSN. “We are going to focus on something actionable.  We are having experts talk about how to put a cyber protection program together.”

The panel, entitled “Cyber Security is a Business Risk (Not Just an IT Risk),” will include Justin Bailey, AvantGuard’s COO, Todd Neilson, president for Secuvant Security, Sascha Kylau, VP of central station solutions and service at Onetel, and Steve Butkovich, CPI Security Systems’ chief technology officer.

CSAA is going to be looking at cloud based central station automation platforms in a similar way at the meeting, Hauhn said. The panel will not only approach the features of the cloud, but what businesses’ cost savings could be and how they can get started with a cloud based platform. 

Currently, the association has an early bird rate for the meeting, which ends this Friday, Sept. 9.

CSAA is also keeping an eye on other emerging technological issues. Hauhn mentioned that the industry is changing, and standards are needed for newer technologies; CSAA recently put out the call for SMEs to assist with new technology standards.

“Monitoring life safety events in the traditional central station model remains our core business. That will not change. However, new innovative applications and services are being offered by our members. Best practices need to be created, that outline the actions monitoring centers take in this expanding environment,” said Hauhn.

“For example, when a service that monitors an asset in motion requires a dispatch of police or EMS, we have to be able to accommodate the asset traversing municipalities,” he said.   


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

It has been about a month since I used this space to talk about the rising need for cybersecurity, a topic that is increasingly popping up in conversations within the physical security space.

Just this week, a report on the Cyber Security Market from global research firm MarketsandMarkets shows that the cybersecurity market is estimated to grow from  $122.45 billion in 2016 to $202.36 billion by 2021, at a CAGR of 10.6 percent. North America is expected to hold the largest share of the cybersecurity market in 2016 due to the technological advancements and early adoption of cybersecurity in the region, the report found.

The major forces driving the cybersecurity market, the study found, are the rise in security breaches targeting enterprises and need for stringent compliance and regulatory requirements, as well as the growing security needs of Internet of Things (IoT) and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trends and increased deployment of web & cloud-based business applications.

This rise in cybersecurity breaches is the reason why Surveillance Systems Incorporated, a Rocklin, Calif.-based security integration company, recently launched a new cybersecurity division, SSI Threat Protect.

In my conversation with SSI president Todd Flowers, he shared with me an ironic, yet poignant story about an inexpensive drone he had ordered that arrived on day one of the Threat Protect division launch. Flowers said drones are a part of the physical security space he is excited about, and thought it would be cool to use the drones for prizes—“a fun little thing to do for some customers,” he said.

“The first day I launched our new cyber division, this drone shows up, and I plug it in—the interface is super easy and it is on Wi-Fi—but it won’t work,” Flowers explained. “So I get my IT guy over and he pulls up the network and turns off our firewall to see what is going on. Now this thing is just supposed to work internally on Wi-Fi and does not require the Internet, but when he turns off the firewall, this thing starts transmitting packets of data to Japan and Korea. The drone was trying to transmit internal information from our servers, and basically opened up a pipeline of critical information to servers in Japan and China.”

Although this scary situation was remedied immediately, it exemplifies what Flowers said he sees happening within the next five years: “The physical side of what we do and the cyber side of security will converge,” he said.

Are you ready for it?

SDN hears positive feedback

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

In a recent SSN News Poll readers said that DIY offerings can add new streams of revenue to a traditional security business and open a company up to new customers. A couple of those respondents specifically pointed to the DragonFly offering from Honeywell, which pairs DIY installed equipment with professional monitoring.

Earlier this year, Bart Didden of USA Central Station started a new venture, Security Dealer Network, or SDN, to help dealers offer the DragonFly product with professional monitoring from USA Central.

This week, SDN announced that its heard some positive feedback from dealers.

“As a professional security dealer and installer, I’ve been concerned about the quick growth of DIY security products. The DragonFly Security System gives me the chance to get a piece of that business, along with the confidence that my customers are getting the quality of products that I would want to represent my name,” Kimberly Rescigno, director of sales and marketing for Security Specialists in Stamford, Conn., said in a prepared statement.

“This program gives us the ability to offer a tried and true product with a high performance rating as a DIY product. There is absolutely no risk for us to participate. And the upside—a new source of profits that could be substantial,” Patty Terada, president of Alarm & Access Control Technologies, Inc., located in West Linn, Ore., said in the announcement.

Joseph V. Bonafede, president of Technocality Inc. of Hamilton, N.J., said in a prepared statement. “Anyone on the front lines who is selling and installing security systems knows that DIY video and security products have become a main source of competition. As the old saying goes, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ That’s exactly what SDN allows dealers to do with its unique do-it-yourself video surveillance products and central station monitoring offering.

SSN spoke with Didden in Las Vegas at this year’s ISC West to hear about some of the initial responses to SDN and the DragonFly offering. Click here to watch the ssnTVnews interview.

We're all connected

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

With all of the technology available today, the world we live is becoming much smaller.

And it is also becoming a much more connected world, where systems and technologies are talking with each other, and more and more products are working with each other, all in an effort to provide the most cutting-edge and user-friendly experience for customers.

One look no further than what is going on in the residential space, with the emergence of the smart home, and smart everything, for that matter—thermostats, lights, doorbells, refrigerators—you name it.

Just this week alone, there have been a number of big announcements from major players in the smart home world, from Amazon, Google, Apple, Coldwell Banker, and even Facebook.

This week Amazon Echo announced that it now works with Sonos, the popular speaker manufacturer, so homeowners can tell Alexa to play something from their Spotify account, for example, using their voice alone. And Amazon continues to partner with companies to bring voice control to the smart home world.

And as Google prepares to launch Google Home to compete with Amazon Echo, it was announced this week that engineers responsible for the Nest Labs platform will move to Google to work on smart home projects for the company.

Also this week, Coldwell Banker announced that it is now promoting smart home staging kits that include August, Nest and Lutron products, all in an effort to be at the forefront of this smart home movement. This announcement from Coldwell Banker comes on the heels of Apple announcing that it is working with homebuilders—Brookfield Residential, KP, and Lennar—to support Apple’s HomeKit in new properties.

As if that is not enough smart home news for one week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced at a Facebook internal Q&A session in Rome, that he has been working on a project using AI software solutions from the engineers at Facebook to build a Smart House solution in his own home that he hopes to be able to show publicly in the next month.

While more and more companies enter the smart home space and become connected, so to speak, we are entering into an era of interoperability, where making everything work seamlessly together will become a necessity rather than a luxury, and an industry where partnering with others to maximize the customer experience will become the norm rather than the exception.

Monitronics offers benefits to AAA, AARP members

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

In the past couple of weeks, Monitronics has announced new benefits for active members of AARP and AAA, offering benefits both to members signing up for services with Monitronics as well as members who are current customers.

"These partnerships are set up uniquely utilizing various co-marketing strategies to make their respective member aware of the value and benefits that Monitronics can provide,"  Frank Guido, Monitronics' CMO, told Security Systems News in an email interview.

"These initiatives were started many months ago, but has been a strategic focus to fuel growth opportunities with high quality, well recognized partners," Guido said. "We are targeting channels that are synergistic to our business and the potential partner’s business.  We are selectively targeting similarly partnerships that provide win-win-win opportunities for customers first, our partner and Monitronics.

The company announced its partnership with AAA on Aug. 23, which named Monitronics as “the AAA-branded provider for professionally installed residential security monitoring in the organization's Ohio valley and Mid-Atlantic regions, which covers 11 states, including OH, KY, KS, IN, VA, WV, MD, DE, CT, PA, NJ, plus Washington DC.”

"AAA Alliance is a large regional club for AAA with a member base of over 5.5 [million] members. These members also have excellent attributes and are similar to our base," Guido said.

Brian St. Leger, managing director, discount partnerships and business for AAA Club Alliance, said in a prepared statement, "We are excited to partner with Monitronics to provide a valuable service at an exclusive discounted rate to our members.

"We know our members are active, traveling and out enjoying the world and this will help bring them peace of mind while they're away from their home," St. Leger said in the announcement.

AAA members signing up with the company will get discounts on a specialized AAA package, while members who are already customers will be offered discounts on additional equipment.

AARP members who sign up with Monitronics will receive equipment and free activation “as well as $5 off their monthly monitoring fee,” the company said in an Aug. 11 announcement.  Existing customers who are also AARP members will be offered discounts when they add on equipment in the future.

"AARP has a 38M member base and is highly respected brand. Their member base has many positive attributes and similarities to our customer base," Guido said. "Monitronics felt that it could provide AARP members with the best value proposition and service for security and automation. This was affirmed by AARP in the selection of Monitronics in their extensive RFP process."

How much overlap exists between these organizations' memberships and Monitronics' current customer base? "While there may be some overlap, these organization are vast and provide different avenues to reach new subscribers," Guido said.

Eagle Eye looking out for school safety

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Eagle Eye Networks, based in Austin, Texas, announced today that it has awarded $1.25 million in Drako Cloud Security Grants to schools throughout the United States.

Dean Drako, Eagle Eye Networks’ president and CEO, told Security Systems News that with so many deserving applications continuing to come in, he felt it was important to not only increase the grant money available but to also extend the application deadline (originally July 1) to Dec. 1.

“The applications that we received, some of them are heart-wrenching—it was just unreal to hear some of the stories of these schools in or near bad neighborhoods that are isolated and continuously experiencing problems but couldn’t address them because of a lack of funding,” said Drako. “So these grants will allow these schools to put in some basic video surveillance that will really help the school as well as the parents and students. This is one of the ways we can give back.”

A broad range of public and private schools have already been awarded the Drako Grant for a fully functional security camera system—including cloud management and recording, mobile phone remote access applications, cameras, networking equipment to connect IP cameras, and secure gateways to the cloud—at no cost for one year.

These cloud-based systems will not only help to improve school safety, but provide first responders with easier access. With Eagle Eye’s “First Responder Real-time Video Access,” which was announced at ISC West in April, Eagle Eye Security Camera VMS administrators have the option to pre-designate first responders who can receive immediate real-time security camera access during emergency situations; the cameras are shared only when an authorized user activates first responder access.

“Because Eagle Eye is a cloud-based system, we have all of that video up in the cloud and giving access to people can be managed, controlled and highly secure while it also can be done very dynamically,” said Drako. This is key for first responders, for example, who are heading to the site for whatever the situation is, as they can access the video on their smart phone or android device. Police HQ can also have access to the video and tell officers where to go, for example, all in real time, he noted.

“I am a firm believer in security and video surveillance,” said Drako. “Video is going to become a ubiquitous part of our lives—and security—and I think that that is going to happen primarily in the cloud. Just like email has moved nearly 100 percent to the cloud, video surveillance is going to move almost entirely to the cloud over the next 10-20 years.”

He continued, “There are compelling advantages to cloud-based surveillance systems, and I want schools to experience these advantages as we try to make schools safer.”


End of an era, beginning of another

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

As the new editor of Security Systems News, I am grateful to my predecessor, Martha Entwistle, for all that she has done for the publication. Martha, who had been with SSN for more than a decade, six of those years as editor, raised the newspaper to new heights, while maintaining the high standards SSN has come to be known for.

As we begin a new era here at SSN, it is exciting to take the helm, especially with newly promoted managing editor Spencer Ives helping me to steer the ship during this pivotal time in a quickly evolving and growing security industry. And as we strive to continue and build upon the strong tradition of editorial excellence here at the publication, we are eager hear from you, our readers, on what issues and topics are most important to you.

We also invite you to attend our upcoming second annual Cloud+ conference, which is set for Nov. 29 and 30 in the tech-savvy city of Austin, Texas. You can take a look at our educational program at, as well as register for what is shaping up to be an ideal forum to investigate the successes early adopters and innovators are having using cloud technology, which is no longer the future—it is here!

In addition to Cloud+, we here at SSN are also beginning to put together the program for our TechSec Solution’s New Technology Conference, which is Feb. 27-28, 2017, in Delray Beach, Fla. Whether you are a security director, IT professional, integrator, consultant, distributor, manufacturer or other security professional, this two-day event is the gathering place for security thought leaders to discuss the industry’s new and emerging technologies.

And speaking of conferences, I am excited to be attending the ASIS 2016 conference in Orlando, Fla., Sept. 12-15. For those of you who will be there as well, I encourage you to reach out to me to set up a time to meet, or just stop by the SSN booth to say hello!


PPVAR seeks volunteers

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

For the first time, PPVAR is looking to offer online operator training. Yesterday, the partnership put out the call for volunteers that would like to help write modules for this training.

The call was a "great success," with 47 total registrants, individuals had registered for it, PPVAR's immediate past president Steve Walker told SSN in an email interview.

Part of the call covered PPVAR's mission and approach, as well as its overall objective with the training. "The process of finding volunteers for any worthwhile initiative is difficult because qualified people have so many demands on their time," Walker said. "Therefore, we want our volunteers to understand the value of what we are trying to accomplish while also explaining how the process will ensure that we use their time respectfully, efficiently and effectively."

PPVAR has hired a professional training firm to do most of the "leg work," he said. "[O]ur volunteers will provide the creative oversight needed for ensuring a great final product that is creative, accurate, meaningful and effective."

"The ideal volunteers are people with experience in using verification technologies (audio and video) in monitoring centers today—people that can draw on their own experiences to know what works and doesn’t work in the real world. Owners, central station personnel (leaders and trainers) were all represented in the call," Walker said.  

"Our end goal is to develop seven different online training modules that will be useful for central station employees and PSAP employees, alike," Walker said. 

There are seven tracks that PPVAR is focusing on. According to PPVAR, the goal is to have the first module done in the next 30 to 60 days. 

“Crime in Progress Verification Monitoring – Introduction,” which focuses on audio and video verification as compared to other methods of reducing false alarms.

“Design of a Video Verified System,” which covers information on how verified systems are installed, as well as software platforms specifically for video verification.

The “PSAP Communications” module covers communication between operators and PSAPs regarding verification.

“Video Threat Levels and Flowchart” focuses on how operators should execute decision making within the Threat Level Flow Chart, as described in the Video Alarm Verification Best Practices.  

The “Design of an Audio Verified System” track will cover the installation of an audio verified system, as well as software platforms specifically for audio verification.

“Audio Threat Levels and Flowchart” looks at how operators should execute decision making within the Threat Level Flow Chart, as described in the Video Alarm Verification Best Practices.  

The final module, “Verification and Insurance Impacts,” is designed to make insurance agents able to better advise clients on options available in mitigating costs related to crime.

Tunstall offers no-cost temperature monitoring

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tunstall Americas announced its new Vi+ personal emergency response system earlier in the month, with an integral sensor for ambient temperature. Yesterday, the company announced that extreme temperature monitoring will be provided free of charge to its subscribers.

“Record breaking heat across the United States this summer prompted Tunstall Americas to offer Temperature Extremes monitoring free of charge to subscribers of their home based medical alert service,” the company said in the release.

“Environmental changes indicate that the frequency and severity of heat waves will continue. We are pleased that we are in a position to offer this potentially lifesaving benefit to our current and future subscribers of our Vi Medical Alert System at no additional cost,” Casey Pittock, president and CEO of Tunstall Americas, said in a prepared statement.

The system will look for temperatures either above 89 degrees Fahrenheit or below 50 degrees, at which point the subscriber or caregiver will be notified.

Extreme temperatures specifically concern many of the typical PERS users. “Tunstall’s core base of subscribers, the elderly, individuals with chronic conditions, and other at risk populations have been reported to be the most vulnerable to extreme heat related illness,” the company said.

Tunstall Americas operates its own monitoring centers in New York and Rhode Island. 

Need for cybersecurity soaring

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

If you aren’t that worried about cybersecurity and the threat of a ransomware attack, you should be.

According to a new report, “State of Ransomware,” which was sponsored by Malwarebytes and conducted by Osterman Research, nearly 40 percent of businesses have experienced a ransomware attack in the last year. Of these victims, more than a third lost revenue and 20 percent had to stop business completely.

And that doesn't even include the companies that aren't reporting being attacked. According to FBI Section Chief Philip Celestini, who was a featured speaker at ESX 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas, 80 percent of companies that have been attacked by ransomware “are not reporting it to law enforcement,” he said. The FBI is reaching out to the industry, Celestini said, for its help in spreading the word of the importance of cybersecurity and working with law enforcement to minimize loss.

According to the FBI, ransomware attacks went from causing $25 million in losses to $200 million in just the last year in the U.S., as well as an astonishing $2 trillion in cyber crime losses worldwide.

According to Nathan Scott, senior security researcher at Malwarebytes and a ransomware expert, over the last four years, “ransomware has evolved into one of the biggest cybersecurity threats in the world, with instances of ransomware in exploit kits increasing 259 percent in the last five months alone. Until now, very few studies have examined the current prevalence and ramifications of actual ransomware incidents in the enterprise.”

Some other key U.S. findings from the study include:
- Security attacks with ransomware are increasing: Nearly 80 percent of U.S. companies have suffered a cyber attack in the last year and more than half experienced a ransomware incident. US organizations are the most attacked among the countries surveyed.
 - Email is the top vector for spreading ransomware: More than half of the U.S. attacks originated with email.
- Upper management and C-Level executives are at a higher risk: 68.4 percent of U.S. respondents noted ransomware attacks impacted mid-level managers or higher, while 25 percent of incidents attacked senior executives and the C-Suite.
- Cybercriminals held high-value data for ransom: Nearly 80 percent of the U.S. organizations breached had high-value data held for ransom.
- Attacks are impacting more than initial endpoints: More than 40 percent of ransomware attacks in all four countries were successful in impacting more than a single endpoint, with nearly 10 percent of the attacks affecting more than one-quarter of the endpoints in the business.
- Current enterprise security measures are weak against ransomware: Almost half of ransomware incidents in the U.S. occurred on a corporate desktop within the enterprise security environment.
- Ransomware remediation takes hours: 44 percent of attacks on U.S. companies forced IT staff to work more than nine hours to remediate the incident. Globally, the figure is 63 percent of incidents that took more than nine hours to remediate.