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Stephen Doyle

TrendNet: A Cautionary Tale?

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hundreds of TrendNet customers found out the hard way that products they purchased, billed as home security cameras, weren’t all that secure. In January 2012, a hacker was able to breach TrendNet’s website, circumvent security credentials and access some 700 live-camera feeds monitoring inside customers' homes. Many of the videos were then disseminated on the Internet, a curious fact by itself in light of the complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission, which said security flaws in the cameras allowed for the “unauthorized surveillance of infants sleeping in their cribs, young children playing, and adults engaging in typical daily activities.” The online community continues to recover from the trauma of being exposed to such tedium.

But for obvious reasons, customers were unnerved. The FTC wasn't happy either. The oversight committee’s complaint alleging that TrendNet misrepresented its software as secure and failed to adequately protect its customers resulted in a settlement, which was reached last week, according to multiple reports.

The story reached mainstream news. Unsurprisingly, it’s on the alarm monitoring industry’s radar as well, as I discovered in a short conversation with Stephen Doyle, executive vice president and CEO of CSAA. Doyle said he just returned from an Alarm Industry Communications Committee meeting in which 65 industry members were briefed by an industry lawyer on the legal ins and outs of the TrendNet snafu.

In terms of pertinence to the industry, the case seems fringy in some respects, relevant in others. It’s true, after all, that TrendNet cameras are unattached to alarms, and designed specifically for remote monitoring of homes via smartphones and other mobile devices. But it's relevant to the industry insofar as it deals with a few topics in the forefront of people's minds.

One of those topics is the viability and security of do-it-yourself monitoring systems. Another is cloud security, a topic that stands to grow in significance with the spread of IP panels, and as more companies migrate information and services to the cloud. Whether a company’s data becomes more or less secure when it’s transferred to the cloud is a hot-button industry debate with little consensus. Cloud adoption is likely to expand, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be skeptics. Either way, the TrendNet case perhaps intensifies the debate.

At TechSec 2014, Jeremy Brecher, VP of technology, electronic security at Diebold, will tackle some issues in this vein as part of the educational program, while also exploring ways security companies can thrive in an increasingly cloud-based environment.

Alarm industry keeping pace with PERS

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

With baby boomers reaching age 65 and more of the elderly population living independently, personal emergency response systems have become the safety net of choice for millions of Americans. While central stations have been dealing with PERS for a few years now, the stakes are rising and the game keeps changing—think of GPS and two-way voice from a pendant. Technology has come a long way from “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” and training and procedures must keep pace.

The developments haven’t been lost on the Central Station Alarm Association. It has been working on establishing a standard for PERS technology and monitoring through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and is in the final stages of the process, Executive VP Stephen Doyle says in the latest edition of CSAA Dispatch.

“The CSAA board recognized that education and training on PERS would be needed if there is to be long-term credibility in the marketplace and with the AHJs,” he writes.

Few would disagree, but technology doesn’t sleep and people don’t always see eye to eye on where it is taking us. Looking farther down the road, who will serve as the gatekeeper for issues that emerge as PERS devices evolve beyond where they are today?

“With the formal promulgation of the … PERS standard and the training of PERS monitoring operators in the probable near future, it seems as though the time has come to consider forming a PERS Council,” Doyle says.

The council’s role would be to “help shape issues” specific to the interests of its members pertaining to PERS monitoring. Doyle said that the mission would be a natural for the CSAA.

“With the growth of the aging population, PERS monitoring and dispatch will become an increasing issue for the AHJs and the PSAPs,” Doyle says. “And who better to deal with the issues attendant to this technology than CSAA—as we have done very successfully with public safety entities for so many years.”

Council membership and other details are likely to be discussed at the CSAA’s midyear board meeting at ESX on June 25, according to Doyle.

Last call for ESX discounts: It’s not too late to get the early-bird discount for ESX Nashville. The deadline has been extended for one week, with lower registration rates available until Friday (June 8). To cash in, go to www.esxweb.com/register.