Seven lessons of conference system security: Part 1

The advent of wireless and IP-based solutions has raised the stakes for conferencing system security. But, as David Davies discovers, a myriad of options mean that it isn't necessarily easy for a venue to determine its ideal solution.
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Nuclear Security Summit 2014 in The Hague with the DCN multimedia Conference System from Bosch_4credit Jacot Audiovisueel

The advent of wireless and IP-based solutions has raised the stakes for conferencing system security. But, as David Davies discovers, a myriad of options mean that it isn't necessarily easy for a venue to determine its ideal solution.

How secure is your conferencing system? It might seem like a simple question, but the wide variety of technologies involved in such systems – not to mention the extent to which the issue of security can be regarded as a subjective one – means that it’s not necessarily that straightforward to answer.

The increasing ubiquity of wireless conference systems has, however, served to push the topic up the agenda. For example, is it really practical, some wonder, to deploy systems that run conventionally on WiFi – not just for reasons of security, but for fear of interference in an evermore congested operational landscape?

Looking into the future a little, a greater tendency towards integration into facility-wide networked systems is also bound to increase the focus on security matters. So with this in mind, Installation worked to identify seven ‘lessons’ which, if got to grips with, might help define a clearer pathway for customers seeking security in an evermore complex infrastructure for conference AV.

1. Clients must have a clear understanding of their security needs.

Few would contest the assertion by Thomas Giczy, business development manager installed sound for AKG, that “the question of security unifies all conferences. I do not know any place where organisers would not care.” Equally, however, the scope of security measures required can vary considerably from client to client.

“The level of security is mostly determined by the type of meeting,” says Lars Van Den Heuvel, director global product management conference systems, Bosch Security Systems. “[For example] within governmental environments this can range from open meetings with access by the public, to complete secret meetings in which all media connections to the outside world are disconnected. It all relates to the topics discussed within such meetings.”

Customers, therefore, need to have a clear outline of the safeguards required going into a new project. Kristoff Henry, product marketing manager at Televic Conference, identifies two primary considerations: “Security from the point of view that a conference system’s reliability and stability can be affected by security breaches and intrusion from the outside. Also, security from the [perspective] of secrecy or confidentiality… how easy is it to pick up the audio of what is being discussed in the room?”

2. There is a fundamental choice between wired and wireless systems.

In real terms, wireless conferencing systems are in their infancy, and continue to be outnumbered by wired solutions. For reasons of track record and longevity alone, then, conference venue owners may instinctively favour wired systems. However, their feelings may be strengthened by those who maintain that, security-wise, some wireless systems are not yet entirely fit for purpose.

Romano M Cunsolo is director marketing & business development at Xavtel, which recently launched its Senator System that delivers a (proprietary protocol-using) networked and wired solution. “One of the reasons we do not go wireless so far with Xavtel is the security issue,” says Cunsolo. “I totally understand that sometimes people like to have a wireless system, but so far I believe that a real secure ‘encryption’ is not yet there. Having a closed network on a wire with a proprietary protocol still seems the most secure approach.”

Many others, however, would contend such claims about wireless. “The belief that wired is more secure than wireless systems is no longer applicable as there are a number of secure wireless systems available,” says Stuart Stephens, systems project engineer, Shure Distribution. By way of example, he points to Shure’s own ULX-D, Microflex Wireless and recently launched QLX-D systems, which “all offer AES-256 encryption for applications where security is paramount”.

To read the full feature, go to Installation's July 2014 digital edition.

www.akg.com
www.boschsecurity.com
www.shuredistribution.co.uk
www.televic-conference.com
www.xavtel.com

Picture courtesy of Jacot Audiovisueel, www.jacot.nl

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