"speed is of the essence"

Genetec on Security Center 5.8 and leveraging social media for situational awareness

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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
August 20, 2019


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Headquartered in Montreal, Genetec provides unified security, public safety, operations and business intelligence solutions.

It’s flagship product, Security Center is an open architecture platform that unifies video surveillance, access control, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), communications and analytics.

In this interview I sat down with Simon Cook, global Sales Engineering Director, who in his 11 years with the company has seen staff numbers soar from 200 to more than 1,300. The conversation took place shortly after the announcement that Genetec has overtaken Milestone as the largest global vendor of Video Management Systems (VMS).

IFSEC Global: Hi, Simon. Your latest Security Center update, version 5.8, seems the obvious place to start?

Simon Cook: Security Center is our flagship product, providing a unified approach to access control, video surveillance and number plate recognition.

In this latest version we’ve significantly improved the user interface by introducing user-configured dashboards.

The dashboards allow the operator to build their window based on their role in the organisation. So traditionally you’d have had a number of cameras and a map, but the information was limited.

Now you can build a dashboard that’s not only limited to the camera view but from a large number of supported devices with the system and other sources of information such as webpages, twitter feeds and administrator-side information. For example, instead of camera feeds somebody in the IT function may choose to view a series of charts showing what their servers are doing, how their cameras are doing and any critical issues on the infrastructure side.

“The ‘security of security’ is of paramount importance”

Another great addition is the Security Score. The ‘security of security’ is of paramount importance to us and our customers.

For quite some time we’ve had what we call a hardening guide available, a checklist that customers can follow to minimise exposure to any vulnerabilities. For example, it advises on locking down administrator accounts, changing default passwords on cameras and connected devices, updating firmware [and so on].

We’ve taken that to the next level in 5.8 where it becomes more dynamic. So, I can run a test on my system and it gives a score to show how secure it is. It will then make recommendations, like updating passwords or changing admin rights. So, it helps our customers see the threats they might face from external sources.

We have also greatly improved our mobile application. Obviously, everything these days is moving towards mobile devices, be it phones, tablets, whatever. So, it’s really pulling more features and functions into the mobile application – be it looking at cameras, looking at maps, being notified of an event if I’m in a particular area…

I can even send messages to operators. So, if you’re in the control room I can ping you through the mobile client with [an action] “check out this area, this camera is telling me this etc…”

We also have what we call a ‘firmware vault’. About 25% of the systems we work with have cameras running old versions of firmware. This function allows us to dynamically download supported camera firmware versions and prompt the operator to say “there is out of date camera firmware and there are some vulnerabilities you might want to address.”

We don’t force the update. The operator still has to confirm it. But it gives customers full visibility of their systems and vulnerabilities.

IG: Can you also tell us about your evidence management application, Genetec Clearance…

An important aspect of Clearance is that it is [platform]-agnostic: no matter your existing VMS of choice it’s a cloud-based solution for securely sharing evidence in a collaborative way.

“Clearance supports 35 or 40 different video protocols”

If an event happens in the street there might be four or five different buildings with cameras that see the incident. With Clearance they can just upload video to a central repository, securely, from all those different systems. We have support for 35 or 40 different video protocols. And a unified or standardised VMS platform is not needed.

That application started out as a solution for law enforcement, but it can be used in a raft of different applications. So, it’s not just police evidence management, it’s also in retail with store detectives sharing information across different stores in different regions. And anything that involves securely managing evidence –not just video, but we can tie it together with the likes of still images, reports and interview notes

Our support team now use this tool. It was built for our clients and customers, but actually our support team realised it’s a great solution for customers to upload securely any logs or system files they need to upload.

It simplifies compliance with GDPR because, after a period of time, it automatically deletes footage. So, if we specify 30 days as the maximum, we have an authentication and authorisation process, everything is tracked and logged, and at the end of the period it’s deleted.

Genetec Clearance

IG: Is GDPR affecting your customers’ thinking about data protection whether they are headquartered in Europe or not?

Obviously GDPR is European legislation, but we’re starting to see North America companies [demand compliance] if they have offices in Europe. In my opinion it won’t be too long before there’s a North American equivalent of GDPR. And for us, the great thing is, we can help customers achieve GDPR compliance with some of our tools, features and functions.

IG: How can your customers leverage the vast volume of data being generated on social media to gain better situational awareness?

This is where our Genetec Mission Control solution comes into the equation as it makes sense of a lot of triggers and inputs coming in. So, if I’m monitoring a city and there’s a gunshot or explosion, typically people will start tweeting where they are… I can take that feed in, maybe associate it with cameras in the area, use our licence plate recognition system, and piece together all these pieces of evidence to get to a resolution quicker.

With a bombing or other serious event, speed is of the essence. You need control of all your assets pretty quickly. With these sorts of features and functions you can do that.

Genetec's Mission Control

Genetec’s Mission Control decision support system

Where there’s an incident, typically someone is going to film it with their phone these days. With Clearance, we can appeal for witnesses, send them a link and say: “If you’ve seen this event at this day and time, please upload your footage to the web link”. If CCTV cameras missed it, chances are, someone filmed it.

So, the role of social media in helping security personnel is certainly growing.

An easy way of summing up everything we’ve discussed so far is that it falls into one of three buckets: security, intelligence and operations.

Obviously on the security side you have video and access control. Intelligence: what’s all this telling me? What do I need to do with this information? Then operations: how am I going to run my business based on these insights?

IG: Which verticals in particular are you thriving in?

We’re seeing these sorts of insights [being useful in many] different applications.

There isn’t really a vertical that we’re not prevalent in. We obviously have a heavy focus on large enterprises, retail, national infrastructure, airports… But we have customers in almost every vertical and some very recognisable brands.

IG: Anything else you want to add?

[We’re enjoying] huge growth in the UK & Ireland, where we’re opening up a new regional headquarters in the City of London. Keep an eye out for details of our launch event.

We have a very strong partner base in the territory. A lot of strong references in airport, in retail, in large enterprises and so forth. At a time when others are reconsidering their presence, we think [opening the new office] puts a marker down to say we’re really seriously strengthening our commitment to our customers, partners and prospects in the UK & Ireland.

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