Designing Home and SME Networks 12 – Network Security – The Basics

Most home users can close their eyes and blithely pass over this article. That’s not to say it doesn’t apply, just that not many home users want to get heavy and official with their family, and this article covers the dread subject of Security Policies

What is a security policy?

A security policy is a (normally written) statement of what your systems’ users are and are not allowed to do. It also usually covers some aspects of the sanctions that will be taken for breaches of the policy. (Now you see why not many home network owners implement a security policy!)

A thorough security policy states the obvious, as well as the obscure:

  • If you don’t want your staff using work computers to surf the net for private purposes, say so. Say also what will happen if they get caught doing it. And tell them why (misuse of business resources, wasting time, traffic costs, impact on other business processes, danger of virus/trojan infections… the list is (almost) endless).
  • If you don’t allow users to take their laptops home, then tell them.
  • One often-missed threat is users taking company laptops home quite legally and then plugging them into unsecured home networks. Make sure that they understand that the company security policy applies ALL THE TIME, even when they’re at home or on holiday in the Seychelles.

Make sure that the policy is consistent and clearly-written. Consistency is especially important in its applicability. If the policy doesn’t apply to the boss’s son or to the IT director, make it plain in the policy and explain why. Users often use the excuse “Well, he did it, so why shouldn’t I?”

Of course, if the policy is too big, no-one will read it, so use all the advertiser’s tricks to push the point home: login notices, browser front-ends that you have to click ‘read and understood’ to continue, training and Q&A sessions, notice board announcements, regular monitoring and well-publicised sanctions, from verbal and written warnings, up to and including dismissal for very serious or repeated breaches.

And, once again, make sure EVERYONE knows about it, what it says and who it applies to. An important issue often overlooked is that the senior staff should be even more careful to apply it than the junior secretaries. After all, a Financial Director’s laptop is more likely to contain potentially company-destroying information than a salesman’s PDA!

Why bother to have a security policy?

Your security policy is a bit like an insurance policy. No insurance policy ever stopped an accident or prevented a disaster directly, but such documents:

  • Make users aware of what they can and can’t do and still stay within the rules – they ignore the policy at their peril!
  • Tell users that you are aware of what they do and what action you will take if the break the rules
  • Give you ammunition if any action becomes necessary
  • Gives your IT designer and support staff a baseline to implement your security architecture against.
  • And, possibly most important, prevent any transgressor saying “I didn’t know…” or “You never told me…”

Creating a Security Policy is always a two-way process – quite often the user/designer/IT support will come to you and say “But what about…?”

Remember: No security policy is ever really finished. Goalposts move, new facilities, services and threats develop. Your IT team should review your security policy every quarter, and the IT management team or the Board should review it annually.

Know Your Home Security System Options

Safety and crime have become a real concern in today’s world and this has made home security systems very good investments. When you have a security system in place, you will feel much more at ease. This is especially because burglars are less likely to target homes that have the systems protecting them. The systems have become so sophisticated that they can send messages to phone lines for the needed action to be taken before anything much happens to your home and valuables within it. Some service providers not only offer needed help with burglaries but also with any fires and medical emergencies so you can have your system serving more than one need. But what options do you have when it comes to the security systems?

Monitored security systems

They are home alarms that come linked to a monitoring response station, which is usually your alarm company’s office. When the alarm goes off, the company offering you the monitoring service will get an intrusion signal and the control panel also sends information to central system over phone lines. You, the homeowner, will then call you in a few seconds to verify your name and pass code via intercom, In case there is no response or passcode is wrong the station will send the police over to the house. This kind of system will require you to pay a monthly fee that runs through the contract length or options you select.

Non-monitored security system

A home system that is not monitored simply means it is not linked to any monitoring station. It is cheaper compared to the monitored one. Most systems sound a siren and flash exterior lights of your home, but it is possible to have it set to dial the local police directly as soon as an intruder is detected. It may save you from monthly fees, but it is important to remember that false alarms could be fined by the police if it is set to dial.

Wired security systems

A wired system means that all components of your home security system are connected using small wires that are low voltage. The small wires are selected so routing throughout the house is done as discreetly as possible. The sensors will be placed strategically in different points of your home and so are the rest of the components, including the control unit, internet connection or telephone dialer depending on whether it is a monitored system or a non-monitored.

Wireless security systems

The systems use small radio transmitters which signal central control units when they are activated. It is an option that makes installation quick and easy compared to the wired system option. All components of the system come with batteries so you can be sure the alarm will still function even when there is a power failure. Some newer models have automatically rechargeable batteries when the unit is on with household power. The systems are easy to hide in your home, making it harder for them to be interfered with.

What Happens When a Wireless Home Security Camera Loses Its Internet Connection?

One of the main concerns people have with wireless home security cameras is with the connection. As you know, internet connections can sometimes drop, and at the most inopportune times too. One of the most common searches online is: my camera keeps dropping the connection. The biggest question people then have is what happens next, once the connection comes back. Well, the answer to that all depends on your cameras, the setup, and the reliability of your internet connection overall.

When the Connection Drops

Different security cameras have different alert features. If in doubt, check the alert options in the user guide. If you haven’t purchased your security cameras yet, keep reading. There are a few things you might want to look out for that notifies you of certain events that breach your security preferences. One of these is to send out an alert when the internet connection is lost.

Common camera alerts may include the following three options:

  1. Motion detection-triggered by motion (movement) in the camera’s field of view (FOV)
  2. Power loss-camera should continue to function on its backup batteries
  3. Internet down-camera should continue to record to its internal memory (microSD card)

Regarding that last point, the camera will only continue to record with a device that has a continuous recording setup. In all of the above scenarios, your camera security system should send you an auto notification alert to inform you of these events.

Follow-up Alerts

With lost power and dropped internet connections there should be a second alert. This time they inform you when the power and internet is back on and your system status returns to “working”. Not all cameras offer the same features though, so it’s important to check. With most security cameras you also get to customize the settings to suit your needs. You may have the option to turn alerts on and off, along with other things, so be sure to refer to your user manual for guidance.

WiFi Cameras that Keep Losing Connection

It’s frustrating when a WiFi security camera keeps losing its connection. Not only will alerts bombard your SMS or email inbox, but you feel defenseless because your setup is not functioning as it should do. When checking your cameras you will likely see similar status to these:

  • Connecting…
  • Could not connect
  • Connection timed out
  • Other similar status updates

All modern security cameras have a built-in function that should continually try to reconnect your cameras at regular intervals. Your camera should continue to record to its internal memory if you have continues recording on. If you don’t there will be gaps in the recording between the dropped and reconnections.

Why Does My Internet Keep Dropping?

Often times it’s not the actual internet that’s dropping. It could just be that your security camera is disconnecting from the network even though the internet us up.

There are several potential causes for this.

  • The camera’s firmware is outdated and needs updating
  • The camera has inadequate hardware that fails to maintain a good connection
  • The WiFi signal is too weak, at least at the camera end

It’s worth noting that a security camera needs a stronger signal to function than say a home PC, notebooks and tablets, etc. To the eye, the signal strength might look strong, but in reality it’s not strong enough to maintain a consistent connection to your cameras.

The Solutions

Although every situation is unique, here are two potential solutions to these common problems:

  1. Download and install the camera’s latest firmware and retry
  2. Hardwire your cameras using the Ethernet cable (included) and try again

If the firmware update doesn’t solve the problem, it’s time for plan B. This time, connect your camera to the network using the Ethernet cable. If this fixes the problem you have a weak WiFi signal at the camera end. If the problem persists even with the Ethernet cable, your camera’s hardware is the likely cause. If the camera is under warranty you will want to let the manufacture know of your diagnosis.

A Weak WiFi Signal

If you have identified a weak WiFi signal, here are some things to try:

  • Place your router higher up if you can, like on a shelf or on top of a cupboard
  • Try to move the camera closer to the router or vice-versa
  • Move the camera away from electrical devices like a microwave or cordless phone
  • Change the router’s channel to the one that’s furthest away from the current channel
  • Add a repeater or a router that has a stronger signal

To all these common problems there are solutions. The key here is to diagnose your issues using the elimination process above.