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In focus

Dedicated Micros' Closed IPTV in the spotlight at IP Expo

Published on 21 Oct, 2010

Dedicated Micros' Closed IPTV solution is a key focus for the company at IP Expo
Dedicated Micros' Closed IPTV solution is a key focus for the company at IP Expo
Mike Newton, founder of CCTV specialist Dedicated Micros - part of AD Group - takes a closer look at the company's award-winning Closed IPTV solution which is a key focus for Dedicated Micros at IP EXPO, the UK's largest end-to-end IT infrastructure event, being held from 20-21 October at Earls Court 2 in London.

In essence Closed IPTV, which I was instrumental in creating, has been brought to market to deliver all of the simplicity and security of a traditional CCTV installation to the IP environment. From a security perspective the fact that, with Closed IPTV, each connected IP camera is locked down within a private network and, crucially, that trusted IP end points can be created, closes the door to those looking to use this as a route to hack into the corporate network. Also, from a practical perspective, there is no longer the frustration of having to manually assign individual IP addresses where mistakes can unwittingly introduce vulnerabilities.

Looking in more detail at how our patent-pending, Closed IPTV, is configured in practice, it uses a completely deterministic set-up which automatically maps each, standard or HD resolution, IP camera to a specific port on Dedicated Micros' Layer 3 Enhanced CCTV Switch and, in turn, to the corresponding camera input number on a hybrid DVR/NVR (Digital Video Recorder/Network Video Recorder). This approach, combined with DM's unique implementation of secure modes means that, when it comes to IP video, complete security of the IP endpoints can be achieved by users with a single click so preventing potentially damaging hacking attacks.

At Dedicated Micros we are currently rolling out Closed IPTV in a number of product lines with one of the first being a version of the hybrid SD Advanced DVR/NVR which is on display at IP EXPO.

Closed IPTV offers ease of installation and key benefits to far more than the user or installer who may be afraid of ‘setting a few IP addresses'

Turning to some typical questions regarding Closed IPTV:

Q1 - Does Dedicated Micros' Closed IPTV technology only have a short term appeal to those afraid of IP Video?

Dedicated Micros believes this is not the case. Closed IPTV offers ease of installation and key benefits to far more than the user or installer who may be afraid of ‘setting a few IP addresses'. While simple segregated IPTV solutions have been implemented, they are often open to attack compromising the video being delivered, and many of the benefits are lost from the segregation as soon as access is shared with the general network.

The Closed IPTV solution we are bringing to market is far more than just a simple discovery scheme as proposed by others in the marketplace which offer little more than a custom DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration) server, which updates system parameters when the IP address is dynamically re-allocated, and no other system protection. In particular, Closed IPTV addresses segregation of the IP system while still allowing access as required direct to the cameras, for Multicast as an example.

If IP Camera systems are going to offer genuine benefits over IP Video enabled analogue solutions this will only be achieved if the IP connectivity of the cameras themselves can be leveraged to improve Return On Investment (ROI) otherwise the IP technology is just an alternative, and more complex, transport medium. It is short sighted for people to claim a limited appeal for Closed IPTV until the full sophistication and advantages are fully understood.

Q2 - Does Closed IPTV lock you in to proprietary protocols?

No, Closed IPTV provides increased ease of installation and security depending on the equipment used. The Layer 3 Enhanced CCTV Switch functionality, combined with the Dedicated Micros' NVR provides basic deterministic solutions which operate with any IP products, and in the majority of cases will give enhanced security capabilities at either VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network) or MAC (Media Access Control) access control list level, with little user intervention.

Closed IPTV provides increased ease of installation and security

However when used with Dedicated Micros' products significant extra advantages are enabled, with fully automated IP discovery and allocation with transparent default  configurations and setup options. Further enhancements such as ‘Trusted Endpoint' technology are only realised with Dedicated Micros' products.

Q3 - Are the security techniques of Closed IPTV proprietary, and hence unfamiliar or unwelcome to many users?

The proprietary systems utilised are firstly targeted at the physical layer, through the Layer 3 Enhanced CCTV Switch employed. This removes much of the burden of achieving in a single user operation, MAC ACL and VLAN restrictions which would otherwise have to be implemented by a specialist installer with significant additional effort.

The IP scheme is unique in that it allows a general Private Network Address range, as operated in the client's existing installation, to potentially operate concurrently with an auto configured address scheme. Once configured, it is the user's choice to rely upon the DHCP/Static generated addresses, or the automatic configuration addresses, or in fact both. This is implemented using dual MAC / VLAN techniques, transparently supported by the Layer 3 Enhanced CCTV Switch.

The further implementations of ‘Trusted Endpoint' in Closed IPTV are specifically designed to meet the unusual needs of CCTV, in that the key benefit of TCP/IP on the World Wide Web is specifically non-deterministic, and when secure connections are required, it is typical that the client is in an insecure location, and the server protected in a secure location.

For CCTV we specifically demand that the connection to the camera is unequivocal as a physical device, with deterministic knowledge of its location, and that the ‘servers', i.e. the cameras, are typically located outside the protected area, and the user is typically inside the protected area. This requires bespoke and focused solutions, rather than the general case of the World Wide Web.

Q4 - Is the Layer 3 Enhanced CCTV Switch used in Closed IPTV custom to Dedicated Micros and does it support PoE (Power over Ethernet)?

Yes, the switch is a custom device, heavily integrated into the NVR user interface to allow the specific and key goals to be achieved in the required environment for CCTV. It supports dual address ranges and VLANS, as well as the various additional security protocols. While the maximum benefit is achieved with NetVu Connected devices from Dedicated Micros, it will also provide basic benefits for any IP camera, to much the same level as can typically be achieved by a number of hours of custom configuration of an ‘off the shelf' layer 2 or 3 switch.

The further implementations of ‘Trusted Endpoint' in Closed IPTV are specifically designed to meet the unusual needs of CCTV

All the NetVu Connected parts are available in PoE (Power over Ethernet) versions, and the only unconfirmed date is the exact production scheduled build of the PoE versions of the Layer 3 Enhanced CCTV Switch. First production quantities of the non PoE version are now available, with full approval and availability of the PoE version anticipated before the end of the calendar year. All NetVu Connected PoE capable cameras will additionally be shipped with a passive PoE injector.

Q5 - With Closed IPTV does the proprietary nature of the discovery 'lock you in', and why not just spend a few days writing scripts to achieve the same thing?

Again the base layer of Closed IPTV utilises zeroconf as one of the more universal discovery schemes, supported by many devices, and likely to be the most popular solution under PSIA and ONVIF. It is the further deterministic solution of Closed IPTV that easily delivers the security advantages as well, which it is likely that while such scripts may enhance discovery, they do little for enhancing security. The basis of all open standards is that the fundamental lower layers should be non-proprietary to achieve common ground and interoperability. It is however the enhancements at the higher layers that deliver the unique benefits and strengths of a solution, otherwise no one would be able to deliver an enhanced, bespoke solution. Closed IPTV completely fulfils those goals and delivers them with a few key strokes, rather than days or weeks of writing custom scripts, assuming this knowledge is held. 

Q6 - Is 'closing' IP cameras an inefficient approach to gain simplicity?

Most certainly not. It is important not to confuse ‘Closed IPTV' with restrictive proprietary protocols. The usage of Closed IPTV is highly efficient, as with little installer overhead the following is achieved:

  • Deterministic allocation and configuration, combined or independent of the client's wider DHCP or other addressing scheme.
  • VLAN level security protocols without the user even having to be aware that multiple and sophisticated VLANS have been implemented.
  • MAC level security ACL's, again without the user even being aware of the MAC addresses of the devices used.
  • Endpoint to Endpoint segregation, blocking access of any other IP camera from an unprotected endpoint.
  • Full monitoring and protection against 'Man in the Middle' attacks, such as ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) storms, without any user configuration and intervention.
  • Interoperability with other IP vendors, to the extent of the capabilities of that camera.
  • "Trusted Endpoint" technology ensuring in an absolutely deterministic manner that the device connected physically to the port, and configured as a device to a specific channel is the device unaltered with no intermediate device.
  • Both secure signature and optional encryption of the streams to a unique key generated when the system solution is secured, to both protect data from eavesdropping or interception and ensure that the validity and integrity of the data received can be assured.

This is all achieved by utilising the Layer 3 Enhanced CCTV Switch, and selecting two or three options with the ‘Closed IPTV - Lock Down' menu. This is certainly not inefficient, and achieves much improved secure scenarios than many alternative environments.

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