What to Ask Before You Buy: Security Vendor Evaluation Checklist

Each type of video surveillance system architecture presents different security risks. With this in mind, it is important to find a vendor that prioritizes security appropriately from the ground up.

When evaluating a video security vendor, use these questions to better understand the protocols and best practices that underpin their recommended system. These questions are intended for reference only. Be sure to consult with your company’s physical and IT security teams before selecting a security system partner.

By taking an innovative approach and working with vendors that deliver simple, secure solutions, you can be confident that the system you adopt will scale with your evolving business needs.

To learn more about selecting the right vendor and solution, check out our latest eBook: How to Choose the Right Video Security System for Your Organization.

Enhance School Safety in 5 Simple Steps

School safety has been top of mind for years. But the urgency to make improvements increased considerably following the tragic events earlier this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

After a gunman killed 17 people on the campus, legislators across the country began to push for more funding to safeguard learning institutions—from kindergartens up through universities. Over a billion dollars has already been allocated for improvements from coast to coast. Now, it is up to individual schools to create security plans and apply for the grants that will help protect their students and faculty.

While every school safety initiative requires a detailed, exhaustive look at all potential points of vulnerability, the following simple steps will help ensure that any school is well on its way to strengthening security. By addressing each of these key points, it will be much easier to create and implement a plan that works.

Step 1: Identify Physical Points of Attack

One of the most common changes schools have made in response to recent shootings has been to limit access points. This is generally a good practice. By making it more difficult to enter the building, even a school that lacks the finances to hire more personnel can maintain better vigilance over who is coming and going.

Naturally, this must be balanced with fire code regulations, logistics and other factors. But every school should systematically analyze its points of egress. These are the primary locations in which to position security upgrades. Having a greater understanding of the premises will be invaluable in the event that the school ever experiences an active-shooter situation.

Step 2: Assess Digital Security Vulnerabilities

As with physical security, schools need to take greater precautions to shore up their digital defenses. While we have not yet seen incidents in which a disturbed student takes over a school’s system to disrupt surveillance or physical infrastructure before launching an attack, the need to fortify all areas remains critical.

Beyond violent threats, schools house sensitive data about students, finances, strategic planning and many other areas. These all must be protected to prevent malicious actors from gaining access that could inflict financial damage or expose potentially-embarrassing information to the public.

Take a good look at all areas that might be exploited. These could range from physical servers and other devices, to system access points and admin logins. Implement stronger firewalls, ensure proper privileges are reserved for the right people and eliminate access for anyone who no longer needs to use these systems. Users themselves are often the weakest link in the chain. This makes it vital to properly train all faculty members on how to create strong passwords. They should also be taught tactics to avoid phishing, social engineering or other methods employed by hackers.

Step 3: Establish Emergency Protocols

It is a sad reality, but schools today need to have plans in place to deal with an active-shooter scenario. Administrators and teachers must be prepared for this type of emergency, just as they would if a fire started. This includes assigning leadership roles to certain employees and establishing protocols for when to shelter in place versus evacuating students.

In any crisis situation, communication will be difficult and emotions will run high. So these plans must be very well explained and practiced. This will provide a better chance of a good response if an actual event ever occurs.

Students also need to have some level of training. A balance must be reached between due diligence and going overboard (you don’t want to needlessly frighten young children). But there can be emotional benefits to educating students about what to do during a crisis. They see these tragedies on the news and many are scared that they could be next. Empowering them with the right level of preparation can go a long way to ease their minds.

Step 4: Talk To Your Students

If student shooters are the enemy, their classmates can help bolster your defense. A study in California found that up to 30% of students have seen some kind of weapon at school, with at least 125,000 saying that they have been threatened. Just getting them to report these incidents can greatly improve prevention. A student who brings a knife (or even nunchucks) could someday come to school with something much more dangerous.

These conversations need to go deeper than spreading the “see something, say something” message. Schools should create initiatives that aim to lower the levels of bullying and discrimination among students. Administrators that establish counseling resources are more likely to reach kids who feel ostracized. Protocols should also be instituted to share any truly worrying cases with law enforcement or other relevant authorities.

There is no guarantee that these approaches will keep a troubled student from doing the unthinkable. But they will help foster an environment that is better prepared. Addressing mental and emotional health concerns can potentially reach someone before they go over the edge.

Step 5: Be Proactive with School Safety and Security

Fortunately, much of the assessment and planning phase can be done with relatively minimal expense. It just takes a dedicated team of people, willing to engage in some careful consideration about how to locate vulnerabilities and outline emergency protocols.

Virtually any school could also benefit from some physical improvements, however, and these will require funding. Given the ongoing threats faced by our educational institutions, this is more of a necessity than a luxury. Jurisdictions ranging from the federal government and states, to individual counties and cities have allocated money for schools to implement security upgrades. 

Simple technology should not be overlooked. Two-way radio communication devices, for example, are incredibly useful. Additionally, relatively inexpensive software can create detailed facility mapping to help security personnel and administrators better understand the location they are protecting.

Most schools are also opting to invest in other types of improvements. Entry control systems, intrusion alarms, screening equipment and emergency alert systems have so far been the most common. Better video surveillance can do wonders to help monitor entry points and key areas within the building. This can be useful both for general supervision and during an active-shooter incident. School security will always be challenging, but modern plug-and-play camera systems can help provide a simple solution for school districts and campuses of any size.

Planning to Succeed

Each of the elements above is critical to upgrading school safety and safeguarding those who work and learn there. There is no way to completely eliminate threats. But better planning and vigilance can help make sure that security remains a primary focus.

Remember that conducting thorough and systematic assessments at the outset is just as important as establishing and implementing emergency protocols and upgrading equipment and technology. When everything is done together in concert, and any available funds are spent wisely, any school can create great results.

For additional information, check out 5 Reasons Schools Are Choosing Verkada for Campus Safety or get some tips to help Simplify School Security.

5 Common Myths About Your NVR or DVR Video Surveillance System

5 Common Myths About Your NVR or DVR Video Surveillance System

Security is paramount for organizations these days, and most good protection strategies include video surveillance.

More often than not, the default enterprise system centers around either a network video recorder (NVR) or digital video recorder (DVR) to capture footage from the various cameras that monitor the premises. While plenty of companies have found success using such system architecture, it can also be fraught with under-discussed pain points.

As people continue to ignore everything from hidden costs and challenging installations to unforeseen cybersecurity concerns and scalability limitations, the following five myths still circulate about these systems.

Issues run the gamut—from inconvenient, to expensive, to potentially devastating—making it imperative to understand the pros and cons of any security system.

Myth #1: NVRs/DVRs Are the Most Economic Surveillance Solution

While it’s true that NVR/DVR-based systems are often among the most affordable options out of the box, focusing on upfront costs alone could prove to be short sighted. The truth is that these solutions include many hidden costs that only become apparent after the initial hardware investment has been made.

Enterprises should be aware of the ongoing IT maintenance expenses, which can add up quickly since reviewing footage can be slow and tedious with the outdated software solutions available. Upgrading services and storage, replacing equipment that fails and expanding the system as you grow will all require additional expenditures.

While NVR/DVR devices are available with 16 or even 32 channels, many locations initially use smaller models that only support four or eight camera inputs. Though this may be sufficient when the office opens, in time, the company might have to add more NVRs or DVRs to accommodate additional cameras.

Myth #2: NVRs/DVRs Offer the Utmost Reliability

One selling point boasted by NVR/DVR providers is the system’s reliability. This is overhyped for various reasons, but the most significant is the reliance on what can become a single point of failure.

First and foremost, when an NVR or DVR stops functioning, all the connected cameras fail with it. So rather than just having one entry point or area left without surveillance, the entire facility enters a blackout—a potentially disastrous result, which malicious actors can exploit.

Moreover, this type of failure means you don’t just lose the ability to monitor the site when the system malfunctions. You will potentially lose historical footage that may be tied to an earlier incident of consequence. And when retention protocols come undone, legal risks emerge.

Then comes the small stuff. A loose cable connecting a camera to the recording device, for example, would mean that nothing is recorded in that area, and the manual nature of the system often leads to such issues not being identified immediately. This will leave you with a lack of coverage for hours, days or even weeks in the most complacent locations.

Myth #3: NVRs/DVRs are Easy to Install

DVR systems are usually billed as “idiot-proof” solutions, since they allow operators to simply attach cameras to the device by plugging in a few cables. NVRs are known to require a bit more effort in terms of setting up networked cameras. But both are sold with the promise of being very simple to implement and use.

However, all the equipment still has to be configured to communicate with each other and software must be run on top of the system if you want to monitor the video locally.

This, of course, requires a monitor to be input as well—while viewing remotely necessitates the addition of a router that passes the footage through a firewall then through the internet to be seen on computers, smartphones or other devices. Add in all the cables and installation of software on remote access devices and your seemingly plug-and-play system becomes anything but.

Myth #4: NVRs/DVRs Are Secure

Because an NVR or DVR is located on site, it can be self-contained locally and remain fully disconnected from the wider internet. In theory, this makes it incredibly difficult for malicious actors to hack and manipulate.

But most enterprises will want some sort of remote access. Monitoring live footage is critical when it comes to responding to serious incidents in real time. (This is one of the main reasons many organizations need security cameras in the first place.) And from an IT perspective, making firmware or other updates remotely saves time, money and hassle.

So while a NVR/DVR system could potentially be air gapped from the world and fully protected, in order to use a video recorder in the way most companies want to, you have to drop its security defenses. Any established firewall must be punched through to establish remote access, and a VPN (even when established properly) can still expose your system to some of the worst network risks.

This helps explain why Symantec, in its benchmark 2018 Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), ranked DVRs second on its list of vulnerable devices involved in the Internet of Things attacks against its honeypot last year. Cameras also made the top ten, coming in eighth.

Myth #5: NVRs/DVRs Are Scalable, Regardless of Enterprise Size

While these systems can offer a low cost of entry, any savings can quickly vanish as a business tries to scale up its video security. What works well in a single location can be difficult and expensive to roll out across multiple sites.

Even more than the cost, many companies come to disdain the hassle of having a new on-premises device in every building. Not only does this require a small army of employees to follow retention and other protocols across all the different locations, but it also adds time and requires more personnel when it comes to servicing, updating and generally managing the system.

And in each location, the organization will now have an additional point of failure. This issue is magnified by the fact that the segmented nature of the various NVR/DVR devices requires that they all be monitored separately if you want them to be protected against cyber threats.

While conventional video systems may be adequate for certain organizations or use cases, modern enterprises should keep these NVR/DVR myths and challenges in mind as they make forward-looking decisions about their video surveillance systems.

Want to learn more about the future of enterprise video surveillance? Check out our latest eBook, which explores why security professionals are shifting away from traditional NVR/DVR surveillance systems to hybrid cloud solutions.

Verkada Wins Big with Schools and Businesses – San Francisco Business Times

Published on Verkada.com with permission of – contributing author at San Francisco Business Times (SFBT). See the original article here. Opinions expressed by SFBT authors are their own.

For Verkada co-founder and CEO Filip Kaliszan, building a company focused on physical security and data protection stems from a void he saw in the market. Kaliszan came up with a smart security camera system geared toward businesses and schools, which combines state-of-the-art video technology with its cloud-based software.

“There are a ton of companies that sell connected devices for your home or business that can collect data, but they are very antiquated in their approach,” he said.

Verkada differs from traditional security camera companies in the way it stores its data and how video footage can be reviewed, Kaliszan said. One difference is the accessibility of live video streams, which can be viewed by multiple people during a crisis, he said.

“We think of [our product] as moving from after-the-fact-devices where when something bad happens, you look at the footage and investigate,” Kaliszan said. “We’re bringing in a real-time solution where you can make sense of the [feed] as something is happening so that you can alert the right people.” The cameras, which can be installed globally across multiple office buildings, can be accessed from anywhere via an internet connection or a smartphone.

 Moreover, the data security of customers’ video recording is paramount, said Kaliszan. In the past decade, most security cameras have been connected to an internet network, “but in just the last two-three years, a lot of focus has turned to how data is secured.”

Verkada user’s video recordings are encrypted “end to end,” which is especially important to schools and hospitals “where they really care about the private information they are capturing,” he said. The company also does not have access to any of its customers’ footage, he noted. All of the data is stored in the cloud.

Verkada’s product only launched publicly less than a year ago, but in the past six months, the company has increased its client count from 20 to more than 300. Kaliszan added that Verkada no longer plans to raise funds as its revenue is expected to continue to increase.

The company makes money by selling the cameras and its software as a service. Its clients include Hilton Hotels, Equinox, Netflix, Morgan Hill Unified School District and Yuma School District, among others.

With Verkada, we’re bringing our security systems out of that archaic age of DVRs,” said Jim Carrillo, director of technology at Morgan Hill Unified School District. “After seeing the video quality and how easy it was to set up, that’s when I realized this was a solution that could work for us. Being able to manage our devices remotely saves us time and resources.”

Kaliszan said the company has already been surprised by the ways that the clients have used the system. In schools, for example, principals and teachers have been using the system “to investigate student altercations.” For large retail customers, managers have been using it as a training tool to show an accelerated time lapse to see where the busy areas are,” he said.

“Our customers are expanding the product’s capabilities in all of these interesting use cases.”



Learn from your customers:
 “I’m always amazed by what you can learn,” said Kaliszan. “You study the market and come up with a solution, but when you see what they are doing with it in real life situations, that drives the next level of renovations.”

Product execution is crucial: “Doing things right and making sure that the experience works right out of the box has driven our early success,” he said. “In the early days of a startup, it’s crucial how seamlessly the product works and tackles the customer’s needs.”

Communication among the team is key: “We think a lot about how you structure your company internally, the company team and the culture,” said Kaliszan. “In my mind, it’s all about excellent communication, experience and candor. You can’t arrive at innovation, you can’t build an awesome product without it.”

Want to learn more about Verkada’s hybrid cloud solution? Attend a 15-minute live demo today.

3 Simple Tips to Keep Your Workplace Safe

Successful organizations across all industries recognize that safety and security should be a priority. But they often aren’t proactive about implementing strategic security initiatives until instances involving threats to physical safety occur.

Whether it’s a matter of limited bandwidth, budget or time that prevent teams from dedicating resources to improving security, there are several ways to take a proactive approach without having to invest a substantial amount of work.

In this infographic, we provide three simple tips that will support you in keeping your workplace safe.

 

(Click to Enlarge)


Our pro-tip?
Take an innovative approach to security and work with vendors that deliver simple, secure solutions that you’re confident will scale with evolving business needs.

To learn more about Verkada’s enterprise surveillance solution, read how organizations across government, education and commercial industries utilize the hybrid cloud system to keep their facilities safe.

Global Security Exchange (GSX) 2018 Event Recap

Filip Kaliszan, Co-founder and CEO of Verkada with Chuck Harold, Host and Founder of securityguyreadio.com.

Global Security Exchange (GSX), one of the world’s largest security conferences, unites the full spectrum of security. Over 22,000 cyber and operational security professionals gather to explore the current and future security landscape, exchange key ideas and best practices, expand global connections, and experience new innovations.

Among the list of security exhibitors, Verkada emerged as a disruptive new vendor in the surveillance equipment space, earning “Judge’s Choice” for this year’s Innovative Product Award.

Verkada’s hybrid cloud surveillance system has become a trusted solution for over 400 customers. Across all verticals —from education, to government, to business — security experts are relying on Verkada’s plug-and-play cameras get ahead of physical safety initiatives, while keeping cybersecurity a priority.

If you didn’t have a chance to stop by Verkada’s booth at GSX this year, request a demo today and learn more about Verkada’s simple, scalable, and secure solution.

5 Factors Driving Hybrid Cloud Solutions for Commercial Security

The rise in frequency of high profile NVR hacks, artificial intelligence, big data, and changing regulations are repositioning the role of surveillance and security systems within businesses and organizations.

Trends are shifting toward more secure hybrid cloud solutions with an emphasis on intelligent security software that can quickly help surface relevant and actionable information.

NVR, DVR and IP Security Flaws

In the past year alone, hundreds of thousands of NVR, DVR, and IP cameras have been hacked through a series of security vulnerabilities. Vulnerable devices come from a plethora of brands including Dahua, EYEsurv, Huawei, Dasan, Novo, CeNova, QSee, Pulnix, Night OWL, and Hikvision IP — just to name a few.

To understand how vast the problem is, you can check sites such as insecam, this map of exploited Hikvision IP cameras, or run queries on Shodan, like the ones in this article from May, which surfaced over 65,000 vulnerable DVRs readily available online with just two searches.

Security flaws range from issues with default passwords, to outdated firmware, open ports and more. Even air-gapped CCTV systems are no longer safe.

This is where hybrid cloud solutions step in as the clear solution for commercial security with end-to-end encryption at rest and in transit. The system has automatic setup (no default passwords) as well as automatic signed software and firmware updates to keep the system from ever being out of date.

Finally, NVR/DVR and pure IP solutions are both subject to single-point-of-failure challenges. A hybrid cloud solution, however, provides the ability to retain footage on a camera-by-camera basis with additional backup to the cloud. There’s no single point of failure from an NVR/DVR getting damaged, and no loss of footage if the internet goes down. Each camera has at minimum 30 and up to 120 days of solid-state built-in storage, and as soon as an internet connection is re-established the camera automatically uploads to the cloud.

Verkada’s hybrid cloud solution specifically closes the gaps traditionally found in NVR/DVR/IP solutions, and takes serious precautions to lower the chance of a data breach. Each individual Verkada camera is PoE, with RSA and AES data encryption, and HTTPS/SSL encryption when in transit and at rest for end-to-end encryption. Each camera is associated with a unique RSA key pair, and the cameras are issued the public key, which they use to encrypt video. The private key is encrypted with AWS KMS before being stored on Verkada’s servers. Cameras make only secure HTTPS outbound connections (via Port 443), and the likelihood of human error creating a security gap is low because there are no open ports, port forwarding, or related hassles.

Total Cost of Ownership

Rather than a hefty installation process (operating system software, setting up and maintaining storage servers, configuring cameras, configuring routers), up-front capital expenditures and unpredictable ongoing support expenses (broken hardware, end-of-life servers), hybrid cloud solutions have a predictable recurring cost, which is incurred only for what you need and use.

“Verkada is perfect for any multi-site location looking to scale.” – Garth Gilmour, CEO at QOVO Solutions

The cost of Verkada’s system is broken down into two items: the cameras and an access command license for each camera. Expanding the system with your growing business is as simple as purchasing more cameras and licenses. The more cameras you add to your system, the less expensive the system becomes to purchase and maintain, compared to a traditional NVR/DVR solution.

Example: 100 Cameras (60 indoor, 40 outdoor) for 3 years

*Assumes maintenance cost of $75 per hour.

Example: 1000 Cameras (600 indoor, 400 outdoor) for 3 years

*Assumes maintenance cost of $75 per hour.

Compliance

Many commercial industries are subject to standard regulations that make the storing of video footage either prudent (OSHA) or mandatory (PCI) for compliance purposes. However, these industry regulations change, as do the laws and standards governing data storage, use and retention. Leveraging a hybrid cloud solution is a simple, scalable way to ensure that your company can easily remain compliant in terms of encryption, retention and access.

With a hybrid cloud solution, the burden of staying compliant is partially offloaded to your security vendor. The vendor becomes responsible for making sure the system stays aligned with security, storage and accessibility standards (such as HIPAA, PCI compliance and the latest vulnerabilities). Any need to start retaining footage for longer periods of time can easily be met with a single phone call to your vendor and a low-cost increase to your license agreement.

Ensuring that you don’t have a single point of failure (such as an NVR or DVR) is another important consideration for maintaining compliance. Hybrid cloud solutions are redundant, offering a quick and easy way to mitigate the risk of lost data by storing information both on each individual camera and in the cloud.

For commercial businesses operating at scale, some camera feeds may be subject to a higher level of scrutiny than others. Having options for full footage redundancy on a per-camera basis can help with cost savings and bandwidth, ensuring expenses never exceed what is actually needed.

Operations Management

One of the hardest things for a commercial enterprise can be establishing, maintaining, and updating SOPs and related training. Verkada’s commercial hybrid cloud security solution is supported by a simple-to-use app that provides 24/7 access to any authorized user via SAML or two-factor authentication — allowing them to view live feeds and stored footage, securely.

Within the app, users have access to a centralized command platform where they can view all the cameras and locations they are authorized for. This makes it easy to spot-check operations on a production floor, share out examples of a manufacturing process, and grab live examples of do’s and don’ts for training.

Likewise, project managers can remotely check in on the progress of ongoing construction, regional managers can see how busy different locations are, or even send a manager live feed of an active issue for resolution.

Software Advancements

The next wave of commercial security advancements focus on how to make the vast amounts of data collected by surveillance systems more useful and actionable. With a cloud-supported solution, commercial businesses get the added benefit of ongoing improvements to the security software and app — including new features and functionality to the platform over time.

In the short term, using apps such as Verkada’s, makes it possible to quickly sift through thousands of hours of footage for actionable information and/or analytics, and then easily share that information (e.g.,attaching video to an incident report or insurance claim). With Verkada’s motion search and analytics, you can even gain insight into things such as how often a particular conference room or space is in use, and then use that information for effective cost cutting or space planning.

Intelligent security software can be configured with custom triggers that proactively send a notification when there’s motion in a specific area of a camera frame. For example, a compliance officer could set up an alert to be notified whenever motion occurs where OSHA-required signage is hung, and instantly know whether the signage was moved or changed.

As the industry advances, artificial intelligence innovations including proactive alerts and the use of facial recognition will become a standard part of  cloud-based applications and surveillance systems. Cameras of such systems will have the ability to recognize when unusual events, like a robbery or a fire, take place.

Future functionality, as described by Verkada’s CEO, includes using the “accelerometers on every camera we can to also detect when an earthquake happens, and then take action on that data” (for example issuing alerts that trigger corporate Disaster Recovery or Business Continuity Plans). Alternatively, “imagine an office that’s closed for a holiday and a pipe bursts — our cameras should treat this as any other incident, notifying the [facilities manager] on their smartphone app, so they can take action” even while off site or on holiday.

Businesses that make the jump to hybrid cloud solutions today will have the benefit of immediate security improvements and cost savings. In the long-term, these organizations will also benefit from ongoing improvements, continuous security updates, and new product features and capabilities.

Interested in learning more about Verkada’s hybrid cloud solution? Request a custom demo today.

5 Reasons Schools Are Choosing Verkada to Keep Their Campus Safety

School security will always be challenging, but Verkada’s plug-and-play camera system provides a simple solution for school districts and campuses of any size.

Simple to Scale and Budget Friendly

As a hybrid cloud solution, Verkada’s surveillance system inherently does not require constant investments in traditional security hardware — such as local servers and NVRs — thus greatly reducing costs over the long run and simplifying scaling to multiple locations.

Traditionally, NVRs are purchased for the installations of 8-16 cameras per location, making scaling above that threshold costly and cumbersome. With Verkada’s solution, adding one or one thousand cameras to any campus is as simple as purchasing and plugging them in. The cameras require no hidden, costly upgrades or maintenance to the existing infrastructure and, once plugged in for centralized management, each camera auto-provisions into the appropriate account. Verkada also provides a 10-year warranty for all of its cameras.

Added camera units won’t clog up the school’s bandwidth either. Unlike other IP solutions, Verkada’s hybrid cloud system enables cameras to have an almost negligible footprint, each one taking up less than 20 kbit/s in steady state. With 100 cameras installed, that’s still less than 2 mb/s — easily manageable, even over LTE.

Unlike other systems, which depend on frequent intervention from the IT department, Verkada’s access command platform is incredibly user-friendly and requires no training. This empowers the administration to take control. IT and school administrators alike are able to access the system just by opening the app, which is accessible from any internet-enabled device, without the need to go through additional installation of plugins or thick clients.

“We plugged in the Verkada camera — five minutes later, I had an app on my phone and was managing the camera.”

– Jim Carrillo, Director of Technology, Morgan Hill Unified (School District)

Without the hefty overhead costs of NVRs, training, or complicated setup, any administration could easily pilot the Verkada solution in a few locations and then scale up as needed. With costs allocated on a per-camera basis, budgeting for a pilot or full implementation is simple and straightforward.

Native Enterprise-Level Controls

Command, Verkada’s simple and secure web application makes life easier for IT professionals and school administrators.

An IT director can manage unlimited users and set permissions for each user at the district, school or university campus, building site and camera level. Verkada’s Command can be accessed remotely, making it easy to address almost any situation from virtually anywhere

Command also features an interactive map view of all the school’s sites and cameras on the network, along with the ability to edit camera metadata and network settings. This is helpful if a camera ever needs to be relocated or repositioned within the system (which is as simple as unplugging and moving the device in under 10 min).

Another feature that administrators benefit from with the Command software is the ability to quickly find and archive footage with time/date-based activity search. With 3 easy ways to share recorded videos — direct link, SMS, or MP4 — the time to resolve conflict by bringing in the appropriate authorities, is shortened significantly.

Modern & Intelligent Security Software

“Rapid response” is not a term traditionally associated with CCTV/NVR architected surveillance systems. The role surveillance footage plays is most often a retroactive one — trying to determine what happened after an incident occurred. Many administrators are familiar with the frustration of being hours into reviewing footage, only to find out that the applicable camera went offline. Others have experienced the pain of relevant footage taking so long to surface that it’s no longer actionable or has already been overwritten by newer footage.

Verkada repositions the role of school surveillance — supporting rapid response, both retroactively and proactively. Retroactively, Verkada’s security system helps find the right information quickly and easily. Verkada’s software specifically logs when activity occurs, making it easier to review footage over long periods of time. Additionally, using motion search, administrators can specify where in the frame they are looking for activity, and the system will automatically surface all instances of video clips matching those parameters.

Proactively, Verkada’s system can send notifications when a camera is offline, tampered with, or when a user-customized scenario is triggered (e.g., opening/closing of the entrance gate after 8:00 p.m.). Each notification includes basic information as to which alert was triggered and sends live feed of the camera, if applicable.

Built for Active Coordination

Verkada’s cloud-supported security software enables three types of external sharing: archiving of MP4 clips, live camera feed in real time to authorized users via SMS and an embeddable live video feature that can be used to share content more publicly.

If an incident occurs, school IT staff can deliver live camera footage and location information directly to administrators and local law enforcement via SMS.

Since shared streams are proxied and multiplexed in the cloud, they can be viewed by an unlimited amount of users without greatly impacting camera uplink usage.

An expiration dates can be set for all access to video feeds and footage. This makes it easier to share content with law enforcement, legal professionals and other stakeholders during an event, without having to worry about extended access.

Sustainably Secure
School security is an investment that should last. Verkada is committed to maintaining compliance with the highest security standards.All software and firmware updates for Verkada cameras are automatic. This includes firmware bank partitions with automatic failover to ensure a low maintenance overhead.

The Verkada surveillance system also closes many of the gaps found in traditional campus security networks. Each individual Verkada camera is PoE, with RSA and AES data encryption, and HTTPS/SSL encryption when in transit, for end-to-end encryption. Each camera is associated with a unique RSA key pair, and the cameras are issued the public key, which they use to encrypt video. The private key is encrypted with AWS KMS before being stored on our servers. Cameras make only secure HTTPS outbound connections (via Port 443), and the likelihood of human error creating a security gap is low because there are no open ports, port forwarding, or related hassles

Interested in learning more? Request a personalized demo and get under the hood of the Command software.

For a concrete example of Verkada’s simple scalable solution in work, check out the Morgan Hill Unified public school security system case study.

Minnesota Announces $25 Million in School Grants to Keep Students Safe

With $25 million in safety grants available, Minnesota schools look to improve security and surveillance across campuses to keep students safe. 

keep-schools-safe-with-verkada

The seemingly constant stream of mass shootings in recent years has greatly elevated the national conversation about school safety. While politicians in Washington and state houses across the U.S. endlessly discuss the most polarizing aspects of the debate, most school administrators are grappling with a simpler, more practical question: How can I keep my students safe?

Minnesota is one place that is putting its money where its mouth is. Earlier this year, the state legislature approved $25 million in school safety funding, and many educational institutions are now submitting proposals to get a piece of that pie.

Brenda Cassellius, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education, has called for more money to be approved and stressed that that the funding allocated so far “will only begin to address a small fraction of our districts’ school safety.”

Nevertheless, these grants do represent a great opportunity for school administrators, who have been encouraged to submit their grant proposals as soon as possible given that there is something of a first-come, first-serve element to how the funds will be distributed. (The state started accepting applications on August 29 and will announce award recipients on September 28.)

Though $25 million for an entire state won’t change everything overnight, a grant of up to $500,000 for an individual school can make a big difference. Recipients will be authorized to use the money to “design, construct, furnish, and equip school facilities for improvements related to violence prevention and facility security,” says the Minnesota Department of Education.

There are many physical improvements that can be made, even on this budget — something officials across the country are discovering in the many other locations that have passed their own funding for better security, surveillance and technology.

Florida, which acted swiftly after 17 people were killed in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, passed a sweeping $400 million school safety bill. Its mission is broad, with $69 million going to mental health screening, $67 million going to train armed school personnel, and $98 million for “school-hardening” grants.

Earlier this year, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker pushed forward legislation for $100 million in school security grants in his state. Around 700 schools have already received related grants, accounting for around half that large sum.

Politicians in Idaho are looking to pass a similar initiative, called Keep Idaho Students Safe, that would represent an investment of some $21 million, while local-level programs (including $1 million of funding in Maryland’s Cecil County and $340,000 in Alabama’s Houston County) are also looking to address the issue.

With money increasingly available to districts all across the country, the question now becomes: How can they spend it wisely?

In Minnesota, department officials have met with experts at the Department of Public Safety to identify how schools can get the best bang for their buck. Among the priority areas identified for improvements are:

  • Door entry systems
  • Electronic locking systems
  • Door alarms and sensors
  • Communications systems
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Vehicle barriers
  • Equipment to lock down sections of a building

Administrators have been working to determine what they would do if their school receives funding. “Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City Superintendent Nels Onstad said he’s hoping to get help securing the entrances of his district’s elementary and high school campuses,” reported the Star Tribune.

Vigilance at entry points to schools has proven to be critical. In higher education, for example, Virginia Tech crafted a plan to install up to 2,500 networked cameras in the years following the massacre on its campus that left 33 people dead. With no camera installed in the location where the gunman entered the hall where most of the carnage occurred, confusion was a major blind spot in the incident response on the day of that tragedy.

Cameras are thus a common-sense place to invest. University spokesman Mark Owczarski conceded in 2012, however, that just having cameras alone isn’t necessarily enough. “What hasn’t been in place is a policy and a directive to manage them more effectively,” he told the Washington Post.

Fortunately, innovative advances in technology in the decade since that 2007 school shooting have largely solved these issues. Managing a wide network of security cameras is now easier and more economical than ever before through powerful, user-friendly interfaces that make it increasingly practical to monitor events in real time and respond to automated notifications of irregular activity.

This means that modern surveillance safeguards are now in play for even public high schools that lack the resources of a major university — including any institutions in Minnesota that receive a chunk of the lifeline funding currently being allocated.

The reason that schools now need to put security front and center are heartbreaking. But this is the new reality. All administrators should be following the lead of the officials in Minnesota, Florida and Wisconsin that are working to do everything they can to stretch their budget and fortify their safety strategy to protect students.

Interested in learning more? Check out this customer story, where Dean Farar, CIO of the Yuma Union School District, shares why he chose Verkada’s hybrid cloud video surveillance system to keep his schools safe.