Addressing An Evolving Nationwide Security Threat: Removing & Replacing Prohibited Video Surveillance Cameras For Safety And Federal Compliance

Addressing An Evolving Nationwide Security Threat: Removing & Replacing Prohibited Video Surveillance Cameras For Safety And Federal Compliance

Schools, as well as many other public sector entities, across the country are now faced with the requirement of bringing their video surveillance systems into compliance with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This need for remediation resulted from revelations about prohibited solutions from Chinese manufacturers, including Hikvision and Dahua.

In our previous blog, we’ve addressed funding for the removal and replacement of non-compliant video surveillance cameras. Today we’re exploring the details on why these cameras are no longer considered compliant. Additionally, we’re offering guidance on video surveillance best practices, and what to look for in a surveillance solution and service provider. Read on for full details.

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Why Non-Compliant Video Surveillance Cameras Must Be Removed And Replaced

These video surveillance camera systems must be replaced because they are considered to be a threat to security, not just on a local level. This is now a national concern. It was discovered that these chipsets have malicious “back doors”, which essentially allow the manufacturer or their affiliates (in this case the Chinese government), to view and collect data from the cameras and other devices that contain these specific chipsets. This particular ban is for a select group of Silicon manufacturers that produce the chipsets, all of which are located within China.   

IP cameras, like most electronics, have an onboard computer or “chipset” that processes video and manages networking connectivity to clients such as the NVR recorder. The chipsets have full control over the IP camera. In this case, the banned manufacturers use this control to provide the Chinese Government with connectivity and access to the camera without authentication.

Non-Compliant Video Surveillance Cameras

There are many reasons why it is vital to remove these cameras. First, it is imperative to remove cameras that do not meet the NDAA requirements in order for surveillance systems to be in compliance with section 889(a)(1)(A) and (a)(1)(B) of this new law. This is especially true if these projects were funded by the government (inclusive of federal grant money) or if the buildings or grounds that are using this equipment received government funding.

Second, removing and replacing non-compliant surveillance camera equipment ensures the privacy of the people within a location. Replacing the banned cameras with those that meet NDAA requirements restores security and privacy.

And finally, replacing these cameras prevents unintended sharing of confidential and proprietary material. Banks, research facilities, and hospitals all handle such information, and come to mind immediately when there are concerns regarding information privacy. Schools may not always be top-of-mind when considering data breach risks. But, when you begin to examine what information can be gained from tapping into a camera system that watches the daily goings on of a campus filled with our youth and those charged with shaping their minds, the risks of non-compliant equipment loom more ominously as a real threat.

removing and replacing non-compliant surveillance camera
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What You Should Know About Removing These Cameras And Chips

There are a few primary manufacturers to be wary of when looking to avoid compliance and security issues. Those include Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company and Dahua Technology Company. Many subsidiary or affiliate IP camera manufacturers have rebranded models that physically look different, but internally contain the same chipsets.

As of 2019, about 20% of the IP camera market belonged to manufacturers that are now on a banned list. Unfortunately, there is a significant probability that many locations have non-NDAA-compliant cameras, as awareness of this threat is still lacking to this day. Non-NDAA-compliant cameras are typically less expensive, costing about a quarter the price of the competitors that are NDAA-compliant, which has made them a very palatable choice, especially for extremely budget-minded customers.

Yet amidst an unsettling narrative that resulted in the need for this legislation, there is good news to report. Manufacturers have unearthed and acknowledged this issue. They are responding to schools, government agencies, and businesses’ demands for compliant solutions. And as of  2023, only about 3.5% of IP cameras sold in the US were non-NDAA compliant. That said, because non-compliant devices remain on the market for purchase and because they’re sometimes crafted by subsidiaries, working with a trusted vendor partner who can discern the difference is still the best way to avoid unknowingly buying and installing such devices.

Video Surveillance Solutions

What To Look For In Your Replacement Video Surveillance Solutions

When it comes to selecting a NDAA-compliant video surveillance solution, you’ll want a system that provides clear and smooth coverage of areas like:

  • Heavily trafficked public spaces like your lobby, or main hallways and corridors
  • Secure/controlled areas containing proprietary information not for mass consumption (i.e., personnel files or student records)
  • Known problematic nooks where students may commonly sequester themselves for activities they’re hoping to conceal from authority figures

It’s also important to recognize that not every camera provides a “one size fits all” solution. This means you may need to make use of specialty cameras with specific features. This will allow you to fit these particular areas with equipment that captures meaningful and relevant information.

Next, you’ll want to consider ease of use. Accessing your new system should be frictionless, secure, traceable, and when needed, quickly shareable to law enforcement or those who are responsible for building safety and security.

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Your new system should be modern in terms of its functionality. So, consider whether you can extract data from the cameras using artificial intelligence (AI). AI empowers the user to generate proactive alerts based on the video data. Actions and events such as loitering, crowding, or line crossing can be detected in real time.

When applied in real-life situations, this functionality helps to reduce false alerts. The amount of time it takes to find specific things in recorded video becomes a breeze when leveraging AI. The user can search for attributes such as the clothing or vehicle color, reverse search a specific face, or receive an alert when a specific car or individual is seen on any camera. All of these capabilities save time and help to improve the security profile of your campus.

Enhancing Video Surveillance Compliance, Safety, And Security

Enhancing your safety, physical security, and compliance is an ongoing process.

Make sure all security systems going forward are NDAA-compliant. This extends beyond IP cameras. In fact, this extends to physical cameras, NVR/recording server hardware, access control equipment, and the software that controls these systems.

In addition, be sure to secure and maintain remote access to your physical security system, regardless of device type or geographical location. As an additional precaution, it’s also recommended to allocate system functionalities based on role and monitor each user’s activity.  

When you’re renewing systems, make sure to use high-resolution cameras (4MP) and above for larger spaces. And utilize new AI video analytics to go beyond motion alerts. Create proactive alerts and responses based on these analytics to prevent issues from starting or reoccurring.

Video Surveillance In Schools

Best Practices For Video Surveillance In Schools

There are some best practices to consider when planning and implementing video surveillance systems in your organization.

First, consult with a safety expert and conduct a physical walkthrough of your buildings and grounds. These experts have the knowledge and experience to give you insight into camera placement. These advisors can address your concerns and answer any questions you may have about issues you may be trying to resolve.

As you move through this process, be sure to document your current and future camera locations on copies of your floor plans, blueprints, fire evacuation maps, and the like (VMS software, for example). Staying organized in this way will make the installation process significantly easier, from both a budgetary and time commitment perspective. Having this documentation provides a valuable reference tool not just for your video surveillance service provider but also for emergency services and first responders who may need access to recorded or real-time footage.

Next, be sure to research and understand the main difference between on-prem, cloud, or hybrid solutions. The choice that is right for your campus depends entirely on your unique needs. If you need support in conducting this research, contact a trusted vendor partner like Eastern DataComm. Leveraging the expertise of a knowledgeable partner will help to answer your questions. You’ll be able to walk through the potential benefits and why one solution might be better than another, specific to the challenges you want to address most.

Next, and of great importance, be sure you are utilizing a multimodal approach to alerts. This means using multiple mediums, like email and SMS to convey important messages. For instance, if a camera is tampered with or goes offline.

Finally, configure video pop-ups for actively alerting cameras on the security team’s viewing monitors for immediate response. This will ensure everyone remains on the same page when it matters most.

What To Look For In Your Replacement Cameras And Surveillance Systems

As you remove the prohibited video surveillance cameras and devices and install new devices, you’ll want to ensure that what you are using now has better image quality than your previous solution. Increasing the resolution, having a larger field of view, and improving the camera network infrastructure (including replacing old analog wiring) are all ways that lead to giving you greater visual detail.

It’s also vital that any new and/or replacement system be NDAA-compliant end to end. This means that everything from the cameras to the network switches, and the main NVR server(s), must be manufactured by those who follow NDAA compliance requirements.

Replacement Cameras And Surveillance Systems

Another important caveat to be aware of when selecting your surveillance technology as a whole: The new system’s NDAA compliance extends to not only the cameras themselves, but also the chips within any and all parts or components of the cameras. Those chips and components must be NDAA compliant as well.

Lastly, it is a necessity to ensure the new solution is an “Open System”, or ONVIF-ready, so that it can be easily integrated with future solutions and products. ONVIF stands for Open Network Video Interface Forum. Its goal is to “provide and promote standardized interfaces for effective interoperability of IP-based physical security products.”

For more details on ONVIF, we recommend you familiarize yourself with information found on this site:

When you’re unsure about how to navigate these processes, working with an experienced vendor partner like Eastern DataComm can be a great way to facilitate a smooth transition to a fully compliant video surveillance system.

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NDAA-Compliant Cameras To Consider: i-Pro and Verkada

The i-Pro, formally Panasonic, manufactures the most feature-rich and secure IP cameras that are NDAA-compliant as well as FIPS 140-2 level 3 certified secure. This is the highest level of security available, and certainly an option worth considering.

Another great video surveillance option is from Verkada. Verkada has a cloud-accessible IP camera solution. Their full line of products is NDAA compliant giving schools a variety of cameras to choose from to fit a multitude of uses.

A Note On The Importance of A Knowledgeable Vendor Partner

There are many advantages to working with a vendor partner to secure a cutting-edge video surveillance solution. Working with a trusted partner who is well-versed in this subject ensures that you benefit from their experience designing solutions that remove vulnerabilities, ones that you may not have even been aware existed on your campus. The right vendor partnership will allow you to continuously keep up with your security needs, having the solutions you need at your fingertips. Be mindful of who you select and put their knowledge to the test.

Keep Your Video Surveillance System Compliant Now And In The Future With Eastern DataComm

To learn more about grant opportunities for replacing non-compliant cameras, visit our March blog here.

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