Latest Move in School Safety? A Panic Button

By: Dylan Scott on April 05, 2013, Originally Published on Emergencymgmt.com

It's a nightmare scenario for any school: A shooter forces his way onto the premises and opens fire. But if such an event were to happen at one of the 14 public and private schools in Marietta, Ga., teachers and administrators can now press a panic button that directly alerts the authorities.

The idea of a panic button had been in discussion in Marietta for a while, says David Baldwin, an officer at the Marietta Police Department, but the December tragedy in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 elementary school students dead, put the policy on a fast track. Installation of the buttons, which cost about $5,000 altogether, began in January. Installation and testing are now complete, and the buttons are ready to use -- although administrators hope they never have to.

“Newtown really accelerated a lot of things. Things that might have been a little further down the road were pushed to the front of the line,” Baldwin says. “One of those things was the panic buttons.”

The Marietta Police Department isn’t releasing the exact number or locations of the panic buttons that were installed. But they have been outfitted with protections to make sure they aren’t accidentally pressed, Baldwin says, and the buttons are located in places where only teachers and administrators can access them.

The buttons operate on a dedicated, direct line to the Marietta police dispatch unit. Once the dispatcher receives a signal, he or she has been instructed to send all available units to the school. The buttons should make it easier for school staff to get in touch with the police when a more traditional 911 phone call might not be feasible, Baldwin says. The police department conducted extensive training with school staff on proper usage of the buttons, although Baldwin again declined to identify exactly what kinds of situations would warrant their use.

“In the midst of any emergency situation, you're not going to have time to pick up a phone and call 911,” he says. “This way, the cavalry is already on its way.”

Marietta isn’t the only place where schools have looked to panic buttons to beef up school security after Newtown. The Glendale, Calif., school district announced in late February that it would soon begin installing alert buttons at its 30 school campuses. The Maine Emergency Management Agency is currently accepting applications for schools to apply for up to $5,000 in state funds to install buttons. Bills have been introduced in California and New Jersey that would mandate the installation of panic buttons statewide. The New Jersey bill requires a button in every school, as Marietta has done; the California bill goes a step further and calls for a button in each individual classroom.
Since the Newtown massacre, conversations on improving school safety have led to a number of proposals, including arming teachers themselves, which Indiana is currently considering. Those sorts of ideas have been rebuffed by teachers unions like the National Education Association (NEA), which generally support greater gun control and improved mental health access. The NEA doesn't have a specific position on panic buttons, says Marc Egan, deputy director of government relations at the NEA, but the group would oppose statewide mandates like the ones being considered in California and New Jersey.

“Facility upgrades can be a part of improving school safety, but this really is a good example of decisions that ought to be made at the building level,” Egan says. "What we don't want to see is a mandate at the state level, where you move in a direction that you're turning schools into fortresses. We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that schools are still very, very safe places to be.”

In Marietta, the panic buttons are viewed as one piece of a broader plan for school safety, says Dayton Hibbs, assistant superintendent for the school district. The police department has also held active shooter training with school staff, and the district has refined its school entry policies, moving to all-digital card readers instead of keys.

“We approach school security in terms of layers. We want a variety of things in place that will increase safety for our students and teachers in the building,” Hibbs says. “The panic buttons are an additional layer that we're able to add to increase the safety of everyone within our building”

This story was originally posted at GOVERNING.com.

Big data analytics can help banks stop cyber criminals accessing secret data

By Matthew Finnegan, March 22, 2013, Originally Published by Computerworld UK & CSOonline

Monitoring digital footprint across all of the web can mitigate attack risk, says financial tech start-up

Big data analytics can help banks protect themselves from cybercriminals accessing confidential information appearing across the web, financial tech start-up Digital Shadows has claimed.

Like all companies, financial institutions are seeing increasing amounts of data appear online as their digital footprint grows. With the rise of social media and mobile computing, banks are seeing more company information posted online than ever, running the risk of employees publishing details deemed to be confidential. This could lead to reputational damage, or, more worryingly, the publication of information that could lead to a security breach, and has led to concerns from US bank regulators.

Using information from the bank or its suppliers, which can reach tens of thousands for some major companies, there is potential for criminals to collate information to support an attack on a bank's IT infrastructure.

"In particular from a hacker's point of view, they are getting more and more sophisticated and targeted in their attacks, and to do that they have to perform reconnaissance. It is the first stage of the attack where they begin to research the attack," Digital Shadows CEO, Alastair Paterson, told Computerworld UK.

"It's a bit like 'casing the joint'. If you are a cyber criminal you have to case the joint looking at all the little bits of information that companies expose, trying to find user names or passwords, or the technology that they run so that you can design an attack that will succeed from the outside. So the whole model [of bank security] has gone inside-out."

While banks previously had to concentrate on keeping information securely inside the organisations, the avenues for data to permeate through its defences have increased. As Paterson highlights, a quick Google search of '"confidential not for distribution" file type:PDF' unearths a flood of results that were not intended to be publically available.

He adds that, in addition to confidential material leaving a bank's clutches, the discussion of a particular bank in the far flung reaches of the 'dark web', which acts as a criminal underground, could contain information that may relate to an imminent attack.

Paterson said that gaining an overview of the vast amount of information appearing on various parts of the seen web, from Chinese blogs to Russian forums, as well as the unseen web, is of great value to financial institutions.

In order to help address these problems, the start-up software company has developed an analytics platform that sorts through unstructured or semi-structured data from 60 million sources in 25 languages, using an algorithm to determine what information might present a risk.

Continue Reading Here

The EMP Threat: Just a Scare?

By Jordan Harms, March 22, 2013, Originally Posted by The Heritage Foundation

A recent National Journal article discussed the likelihood of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP)over the United States with skepticism, asking whether such activists and politicians are “[d]oomsday preppers or congressional visionaries” and claiming that the “the debate over the urgency remains stuck in a theoretical realm.”

But the EMP threat is anything but theoretical.

An EMP is a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy caused by the rapid acceleration of charged particles. Such a burst can come from either a nuclear weapon detonated at a low altitude or a natural solar flare. An EMP caused by terrorists or a rogue state could knock out electrical grids, causing financial and computer systems to grind to a halt and seriously jeopardizing U.S. national security.

The possibility of an EMP attack has been written off in the past as overblown, easily dismissed as the stuff of tinfoil hats. But China’s recent testing of its anti-satellite weaponswhich included EMP as a capability contradicts the assertion that any capability of adversaries to launch an EMP against the United States is only in the infant stages. Nations like China and North Korea understand that vulnerability to EMP would be as devastating as a nuclear strike.

Representative Trent Franks (R–AZ), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairman of the bipartisan Electromagnetic Pulse Caucus, has been working to draw attention to the danger of such an attack, and in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, General Keith Alexander, stated that addressing the threat from an EMP attack is now his top priority. Even the Department of Homeland Security itself admitted that it is not prepared for an EMP attack.

While the U.S. missile defense system is a vital tool to counteract an EMP, an EMP can also be caused by a cyclical solar flare or solar weather. A powerful solar storm could occur in the next few years, according to scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Academy of SciencesResilient communications and power grids are important to address this danger.

The nation needs to be aware of the consequences of the EMP. Yet it still remains unprepared for such an attack, and it is vital that the national security policy addresses it.

Jordan Harms is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.

Posted in Protect America

Tactical Social Media Monitoring Units - The Wave of the Future?

By Adam Crowe, March 18, 2013, Originally Posted By Emergencymgmt.com

Earlier today, Security Week posted an article about how the Mumbai Police are setting up India's first "social media lab" to monitor public activities and information exchange on systems like Facebook, Twitter, and the like.  This police agency identified 20 police officers to support the effort and will work as a special operations branch.  This information is interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, it continues to reinforce that emergency management and emergency services agencies continue to see the importance and relevance of information distributed via social media systems.  Additionally, it begs the question -- are social media tactical teams (like this one) the wave of the future in public safety?

Clearly social media monitoring is a need and has been accepted by many agencies and professionals and is an excellent source of incident information and awareness.  Unfortunately, most agencies (no matter what function they serve) do not have the personnel or financial resources to dedicate to a team such as was implemented by the Mumbai police.  However, give the importance of monitoring, it cannot be ignored.  Instead, there are a few options that can be implemented, which are as follows:

1) Regional Social Media Response Teams -- Much like many specialized resources purchased and utilized by grants (ex: Bomb/EOD Teams).  A group of police or mixed discipline operators could work together to monitor social media or broader geographic ranges and share information to specific units or geopolitical groups as needed or desired.  This model is also already leveraged in some Fusion Centers.

2) Virtual Operations Support Teams (VOST) -- The VOST model leverages an activated team of individuals spread out over a vast geographic area (which are most often unrelated to the political entities) who search social media and monitor relevant information about the event or area.  This takes pressure off local resources that may otherwise be engaged in a local response or activation.

3) Localized Volunteer Teams -- Much like VOST, a set of local volunteers (ex: CERT members) could be activated to monitor social media and provide it back to an organization or EOC to improve awareness.

While these models are not the only options, they are the most likely to accomplish the goal of increased social media awareness with limited resource commitment from organizations already financially challenged.

Adam Crowe is the author of "Disasters 2.0: The Application of Social Media in Modern Emergency Management" and the forthcoming "Leadership in the Open: A New Paradigm in Emergency Management

Solving Crime with Social Media

By News Staff, March 12, 2013, Originally Published by Government Technology

According to a study in late 2012, police are no longer skeptics of social media, as evidenced by the various departments that have implemented social media tools to help them fight crime.

In Philadelphia, for instance, the Police Department has used Pinterest to help catch criminals; the Seattle Police Department has instituted a Tweets-by-Beat service on Twitter; and in Cambridge, Mass., local law enforcement implemented a similar service in which auto-tweets mimic the police scanner to inform residents of police happenings. 

And the following infographic, courtesy of BackgroundCheck.org, gives even more insight into how law enforcement uses Facebook, Twitter and YouTube -- the most used social networks -- and what percentage of agencies at the state, local and federal levels use the tool.  

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Sandy Marked a Shift for Social Media Use in Disasters

By: Sara Estes Cohen, Originally Published on March 7, 2013 by Emergencymgmt.com

First it was the AOL chat rooms, followed by online community chat and discussion boards, then it was blogs. Since 2000, social media has expanded to include Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more. Social media today is not about the tools, but the technology and behavior — virtual collaboration, information sharing and grass-roots engagement — that transforms monologues into dialogues. Social media empowers individuals, providing them a platform from which to share opinions, experiences and information from anywhere at any time.

Individuals have increasingly used social media in disasters as well. As the popularity and accessibility of online and mobile technologies has grown, we have experienced these events firsthand, through photos, text, online posts and videos captured from the ground, posted to Facebook and shared via Twitter, YouTube and other tools. We have watched the fall of governments, water rescues, train crashes, wildfires, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and school shootings from our computers and mobile phones. Throughout these events, social media emerged as a popular and powerful tool used by the public to engage and share information.

Hurricane Sandy marked a shift in the use of social media in disasters. More than ever before, government agencies turned to mobile and online technologies. Before, during and after Sandy made landfall, government agencies throughout the Northeast used social media to communicate with the public and response partners, share information, maintain awareness of community actions and needs, and more.

Public Awareness

Throughout Hurricane Sandy, the public turned to social media for updates and assistance, and more than ever before, response agencies, organizations and community groups used social media to organize and direct resources where needed. Twitter and Facebook were used extensively by individuals, first responder agencies and utility companies to relay messages and information, share evacuation orders and provide updates on the storm. For example, the New York Office of Emergency Management provided hourly updates and evacuation orders via Twitter, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie relayed updates about the storm, aid and evacuation orders via his personal Twitter account.

New York City, with support from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, began using social media for a variety of purposes after Hurricane Irene in fall 2012, enabling the city’s services, offices and departments to engage and inform the public through digital means. Even before Hurricane Sandy, the city’s social media presence attracted 3 million followers across more than 300 city accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and more. In addition to managing NYC.gov, the city maintains numerous channels, including Facebook pages, Flickr, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter (in both English and Spanish) and YouTube. Throughout response and recovery to the storm, these channels provided the city with the means to share information in various formats, enabling people to find and consume information as they preferred.  

Throughout the storm, NYC Digital, a part of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, monitored social media for public reactions to the storm, sending reports to City Hall on a daily basis. Questions asked on Twitter were responded to directly, and the city’s Tumblr account and Facebook page published information from each press conference. The public could sign up to receive text alerts from the Mayor’s Office Twitter account, @nycmayorsoffice, which served as a great alternative digital resource to the city’s website, once people lost power and Internet access. 

FEMA also used social media heavily in addition to traditional means, sharing information and engaging the public across multiple channels both on and offline, including face to face, television, radio, print and digital (Web, social and mobile) for preparedness prior to landfall, and to provide actionable, practical, relevant and current information to those in the affected areas and others outside of the storm’s path. FEMA published a Sandy-specific page on FEMA.gov as a one-stop-shop for all Sandy-related information, and stood up Sandy-specific Facebook and 
Twitter profiles as well. 

In the days up to and immediately following Sandy’s landfall, FEMA had a team watching the nearly 20 million Twitter messages posted about Sandy to better identify what was happening on the ground and put out timely safety information. On Oct. 29, the day Sandy made landfall, FEMA reached more than 300,000 people on Facebook (up from an average of 12,000 per day), reached 6 million Twitter users with one message (through retweets by individuals and partners), saw 5,800 mentions on Twitter per hour (of the term “FEMA”) and had more than 500,000 visitors to Ready.gov that day alone. 

Agencies, volunteers and ad-hoc groups used various social media tools to assist in response and then recovery, such as SMS for donations and Facebook support groups. For example, a New York citizens’ group, called BK Girls Give Back, helped to provide assistance to families displaced by Sandy. Additionally, Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker offered his home as a charging station to neighbors. 

The American Red Cross used a variety of social media tools to carry out the organization’s mission online to help its community become more informed and prepared and to provide the public with a seat at the operational table, using information gleaned from the public to help in decision-making during a disaster. Led by a three-person national social engagement team, the American Red Cross is assisted by digital volunteers, local chapters, local volunteers and other partners. Throughout the storm, the Red Cross pulled more than 2 million posts for review, choosing specific keyword searches relevant to Red Cross services, such as shelter and emotional support. Thirty-one digital volunteers responded to 2,386 of the reviewed posts (versus 500 in Hurricane Isaac). About 229 posts were sent to mass care teams, and 88 resulted in a change in action on ground operations. The American Red Cross also offered a Hurricane App for both iPhone and Android device users to assist in individual recovery.

Rumor Control

Social media vehicles became primary sources of information for many. Information was verified and rumors were disseminated and dispelled via a variety of tools, including Twitter, Facebook and photo sharing as the event unfolded, and when false reports and images began circulating on the Internet, including a photo of the New York Stock Exchange under three feet of water, first responder agencies such as the New York City Fire Department posted messages on Twitter and other social media sites to correct misinformation. 

FEMA launched a Hurricane Sandy: Rumor Control page, which helped to distinguish the truth from false information about contractors, cash cards, food stamps and shelters. FEMA posted popular rumors alongside accurate information in an attempt to dispel inaccuracies and encourage reposting of correct content. A green check mark placed next to a post, indicated that the information was correct. A red “x” indicated that the information was incorrect. Accurate information often included links to external sources for additional information. Some of the rumors that were dispelled (or verified) on the site included reports of bridge failures, lack of critical resources like water, location of shelters and other support, and the status of ongoing recovery efforts.

Lessons Learned


In 2010, the DHS S&T’s First Responders Group established a Virtual Social Media Working Group(VSMWG) to address the challenges of using social media in public safety. The mission of the VSMWG — whose membership is drawn from a cross-section of subject experts from federal, tribal, territorial, state and local responders from across the U.S. — is to provide recommendations to the emergency preparedness and response community on the safe, sustainable use of social media technologies before, during and after emergencies.

Since its inception, the VSMWG has published three guidance documents with input from the first responder community that address social media and its benefits for public safety, best practices, challenges and next steps, and guidance on social media for community engagement. 

Throughout Hurricane Sandy, the VSMWG collected examples of how social media was used by agencies, volunteer and ad-hoc groups to capture themes and best practices for development of lessons learned. 

From these examples, thematic analysis and input from the public safety community, the VSMWG is now developing its fourth guidance document, highlighting how social media was used in preparation for, response to and recovery from Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012. The document discusses processes identified by the first responder community as best practices, and captures lessons learned, gaps in technology, process and/or policy, and points requiring further discussion and possible development. Once finalized, the document will be available on DHS First Responder Communities of Practice, an online collaboration platform for those working in public safety-related fields, and FirstResponder.gov. 

While Hurricane Sandy represents a significant advancement in the use of social media for public safety, there remain several challenges and questions. Further research, technology development and assessment and discussion, as well as additional funding, policy and process are needed before many of these can be addressed. As the popularity, acceptance and technological capabilities of social media tools continue to grow, so too will the need for standardized methods, new funding streams and guidance. With each new event comes an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and to apply new technologies in an operational environment. It is essential to address these challenges now, to ensure these tools are used to the full extent of their abilities, and to help guide the development and application of social media tools for public safety in the future.

Since 2010, Sara Estes Cohen has worked as a project manager for G&H International, providing support to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology First Responders Group in Washington, D.C. She also facilitates the DHS First Responders Group’s Virtual Social Media Working Group.

Seattle Police Department's Data Driven Policing Strategy

On February 27, 2013 the Seattle Police Department published an interesting presentation, which outlines their new data driven policing policy that includes the deployment of predictive policing software.  The SPD is calling this their 20/20 Policing Initiative and they expect a full deployment of the predictive policing software by April 2013.  

According to Seattle Police Chief Diaz:

“The Predictive Policing software is estimated to be twice as effective as a human data analyst working from the same information." “It’s all part of our effort to build an agile, flexible and innovative police department that provides the best service possible to the public.”

Click Here to Download their presentation and learn more about Data Driven Policing strategies.

THE CYBER ELEPHANT AND HOW TO TAME IT

By Ron Marks, March 4, 2013, Originally Posted by Security Debrief

The Jainists of India have a parable. It is the story about the blind men feeling the elephant – each one feels something different. One feels the trunk. Another brushes the tough bristles of its skin. Another feels the long tail. Each comes away with their impression of what an elephant is. In truth, each has only partially succeeded in understand the elephant because each has his own limited perspective.

Watching the Federal government roll out a cyber “strategy” over the past couple of week has felt just that way. The White House had their executive order roll out. The Hill, especially the House Intelligence Committee, had their roll out of the latest cyber bill. Even the Senate, the “stable saucer” to the hot House teacup, had their own languid version of a rollout. The good news is they all spelled “cyber” the same. The bad news is everyone is feeling a different part of this elephant and that is not going to solve much of anything.

The cyber-elephant is a vast and ever-expanding body. It is a field of battle as well as a field of business. It is a field of personal communications and a field of thievery. It is also a field of often misunderstood clichés and terminology – big data, cloud computing, information sharing, firewalls, etc. It even has its myths, such as the perfect “search engine algorithm.”

And so our Federal government bravely feels various parts of the elephant, decrying and declaiming on all issues and matters. The President’s Executive Order gamely tries to line up the vast number of government players who get to look at and feel the elephant from their own perspective – DHS, Commerce, NIST, FBI, etc. The order suggests ways to share information with others in the private sector – but not quite sure how. And if the cyber elephant attacks you, you can report it back to the government and your fellow cyber users– no harm to you. The House and the Senate are suggesting something similar but different because it’s their idea. And our military would like to bomb the elephant but knows it has to be more sophisticated. It just doesn’t know how quite yet nor whether it gets to attack the foreign end of the elephant only.

Washington is mucking around this way not because it is stupid but because of two basic problems – as our Jainist friends’ note, it does not know what the elephant really is and then what it should and should not do about it. In its simplistic form, the first challenge is definitional and the second challenge is doctrinal.

To Read The Full Article Click Here

Swimming in the ocean of big data

By Aaron Menenberg, a member of the Praescient Initiatives team and a Technology Fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, March 4, 2013, Originally Posted by Praescient Analytics

At last week’s Georgetown Law/Journal of National Security and Policy conference entitled “Swimming in the Ocean of Big data: National Security in the Age of Unlimited Information,” Professor Paul Ohmreferenced a now well-known quote, “data is the new oil.” If you’re a data-head like we are, you shake your head a bit when you hear it. After all, oil is not associated with generally positive attributions. But since we are making significant leaps in knowledge from increasing amounts of data like we have made economically or technologically from oil, perhaps this concept can be helpful. Just as oil has enormous positive impacts when produced and used responsibly, so too does data.

There was great debate at the Georgetown conference about the duties that both the technology and legal communities have in ensuring that the usage of big data meets the civil and personal liberties enshrined in law. One of the emphasized nuances was that the output of data algorithms is limited to providing inputs for humans to make decisions, and that possession and analysis of data in and of itself, big or small, does not produce bad outcomes. Only bad or irresponsible human analysis precipitates these negative outcomes. So long as data systems are built to ensure users meet the requirements of law, those laws can be both followed and enforced.

The challenge in meeting this technology requirement is having the legal requirements. Updating our laws on civil liberties and privacy to reflect the exponential growth and usage of data is an incredibly difficult process, and it has moved far more slowly than the rate of growth in data collection and usage. This has led many to believe new laws curtailing the very usage of big data ought to be established. Yet despite the historic rates of growth, the challenge of acting responsibly with information is not new – imagine the widespread doubt faced by those responsible for the 1890 US Census who were tabulating the results by machine for the first time, especially when it returned a population that was significantly less what many expected.

The advancement of a census approach from punch cards in 1890 to one that now uses algorithms to estimate population has produced more accurate results than manual head counts, and government policies are now based on human analysis of the results of those algorithms. Big data is and can continue to be used in the service of national security according to the legal regimes established to protect civil liberties and personal privacy, and it takes only advancement in those legal protections to advance the technological protection of them as well.

The Key to Cybersecurity Is Public-Private Collaboration

By Tom Donohue, February 25, 2013, Originally Published by FreeEnterprise.com, Copyright© 2013, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Sophisticated cyber attacks are on the rise, most recently targeting federal agencies, media outlets, social networking sites, top corporations, and leading financial institutions. According to the U.S. government, China is by far the most significant perpetrator of state-sponsored cyber espionage, but other governments, such as Russia and Iran, are engaged in similar efforts. Whether carried out by nation-states, hacktivists, or criminal organizations, cyber attacks compromise classified information, intellectual property, consumer data, and business networks, putting our national and economic security at risk.  

We must be prepared with smart and effective policies that protect private sector investment in innovation and enable companies to prevent, detect, and mitigate cyber attacks. 

The administration recently issued an executive order on cybersecurity. While the Chamber opposes the expansion or creation of new regulatory regimes, the executive order contains some promising provisions. It emphasizes the need for public-private partnerships, greater information sharing, and the collaborative development of a cybersecurity framework and program.

The executive order gives us a chance to see what works and what doesn’t. It gives the administration an opportunity to hear the perspectives and concerns of the private sector as cybersecurity policy is developed. The executive order should also be complemented with information-sharing legislation that has the support of the broader business community.

Congress must continue to work on a bipartisan bill that would put timely, reliable, and actionable information into the hands of businesses so that they can better protect their systems and assets. In turn, businesses need liability protections when they voluntarily share with the government and industry peers. Cybersecurity legislation should also encourage international cooperation against cyber crime, enhance research and development, reform the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002, and heighten public awareness and education.

It’s vital that our cybersecurity policies don’t create burdensome regulations or new bureaucracies. Existing regulatory models won’t allow us to keep up with the rapidly developing threats in cyberspace. Today’s regulations could be outdated tomorrow, and companies could actually become more vulnerable if they’re operating under security requirements that are obsolete. 

Businesses genuinely want partners—not regulators—in the fight against cyber criminals. The key to an effective cybersecurity strategy must be collaboration. We all have a stake in the outcome of the debate—so we must work together and ensure that we get it right.

10 Video Review Scenarios & “Video Synopsis”

by BriefCam

Oftentimes, public safety and security personnel are faced with the problem of “too much video, not enough time to for review.” However, there is a technology that allows users to browse hours of video in minutes. It is now possible for all recorded video – not just some – to be reviewed as a matter of routine, greatly enhancing surveillance effectiveness and public safety.  

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The provider of this Video Synopsis technology is BriefCam, whose products allow for hours of video to be viewed in minutes.

Video Synopsis presents all events simultaneously, even if they occurred at different times (see image). On average, review time is compacted by factor of 1/60, meaning 1 hour of video can be viewed in 1 minute.

Traditional solutions have attempted to automate video review. BriefCam’s technology, instead, engages the human operators in the decision-making process; their eyes, experience, good judgment and instinct are integral to the process, enabling them to review video a more efficient, effective way.

Here are 10 video review scenarios that demonstrate the benefits of “synopsizing” to public safety and security personnel.

Total Video Review (TVR) – At present, only a fraction of surveillance video (best estimated at 1-2%) is ever reviewed due to lack of personnel, time, adequate tools and/or funds. TVR is the practice of going over all footage at the beginning and/or end of each shift using BriefCam. Implementing TVR as a standard procedure assists not only in locating reported events but also in uncovering the types of events that previously would have gone undetected.

Undefined incidents – BriefCam presents all events as they happened, without pre-set or pre-defined rules. This feature is excellent in situations where the investigators don’t know exactly what they’re looking for but definitely “know what it is when I see it!”

Rapid investigation response – Many areas are heavily monitored by CCTV but is this footage watched in a timely manner or only long after the fact? Using BriefCam’s VS Enterprise product, such areas can be monitored for suspicious activity in a timely fashion, while VS Forensics enables post-event investigation (for example, car-break-ins) to be conducted in minutes rather than hours, significantly shortening the gap in time between when an incident is reported, and when it is investigated and responded to.

Video backlog –There’s no underestimating the pain of having reams of video that must be reviewed before an investigation can even begin. Because BriefCam “synopsizes”, on average, 1 hour of video into 1 minute of review time, backlog can be shortened and video review can take place within a satisfactory amount of time.

Low priority crimes – Rapid video review means that incidents once considered not important enough to warrant the time and effort of investigation can be now followed up properly – and without the use of Fast Forward, as BriefCam displays events at their actual run-time speed.

Low frequency events – Criminals or terrorists may “case” a location for days, weeks and even months before taking action. This can be done without engaging in any suspicious behavior, e.g., approaching a fence and looking at it but never climbing over it. BriefCam displays individual events that happened over time, simultaneously, making such behavior patterns evident immediately.

Dead Zones – Although cameras monitor areas of low activity, such as stairwells, hallways, exits, etc., they are seldom watched (research has shown that operators tend to monitor busy areas only). Yet it is precisely in these quiet, out-of-the-way places where crime often occurs. Routine review of these so-called “Dead Zones” can result in the discovery of activities that had, up until that point, evaded exposure.

Streamlining On-site Investigation – Crime scenes and other on-site investigations often require reviewing hours of video to determine the exact location of events. Using BriefCam, activity patterns can be revealed rapidly, resulting in fast action, on the spot.

False Claims – Accidents resulting from persons slipping and falling can result in lawsuits in the millions of dollars. Using BriefCam, operators can perform routine fast review of accident hotspots (such as escalators, stairwells, etc.). BriefCam can also assist in investigating the history of claims that may  or may not  have taken place.

Speeding Up Lockdown - Security breaches or children gone missing often result in lockdown situation in which no one is allowed entry or exit of the premises. BriefCam speeds up the process by enabling rapid review of security video from the relevant cameras in seconds, and enabling effective real-time action.

BriefCam provides a cutting edge tool to complement any investigative toolkit: VS Forensics can process a synopsis video from practically any source. VS Enterprise, as an integrated or embedded tool within the VMS system, can support thousands of cameras on a single server and enables Video Synopsis processing on-demand. Collaboration between investigators is made easy with shared annotations and one-click export of either the synopsis or the original video. The graphic interface is intuitive, easy to learn and use, resulting in a low total cost of ownership (TCO) and a rapid return on investment (ROI). BriefCam Video Synopsis is embedded within Genetec Security Center, Milestone Systems XProtect and OnSSI Occularis.

About BriefCam

BriefCam®, Ltd. is the developer and provider of Video Synopsis®, an award-winning technology that summarizes hours of events into a “brief” that takes just minutes to watch, whether direct video feed or archived footage. BriefCam products interface with a wide range of DVR/NVRs, advanced IP cameras and complement existing surveillance solutions.  For more information: www.briefcam.com. For updates: https://twitter.com/BriefCamVS


PSIM ROI: Achieving operational savings

By Erez Goldstein, Nice Security Blog

Part I : Achieving Operational Savings

There are those who say that security systems, specifically PSIM solutions, don’t provide true ROI, but are simply a cost of doing business. Personally, I believe that PSIM solutions are a great vehicle for security management, which save expenses and prevent unnecessary costs. In this two-part blog, I’ll explore two types of ROI value that PSIM systems deliver.

The first type, and the one most often discussed in relation to PSIM, involves “doing more with less.” This is all about achieving immediate and frequent savings, usually associated with improved utilization, faster responses, or the use of fewer resources for day-to-day operations.

PSIM can make operations more effective and efficient in a number of ways, which in turn can result in substantial savings. Here are some of the ways:

Increased Personnel Effectiveness

With PSIM, organizations need not rely solely on the experience, training or capabilities of individual operators. Instead, PSIM guides whoever is seated in the control room and automates many of the tasks to ensure that they are always done. This results infaster incident response times,better collaboration between departments and stakeholders,and shorter reporting times on the back end.

Control Room Consolidation

PSIM can also integrate systems and sub-systems across any number of locations, so organizations can consolidate control rooms and handle response and security operations from a single location. This equates to less space, fewer people, and lower costs.

Reduced False Alarms and Dispatches

The cost of false alarms and resulting unwarranted dispatches can be substantial for some organizations, not to mention the drain on internal resources. PSIM can reduce false alarms by correlating different data sources and giving operators the ability to instantly verify the authenticity of an alarm prior to dispatching resources.

Elimination of Rip & Replace Costs

In order to keep up-to-date with the latest security technologies, organizations often choose one vendor for a specific technology across all sites to simplify operations. With PSIM, organizations can make smarter capital expenditure decisions. That’s because it’s no longer necessary to do a complete rip & replace. PSIM can unify a myriad of technologies seamlessly under a single user interface. The different underlying systems are invisible to the control room operator and have the same look and feel.

Reduced Training Costs

Relying on a single user interface shortens the training time necessary to bring operators up-to-speed. Additionally, the PSIM system can be used to conduct drills and rehearsals for potential event scenarios, including the capture and analysis of responses for improved responses during real situations. This would be much more difficult and time consuming if done separately on each individual subsystem.

Regulation Compliance

For some industries (e.g. electric utilities), penalties for non-compliance with regulations can be steep, and regulations frequently change. PSIM addresses regulatory compliance on two fronts – first, by enforcing compliance through automated processes (and simplifying process changes when new versions of regulations come out); and second, by automating the necessary reporting to prove adherence to these regulations.

In the next blog in this two-part series, I’ll share my take on the second type of PSIM ROI, which is achieved through “better security”.

Part II: The Hiddnen ROI of Better Security


When a company invests in a solution such as PSIM the obvious reason is to improve security. But when’s the last time you heard “improved security” mentioned as a source of ROI? Yet, the potential ROI from security improvements can far outweigh any operational cost savings from PSIM. This is especially true in very sensitive industries where the cost of a security breach, the mishandling of a safety malfunction, or failure to comply with regulations can have huge financial impacts.

Take for example catastrophic situations. I’m talking about the kind of events that can have extreme negative consequences – like an explosion on an oil rig resulting in loss of human life or environmental damage, a breach in a bank security system that protects the personal information of millions of customers, or an extended shutdown of an airport terminal due to a bomb threat.

How can we measure the potential financial impact of such catastrophic events? How much does improved security “save us”? Here’s one way to look at it:

The potential $ damage from an incident = the risk of the incident happening (%) x the loss created from the incident ($) if it were to occur. For example, even if the risk of a catastrophe happening is only 1% or 0.1%, if the loss from that incident would be billions of dollars, the overall potential loss, despite its low probability, is still high.

So, catastrophes, although they very rarely occur, still have the potential to cause huge damage – not just from an immediate financial perspective, but also from the long-lasting blow to a company’s brand image or reputation.

Consider the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which resulted in criminal and civil penalties in the tens of billions of dollars. No one would ever claim that such an incident could have been fully prevented through the use of an advanced situational awareness/situation management solution like PSIM. But in this type of catastrophic situation, arguably even the slightest improvement in situational awareness and response could have lessened the impact.

How can PSIM help in a catastrophic situation? Without getting into the specific details of deep sea drilling challenges, it’s clear that it’s a complex environment with many systems and sensors that need to work together and be closely monitored. By correlating readings and alerts coming from these various systems and sensors, PSIM can raise awareness of a mounting crisis much sooner, thus expediting the chain of responses and corrective measures. Also, once a crisis situation is already in play, PSIM’s automated response plans can guide local and remote teams to react based on standard operating procedures and predefined emergency response plans. These procedures, which ensure the right actions are taken by the right people at the right time, are critical to averting or at least minimizing the impact of a potential catastrophe.

And here’s another example. Large airports can average as many as 300 security breaches a day. An unresolved security breach can cause a complete terminal shutdown, which can cost upwards of $600,000/hour. So it’s easy to see how preventing such breaches in the first place, or resolving them faster, can have a direct financial impact. The ability to effectively utilize security information from video cameras, access points, and other sensors can help airport security personnel quickly assess a security breach. Effective assessment can be the difference between a two to five-minute process and a 30 to 50-minute terminal shut down. PSIM can alert an operator to a breach, show that operator the breach location on an airport map, automatically display the cameras nearest to where the intrusion was detected to help the operator instantly verify the intrusion source, and provide the response procedures. The end result – a faster response, and a potential shutdown averted

So what’s the lesson at the end of the day? Simple – when you’re looking at PSIM ROI, don’t forget to consider the hidden ROI of improved security

License Plate Recognition: What is it and how can it benefit law enforcement agencies?

By Genetec, February 7, 2013

Advancements in license plate recognition (LPR) technology have enabled law enforcement agencies worldwide to apprehend more wanted suspects and recover more stolen vehicles, while improving the safety of those on duty. Choosing the right LPR system, though, is vital to ensure a reliable solution to detect suspected vehicles and potential threats.

Before delving into the specifics of LPR applications for law enforcement agencies, let us first explore the basics of license plate recognition technology. In short, LPR can be summarized as a specialized plate-reading camera and software solution that work in tandem to automatically identify vehicle license plates in a variety of mobile and fixed installations. The LPR camera is one of the most vital elements of this unique license-plate capturing system. It is responsible for identifying license plates in its field-of-view, capturing a context image of the vehicle and license plate, and processing the image to extract accurate license plate characters. Only the most advanced and specialized LPR devices are able to do this in a variety of conditions and across all different types of plates.

In a mobile environment, where the LPR camera is affixed to the vehicle, there is often an in-vehicle software component which operators can use to review collected plates or handle alarms, coupled with a back-office component for more routine administration and investigation. The LPR software then takes over by matching incoming plate reads against a list of vehicles of interest, or 'hotlist'. If there is a match in the system, the operator will be immediately alerted so they can take appropriate action.

Achieving a successful deployment is all about choosing the right LPR system, including camera and software. It might be a surprise for some to know that specialized LPR technology has been around for over 15 years. And much like other technology, years of research and development have afforded major advancements, to the point where today plate-reading accuracy rates from LPR cameras are claimed to reach up to 99 percent. Unlike standard video or non-LPR cameras that are limited in providing good license plate images, LPR devices are engineered specifically for license plate reading where developers have considered all technical and environmental conditions. For instance, typical video cameras can be plagued by motion blur from the speed of the moving vehicles and can suffer from poor image contrast due to varying ambient light conditions or headlight glare. Instead, advanced LPR cameras like Genetec’s series of AutoVu Sharp LPR cameras, use multiple levels of integrated illumination to capture crisp images of different plate types and colors of plates. These sophisticated LPR devices also capture video and read plates at extremely high speeds and obscure angles and built to work with precision and accuracy in even some of the harshest weather conditions.

Maximizing the investment of an LPR system also means choosing a system with effective data-mining and reporting tools. This will provide law enforcement agencies with the ability to easily filter plate reads using precise vehicle information or even by defining geographic segment on map. The reality is the alternative of searching through thousands of plate reads will become too cumbersome, and eventually deem your LPR system impractical.

For law enforcement agencies license plate recognition can be a powerful addition to their security and parking and offer added eyes on the road to help intercept wanted felons and persons of interest, as the City of Jackson MS' Police Department found out:

"Initially, we were looking for a way to help us to locate people with multiple unpaid moving violations, and to increase our odds of catching them," explains Eric Wall, Deputy Chief of Patrol Operations, at the Jackson PD. “Using the NCIC and warrant hotlist, the AutoVu LPR system was so successful in helping us recover all of these outstanding fines, that the system pays for itself!"

Once they started using the LPR system, Jackson City PD discovered that a number of the people they had identified for unpaid moving violations were also wanted for other crimes, which led to a number of arrests and convictions. 

"With the AutoVu LPR we were able to identify a number of wanted individuals and arrest them.  Being able to take felony offenders off the streets of Jackson to keep our citizens safe is always a significant accomplishment," adds Deputy Chief Wall. 

What's more, at the time, Jackson was also plagued with auto theft, but the LPR system helped us recover a significant number of stolen vehicles and stolen tags, which we would probably have never found otherwise. Frequently the tag from a stolen vehicle will be removed and replaced with a tag stolen from a different vehicle. The Jackson Police Department issued a press release asking citizens to be sure to report stolen license tags.  Through identifying stolen tags, the Department has increased the number of recovered vehicles. 

More recently, during the holidays' "Operation Safe Shop", the Jackson PD was able to use their LPR equipped vehicles to scan cars coming into major retail centers and apprehend wanted felons before they could get into the stores. "We are confident that we were able to reduce the amount of in-store theft, reduce the number of burglarized cars in the parking lots, and keep holiday shoppers safer that way," explains Deputy Chief Wall.

A few months ago, the Jackson PD was also able to apprehend wanted narcotics dealers who had been changing tags on their cars.  The LPR system was able to flag the car on a routine patrol, which led to an arrest.

"The system has worked so well for us that we now regularly get calls from other agencies to ask us if we have seen a wanted car in the area. In fact we heard in the last few days that other departments and agencies are in the process of evaluating the system for their own needs."

Genetec is a provider of world class IP Security Solutions that has a unified security platform  encompassing  license plate recognition, video surveillance and  access control.

Click Here for more information on License Plate Recognition (LPR)

We Can Learn A lot From The Israeli Cyber Mentality

By Alex Sorin,  Safe City Solutions 

recent article published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz analyzed a suspected cyber attack that targeted the country's largest cell phone provider Pelephone, paralyzing the service for a period of time.  The company has not officially stated if the delay in service was the result of a cyber attack or not.  The article went on to discuss that despite Israel's considerable cyber defenses for national security and critical infrastructure, the country is still vulnerable to attacks on soft targets that could affect the daily lives of ordinary citizens.  The author provided a useful graphic, pasted below, that illustrates the vulnerable civilian sectors.

American citizens can learn a lot from the Israeli approach to cyber security.  Israeli awareness to cyber threats is much greater than that of the average American, perhaps because Israelis do not separate cyber security and national security into two different realms, as seems to be the case in the U.S.  This is evident from the constant barrage of mobile device cyber security commercials, ironically made by the Pelephone company, which are broadcast on Israeli TV.  Israeli's realize that talk of cyber security doesn't just pertain to attacks on electric grids and the defense establishment, but also to their ability to freely and securely use cell phones, the Internet, e commerce and mobile banking.  Recent attacks on U.S. banking institutions and social media platforms such as Twitter demonstrate the convergence of cyber attacks on the lives of ordinary people.  

Below is the graphic published in the article and a translated version of the lists that illustrate Israeli sectors that are still vulnerable compared to those of the security, transportation and infrastructure sectors.  These lists are relevant to US cyber security and represent areas that Americans should associate more with personal and cyber security threats.

Vulnerable Networks

 Picture Published by  Haaretz

Picture Published by Haaretz

  • Private Banking
  • Internet Providers
  • Cell Phone Companies
  • E Commerce Shopping Websites
  • Commercial Companies
  • Personal Computers
  • Mobile Devices

Relatively Protected Networks

  • The Bank of Israel
  • Security Establishment
  • Electric Infrastructure
  • Water Infrastructure
  • Government Power Facilities
  • The National Train System