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The surveillance dilemma – how to manage capacity and maintain security

The surveillance dilemma – how to manage capacity and maintain security

DataEnterprise SecurityPhysicalTop Stories

In the UK alone, there are between 4 million and 5.9 million CCTV surveillance cameras protecting the public, their property and helping to prevent crime and bring criminals to justice. But this ongoing growth brings with it new challenges for data storage and as the role of CCTV grows ever more important, it is critical that it is managed and protected in the correct way. Here, Gary Watson, CTO of StorCentric and Founder of Nexsan, discusses the importance of capacity needs, retention rules and security and chain of custody when it comes to storing surveillance data.

Protecting property, people and assets has sharpened focus on the convergence of IT and physical security infrastructure. Surveillance mandates and best practices are requiring longer retention periods and higher video resolution requirements to support investigations. This has driven an unprecedented need for secure, reliable and high-quality searchable video evidence around the clock.

The advances in technology around video surveillance now mean that law enforcement agencies worldwide can use digital footage to support cases. CCTV plays a fundamental role in our daily life in the UK alone, there are between 4 million and 5.9 million CCTV surveillance cameras protecting the public, their property and helping to prevent crime and bring criminals to justice. Whether it’s recording the most serious crimes and terrorist incidents as they happen, or simply monitoring individuals, it has become part of the fabric of modern society.

However, this ongoing progression in the use of video surveillance brings with it new challenges for data storage, and as the role of CCTV grows ever more important, it is critical that it is managed and protected in the correct way.

In particular, it’s vital to consider data storage and security, ensuring it abides by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Regulation of Investigatory Power Act. For digital evidence, it’s also important to be able to offer seamless scalability to accommodate rapid growth, along with a comprehensive suite of data security features that meet strict requirements for file integrity, privacy, chain of custody and compliance.

Validating a volume of data

In regards to capacity, video and digital images are exceptionally heavy users of storage space and the guidelines around managing evidentiary data are key to it being recognised as a valid source by the criminal justice system. Not only are more videos being created due to the ever-increasing number of surveillance cameras but the resolution and specifications are also constantly increasing in quality and therefore creating larger files.

Many organisations require higher-resolution video to ensure compliance with insurance providers, maximise loss recovery and strengthen criminal cases in court, for example. It is therefore essential that data is stored in a solution that is scalable and cost-effective, allowing customers to add capacity as and when needed, as running out of storage space is not an option.

Time in storage – when to let go

In addition to the intimidating amount of storage that evidentiary videos and images consume, police departments and other law enforcement agencies must also address the retention requirements that govern how long video surveillance and images must be kept. Storage capacity needs (and costs) obviously increase the longer surveillance videos are retained; ideally, video should be stored no longer than required by law.

Storage solutions that incorporate policy-based rules for data retention can help police departments to, for example, significantly boost their storage efficiency by automatically keeping all surveillance videos only for their legally-mandated retention period.

Beyond the larger storage capacity that video surveillance footage demands, police and other law enforcement agencies are equally challenged by the manner in which electronic evidence must be stored. If the data collected is to be used to support legal cases, it is essential that it follows legal, compliance and regulatory legislation – otherwise critical evidence could be deemed inadmissible.

Chain of custody and the need for security

Security and chain of custody are perhaps two of the most important aspects to consider when it comes to ensuring digital video data is permissible in court. A digital chain of custody, including an audit trail, proves that any digital evidence is accurate and has not been deleted or altered in any way. A chain of custody includes the chronological documentation of the custody, analysis and configuration of physical or electronic evidence, to help prove in court that any evidence being used is correct and valid.

In the UK, digital evidence comes under the same laws as any other form of evidence, but in 2012 new guidelines were published in the ACPO Good Practise Guide for Digital Evidence to advise examiners on the authentication and integrity of evidence. The following four principles were created to help decide whether digital evidence can be used in court:

  • No action should change data that is relied on in court
  • Anyone accessing the original data should be competent and provide evidence of the relevance of access
  • An audit trail should be preserved and able to be checked by a third party
  • The person in charge of the investigation must ensure the law and these principles are upheld

Part of this process therefore relies on the security of the surveillance data – since no actions should cause the data to be changed, it is vital that it’s stored securely enough to prevent any unauthorised person having access to it at any point, thereby guaranteeing the integrity of the files. With adequate security measures in place within the storage solution, CCTV data is much more likely to be accepted in a court of law as evidence.

Businesses and government agencies are driving the demand to broadly deploy digital video surveillance systems, many of which include the latest technology capabilities. As part of this it’s important to consider the underpinning storage, ensuring that any data can meet the regulations, is securely protected and can handle large amounts of capacity – all of which is only set to grow.

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