Guidelines for Adding CCTV as a Profit Center

Nov. 2, 2012
Selection criteria should include ease and security of the installation

As a security professional, you now have many options available when selecting a Recurring Monthly Revenue (RMR) based video product to add to your offerings. While price, performance and quality are all crucial factors leading to your decision, one of the most important factors is the ease and security of the installation. Since security providers do not typically employ installation personnel who have an advanced IT skill set,  it is crucial that the system you choose to promote and sell is one that your technicians can easily and confidently install without exposing your company to undue liability concerns.   

You should ensure that the system you select does not require installation techniques that use your customer's property as an installation tool, require invasive IT interrogation of their router or involve the use of DIY auto-enroll features that will expose your customer's computer network to hackers.

You would never consider asking your customer if you could use their ladder or drill; why would anyone think it is acceptable to have a technician use their computer to perform the installation? So watch out for systems that require the technician to sit at your customer's computer, browse to websites and then go through multiple step procedures to activate your customer's cameras.

It is never good policy to have your employee use the customer's personal property as an installation tool, especially a computer that contains the customer’s personal data including communications, pictures and banking. Aside from the awkwardness and liability of this situation, let's say the installation happens to go fairly well and the cameras are working. If something happens to that computer later that day, week or month such as a blue screen or missing files are discovered, who do you think they are going to call? "The computer was working fine until your technician used it, so it must be something you have done". It is now YOUR problem.

Other systems need your technician to log into the customer's router admin application to perform the camera installation. So in order for your tech to complete the installation, they are depending on someone in house knowing the admin password of the router.  Unfortunately, that router may have been installed by the customer's brother in-law a few years ago and no one remembers the password. What do you do now? Buy your customer a new router? What if the customer's router is a brand or model that they have never seen before? Be prepared for a long session with Tech Support. Once you get past these hurdles, your technician must then extract the SSID, WEP or WPA keys from the router, write them down and then manually program them into each camera, one at a time. At this point, your technician has full knowledge of your customer's router security credentials, again, not good from a liability point of view.

Another potential liability concern is the use of Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) to enroll cameras into a wireless router. WPS is a computing standard intended allow enrollment of devices into a wireless home network, but it has been shown to easily fall to hackers. This method was originally intended for easy DIY or homeowner enrollment of wireless devices into a router and not a method that should be used by professionals who are installing IP products in subscriber's homes or businesses.  WPS has been cited many times by the National Cyber Security Division of the US Dept. of Homeland Security as susceptible to brute force attacks that could allow an attacker to gain access to your customer's Wi-Fi network. Simply Google "WPS vulnerability" to get a real sense of the potential concerns you and your customer may face if this technique is used.

A number of remote video systems are available today; especially given this is the fastest growing market segment in the security industry. However, they differ a great deal on two core fronts:

  1. The ease of installation they offer dealers
  2. The network security and benefit they offer the consumer/subscriber.

The best of the breed will enable security technicians with little IT-savvy breeze through installation in minutes without using the consumers’ equipment nor allowing their personal PC network to be hacked or made vulnerable during the setup process. Look for systems that automatically activate cameras upon power-up and lock-down the network with a secure key encryption at the conclusion of the installation.

Another benefit of this high level of ease of installation is your customer's perception of your company and your technician's IT aptitude. They can easily detect when your technician is having trouble or becoming frustrated with the installation or if they are spending an inordinate amount of time on the phone with Tech Support.  These new systems avoid the pitfalls described above and streamline the installation process which will make every one of your technicians look like confident and knowledgeable IT professionals.