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assessing risk for central stations in the cloud
January 22, 2018
assessing risk for central stations in the cloud
      I will be speaking at the SGS luncheon at the ISC West show on April 12, 2018.  It's for a select crowd of central station operators who are already using or considering using the Stages operating platform to run the central station,  the first cloud based monitoring application.  The SGS website describes:
    "stages brings unparalleled automation and complex integration together for your monitoring business. It is recognized as the premiere alarm monitoring ecosystem in the industry today.” 
    Cloud based systems are not new.  We all use a cloud application in some ways, perhaps without even realizing it.  But much of the data we rely on that is not maintained on our own computer or network server is actually cloud based; it's on someone else's server.
    I asked a central station owner about using Stages, and his concern was "what happens when the Internet goes down?"  Reasonable concern for a central station.  So I asked Hank Goldberg of SGS what he thought of that question.  Here's his response:
    I assume the question is about legal liability.  I won’t comment about the issues of law, however, at a minimum, the business reputation and quality of services are certainly at risk.
    The question really needs to be rephrased:  Are central stations adequately addressing IT best practices?  And the answer is no, no, no.  Not even close.  And they are highly at risk of being held accountable.  Liability is a legal issue, but could result from doing nothing when you know there are high risks.      Certainly, in cyber and communications, action is mandatory.
    “What if the Internet goes down?” is just one aspect of major changes in technology.  Central stations are “in transition” and, are NOT stepping up to assessing or mitigating risks.  In defense of the industry, IT is a very confusing place today and it will take more time for clear mainstream solutions that are practical and affordable.  Nonetheless, there is reluctance to invest in cyber security solutions, and the risks are high.              
    “What if the Internet goes down?” points to the question of communication reliability.  A simple direct answer is to consider it just like any other carrier.  For years, the alarm industry has gotten a free pass by blaming everything on the phone company.  Pretty much the same today, except the scapegoat is now an ISP.
    Today we rely on the Internet for all communications.  Looking at  signaling – a subset the communications – highlights my concerns.  Practices are very weak.  Very few central stations are doing an adequate job.  History has so many lessons in this area that are simply ignored.  Here is the way I see it today:
·         Many cloud providers – manufacturers’ platforms and central stations software vendor applications – are likely to be deliver higher standards in communications to the customer. As a central station, you must define multiple communication paths to these platform sites for reliable service. 
·         Anyone installing a POTS communicator is out of touch with reality.   Vendors (manufacturer and installer) who deliver obsolete technology greatly increase the risk of failure.
·         Dual communications solutions should be mandatory for every connection.  Increasing reliability will decrease your risk.
·         Many central stations are happy to install a single line from a single ISP for a receiver.  Whatever happened to redundancy?  (the new UL standards start to address some issues, but are not yet mandatory and need further development)
·         The alarm industry is no different than any business that relies on the Internet.  Standard IT services are available to improve communications to 99.999%  reliability, and should be deployed.
    Ken, I encourage all central stations to take responsibility for delivering quality communications.  The issues are not difficult but do require IT experts. At SGS, we have solved these problems for several major industry leaders and would welcome questions without any obligations.  The SGS Wisconsin NOC is dedicated to cyber and network services.  
    The Internet question starts a dialogue.  The central station will find more complexity in every part of service delivery over the next few years.  Please let them know they are welcome to the ISC luncheon for exploration of the many risks including cyber security, video services, medical monitoring and more!   If they don’t receive a direct mail from SGS they may contact me.
Hank Goldberg, VP 
Secure Global Solutions
949-502-5841 (direct dial)


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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301
516 747 6700