Just Dreaming About Network Security
“Just one more mornin / I had to wake up with the blues” — Dreams, by Gregg Allman / (c) 1970 & 1974 No Exit Music Co. Inc.
Sometimes, but not today. I woke up in my own bed for a change after a 36-hour boomerang speech trip (“Hello, Cleveland!”), where an astute attendee was actually able to answer the grand prize regionalized rock and roll trivia question. Indeed, Columbus, Ohio’s own Godz are “rock and roll machines.”
And I had a wonderful dream. Now I have all of the standard dream types that most people experience: happy dreams (fishin’ with Dad) and bad dreams (usually featuring an ex-wife’s appearance). However, after 37 years in the business, I also have alarm equipment dreams.
In my dream, I was working for one of my previous employers and we were developing a new alarm control that would do marvelous things for end users.
If you think about it, the most important stuff owned by today’s alarm system user is not their jewelry, HDTV, or Hummel figurines (I hate those things — what a waste of cash). A customer’s data, music, business records — in fact, all of their most valuable possessions — reside on their computer network and hard drives.
Because of the explosion of iPads, smartphones, and e-readers virtually every network has wireless Wi-Fi connectivity included. Although Wi-Fi communications can be made very secure, most end users don’t take the necessary protection steps, leaving them vulnerable to easy hacking attempts. I have nine Wi-Fi networks that penetrate my living room in downtown Chicago, many of which could be easily cracked by a determined bad guy.
If our industry provides security and peace of mind, don’t we need to protect our clients’ networks and data properties as well as their physical spaces?
Back to the dream… The control panel we devised was connected to the client’s network via cable or Wi-Fi to transmit its alarm messages over the Internet to the central station. So far, all is normal. This panel also had the ability to tell if and when “foreign” or new MAC (Media Access Control) addresses appeared on the network, notifying the owner and central station that an unknown and possible evil device had accessed the network.
It would be simple to set up. The client uses their “admin”-level password to reach a “Network Monitor” screen on their keypad or the Web page of the panel. The user would then be prompted to turn on every single wired and wireless network device that is allowed to use the network — all the smartphones, tablets, TVs, etc. Once all devices are powered up and connected to the network, pressing a “Network Device Scanning” button would cause the panel to survey the network and display all of the connected devices with their IP and MAC addresses. The user then clicks the “Accepted Devices” button and the setup is complete.
The panel then performs a periodic scan of the network, perhaps every five minutes, and checks the current active MAC addresses from connected devices against the “approved” list. If a rogue neighbor has accessed the network, the panel detects the intruder and email/text/central station notifications are activated. If the end-user wants to add a new device to the “approved” list, they just have to repeat the setup steps above and the new device(s)’ MAC address will be placed on the allowed list.
Combined with a properly designed physical security system, this “Network Monitor” would add a critical layer of protection for clients.
With the wonders of engineering, this monitoring technology could be built into a Wi-Fi/wired IP camera, so dealers can offer both remote video viewing and recording, plus network device monitoring for both new and existing accounts, not to mention the accounts of the competition.
Soon some manufacturer will see that the addition of network device monitoring will enable traditional security dealers to successfully compete with some of the behemoths that are stampeding into our RMR playing field.
At least that’s the dream.
David Engebretson thinks he saw the Allman Bros. Band with Duane and Gregg at Piedmont Park in Atlanta in 1970. He definitely saw them at the Fox Theatre on Peachtree Street. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.