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Posts Tagged ‘Small Business’

‘Tis the season to winterize your facility

The Ohio Valley skipped right over fall and went straight to winter, it would seem. Aside from being unpleasant to go from 80-degree afternoons one week to 30-degree highs the next, such rapid shifts posed a threat to business continuity.

The ice storm that rolled through the region recently might not have wreaked the havoc it did if it had showed up in, say, January rather than mid-November. Why? Many trees were still holding on to most of their leaves. Ice clung to the leaves, weighing down the limbs and causing them to break off. The crashing limbs and trees took out power lines across the region, and left tens of thousands without power. It took as much as four days for power to be restored to some.

The early ice storm was a wake up call. Is your facility ready for unexpected weather events? Here’s how you can prepare:

Stock up now on surface treatment supplies. Make sure you have the proper equipment and chemicals available for treating parking lots and walkways. And don’t forget the inside of your facility, too – melting snow and ice tracked in through door ways can create a slip and fall hazard. Be ready with the necessary tools to keep those areas clean and dry, too.

Inspect shrubs, trees and roofs. Keep foliage trimmed back so it doesn’t hang over power lines or roofs. Check roofs for potential trouble spots, and make sure gutters and drainage systems are clear and functioning properly.

Take care of routine HVAC system maintenance. Evaluate performance and replace any filters or worn parts as needed to maintain efficient performance.

Review business continuity plans. If your business loses power, do you have a back up plan? If key personnel lose power at home are unable to get to work, do you have a back up plan? Now is the time to document and cross train to ensure smooth functioning.

Need help reviewing the safety and security of your facility? We can help. Call (800) 567-1180 for a consultation.

Will the next big IoT wave be smart cleaning?

ECT Services has long been the region’s leader for building integration. As the IoT revolution has gotten underway, we’ve been the go-to source for connecting smart HVAC systems; integrating fire suppression systems; and linking building access, communication, video surveillance and even sophisticated acoustic shot detection systems. All of these integrations put valuable information and insights into the hands of facilities managers.

The integrations result in expanded capabilities and increased efficiencies. Buildings become safer and more efficient. We’ve made it possible for a whole community of systems to talk to each other to create a better environment for the people that inhabit the buildings they power.

So, it seems logical to ask, “What will join the next conversation next?”

The answer may be, “A vacuum cleaner!”

A recent post on Energy Manager Today suggests that cleaning may be the next big area of opportunity for driving efficiencies from insights gathered via IoT. It’s already possibility to remotely monitor performance and use of equipment. Managers can tell whether or not a tool – a vacuum, for instance – is operating efficiently or requires servicing. They can monitor how long, where and by whom a tool is being used. Those insights could lead to more efficient usage, driving down maintenance and energy costs.

The next logical step is to move beyond reacting to being proactive. Integrated systems could detect increased activity in a building – perhaps due to ramping up staff – and anticipate greater usage of cleaning equipment. Rather than wait for a breakdown, the system could use predictive modeling to anticipate a more frequent need for routine maintenance, and automatically schedule accordingly.

Integrated systems could also see changes in building usage and adjust cleaning schedules accordingly. Areas that have seen little or no use could be scheduled for a simple check, while areas that have seen increased usage could be flagged for extra attention.

Cleaning is just one possible area for innovation in the smart buildings of the present and future. Whatever the next wave of building integration looks like, ECT Services has the experience and capabilities to maximize opportunities and drive the value. Interested in learning more? Call ECT Services at (800) 567-1180 today.

ECT Services partner HID rakes in five awards for excellence and innovation

It looks like HID is going to have to add a few new shelves to its trophy case. The identity solution provider raked in five awards from industry groups and publications in recent weeks.

Campus Security and Life Safety Magazine recognized HID’s cloud-based FARGO® Connect™card issuance offering with its 2018 Secure Campus award in the Cloud Solutions and Services category. HID FARGO Connect replaces the old paradigm of standalone printers tied to a dedicated PC workstation for ID issuance with the ability to issue ID cards from anywhere, from any device via a web interface in a trusted end-to-end encryption in a cloud environment. The FARGO Connect card issuance solution also tracks consumables use and helps control ID supply inventory.

HID Approve™ mobile authentication application was awarded New Product of the Year at the Info Security Global Excellence Awards gala ceremony during RSA 2018. HID Approve is a multi-factor authentication solution that equips users to authenticate and verify transactions.

HID’s Mini Tamper-Evident Beacon was recognized with the 2018 RFID Journal Live! Best New Product award. The beacon is the touted as the industry’s first Bluetooth beacon to provide anti-theft protection for IoT-based location services and conditioning monitoring applications. Use cases include monitoring gateways and portals and note when tagged assets approach; tracking temperatures, motion and vibration of machines for health and performance; and tracking inventory and equipment with 1 – 2 meter accuracy.

HID Trusted Tag Services for fire and safety compliance won Sales & Integration (SSI) magazine’s 2018 MVP award. The solution combines HID’s NFC trusted tags with their cloud-based authentication platform to add unique and trusted identities to everyday objects in the IoT, bridging the gap between physical maintenance and inspections and online management systems.

Cyber Defense Magazine also named HID Risk Management Solution the “Most Innovative Product” in the category of cyber security discovery during RSA 2018. The solution is a real-time cyber risk profiling technology that uses data analytics to protect transactions against cybercriminals. It combines evidence-based detection capabilities and behavioral biometrics, supported by machine learning, according to a release from HID.

What does this mean for ECT Services customers? It means you can trust us to partner with recognized industry leaders to provide the most innovative building automation and integration solutions available.

If you are interested in learning more about HID and our other partners, call us at (800) 567-1180 for a consultation.

 

 

 

Shut the front door with good password practices

The best building control and security systems can be defeated by something very simple: insecure passwords.

Easily compromised passwords expose vulnerabilities and make it possible for disgruntled former employees, hackers or other bad actors to wreak havoc.
Each year, SplashData releases its list of the worst passwords. The list is culled from passwords revealed by hacking attacks from that year. It’s hard to believe, but passwords such as “123456” and “qwerty” and even “password” still make the list, despite perennial warnings that these passwords are not secure.

Why do businesses spend thousands on sophisticated security and building control systems, only to leave them open to easy attacks? It’s a bit like installing a very fancy lock on your front door, and leaving the key in place.

Here are a few dos and don’ts for creating and maintaining more secure passwords:

Don’t use familiar terms
Names, significant dates and other personal details make it possible for hackers to guess. Especially as our lives are lived more and more online, and hackers become more and more sophisticated, it becomes fairly easy to discover your favorite team is UK and your favorite color is blue and your mother’s maiden name is Smith. Using any of those terms in a password is risky. Instead, use nonsense, unrelated terms. Be sure to mix capital letters in, as well as a digit or a symbol. You might even consider using an automated random password generator.

Don’t share
Don’t share passwords between accounts and systems. Sharing passwords between accounts and systems is a huge temptation, and almost everyone does it. But it makes it extremely easy for hackers to take over not just one account, but an entire identity.

Do change passwords regularly
Change passwords regularly, but not too frequently. Change passwords any time your business has a personnel change. When you have turnover, change any password used by that person at any time.
Encourage all personnel to change passwords annually. Any more frequently will likely result in compliance challenges.

It’s time for seasonal maintenance

Weren’t we shivering under a blanket of snow just a couple of weeks ago? Then temps became warmer, with sunshine abundant, and spring fever started setting in. Of course, then it snowed last night.

Spring will officially start on March 20. Between now and then we could see several inches of snow, afternoon highs in the 80s, tornadoes, floods and just about anything in between. If you have any doubts, just check your Facebook memories and you’ll probably see evidence of all of these weather conditions on this day over the last several years.

With spring on the way, now is the time to tackle some routine maintenance and seasonal tasks. Put these on your to-do list now:

Check outside lighting. Walk your parking areas and around the outside of your facility. Look for outside lighting that may have been damaged during snowy, icy weather. Look for light bulbs that have burned out and replace them.

Check landscaping. Flower beds, parking lot islands, sidewalks and lawn areas might have taken a beating when being plowed, scraped and salted this winter. Look for signs of damage and note needed repairs. Look for potholes in parking lots that need repair, and significant gaps or cracks in sidewalks that can cause slips and falls.

Check security cameras and alarms. Review the placement and condition of all inside and outside cameras. Inspect wiring, and check placement to be sure views haven’t shifted or otherwise been compromised.

Clean or change HVAC filters and schedule routine maintenance. Pollen is already flying, and more will be in the air soon. Cleaning or changing out filters is a must to keep allergen levels down inside your facility. Plus, the system is likely to have trapped a lot of debris over the winter months; cleaning or changing the filter is a must for keeping the system running at peak efficiency.

Review severe weather policies and procedures. Tornado season is already underway. Schedule a drill with your team and make sure they all know what to do in the case of severe weather. Update checklists and rosters, especially is you’ve welcomed new team members or made other personnel changes since your last drill.

If you’d like to know more about how you can optimize and integrate your building systems, call us at (800) 567-1180 for a consultation.

Axis Device Manager is on task for the future.

Remember that time hackers wiggled their way through security weaknesses in Internet-connected security cameras and unleashed the Mirai botnet, taking down major sites such as Twitter and Spotify?

The event highlighted the vulnerabilities exposed by IoT (Internet of Things) devices. The same devices that offer us incredible scalability and insight can also be used to disrupt our world when exploited by bad actors. That event and many others like it have prompted device developers to innovate and launch new platforms that step up security for connected devices.

Axis’ new Device Manager is the latest entry in the market. The new platform, which replaces Camera Management, offers users the ability to manage thousands of cameras, access control and audio devices in one place. Features include the ability to automatically assign IP addresses; install, configure, replace or upgrade devices; set restore points and factory default settings; upgrade device firmware; manage user accounts and passwords; copy configurations between thousands of devices; connect to multiple servers and systems; and deploy and renew HTTPS & IEEE 802.1x certificates.

“Being able to access and efficiently install, adapt and secure all of the devices on your network saves a tremendous amount of time and effort. AXIS Device Manager is the go-to tool for reaching all Axis devices — whatever stage of their lifecycle — and make needed adjustments,” said Ola Lennartsson, global product manager, System Management at Axis Communications in a press release.”

“In today’s fast-paced world, any device or network that is static is not only old-fashioned, it is potentially prone to cyber threats. Therefore it is important we ensure our customers can use a tool that allows them to easily, rapidly and decisively manage all of the devices on their network. AXIS Device Manager is that tool.”

Dynamic, centralized control of devices makes it easier to stay a step ahead or security threats, especially for larger installations across multiple locations.

Interested in learning more? Our team can take you through a system integration project from design to completion. Call (800) 567-1180 to arrange for a consultation.

Will processor chip vulnerabilities weaken your integrated building systems?

Shortly after the New Year, news broke world wide of potential weaknesses in the hardware that drives nearly every device on the planet from computers to smart phones. “Update everything now” dominated the news cycles for several days.

Now that the conversation has calmed a bit, facilities managers may be wondering, “What exactly was that all about, and how might it impact my integrated systems?” Here’s a high level explanation:

Last summer, researchers with Google and several universities discovered a new way hackers might be able to work their way around modern processors to gain access passwords and other sensitive information. One type of exploit was patchable, and patches were quickly developed and deployed.

The other approach is not so easily patchable, and will require a redesign of processors themselves. That will require years of research and work.
So, where does that leave the rest of the world? The situation may not be quite as dire or threatening as it seems. Keep in mind, these exploits were discovered by researchers. They are extremely novel approaches and will require a high level of expertise to develop attacks. To date, there’s no evidence that any attacks have been made using these weaknesses. Make no mistake, however, hackers are likely hard at work trying to figure out how to exploit these vulnerabilities, but right now security experts remain one step ahead with patches and other fixes.

Patches have already been pushed out, and longer term fixes will likely be ready by mid-year.

So what should you do in the meantime? The best thing to do is to make sure to implement all system updates in a timely fashion.

For our part, we have been vigorously researching the problem to determine if our customers’ integrated building systems will be impacted. Our goal is to bring you solid information and solutions that securely function and provide value.  We currently have no indication that these exploits have been used to obtain customer data, and we will continue to closely follow this situation.

ECT Services is dedicated to the safety and security of our customers.   As more information becomes available, we will continue to provide updates.   In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like further information, please contact us at (800) 567-1180. Thank you.

Can flu pose a security risk to your facility?

Flu activity is now widespread across much of the country, and hitting hard in the Ohio Valley. The strain going around this year seems to be particularly vicious and not included in the flu shot.

If it hasn’t already made its way through your staff, it probably will soon. Team members will be out sick or caring for sick family members. While having a team member out can be a challenge in terms of workload and project deadlines for the rest of the team, can it also pose a security risk?

Without proper planning and redundancies, yes. Being short staffed can lead to weaknesses in processes as overburdened staff members scramble to fill in gaps, especially if they are unfamiliar with systems or don’t have access to systems.

Here are some ideas for reducing the risk:

– Prevent the spread of the flu. The strongest weapon to combat the flu is simple hygiene. Make sure bathrooms are well stocked with handwashing supplies and cleaned and disinfected regularly. Post reminders in bathrooms and breakrooms about handwashing. Cleaning crews should also regularly wipe down light switch plates, door handles, counter tops, phones and any other surfaces that are touched frequently.

– Give clear guidance that those who are experiencing symptoms – fever, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea – should stay home. Support that by giving adequate sick days or allowing work to be made up later. Keeping sick workers out of the office is key to keeping the rest of the staff well.

– Cross train and document key roles. Make sure roles and basic duties are documented, and buddy up team members to cross train one another. Use regular staff meetings to give updates on key projects and issues so everyone has some familiarity with what other team members are doing, and can step in at a moment’s notice. Make it a practice to run emergency drills and review policies and procedures regularly, so staff members are always prepared.

– Where possible, allow work from home. If flu starts making its way through your staff, it might be best to allow team members to work from home to reduce their chances of being exposed. Consider flexible work policies when possible.

 

Active shooters are a liability risk

If an active shooter targets your facility, will your insurance policy protect you against claims from victims?

It’s hard to tell.

Current insurance policies aren’t clear, and neither is case law. That leaves open the possibility that if an active shooter causes harm in your facility, you could be open to a lawsuit from victims, and your insurance provider might push back against covering you.
As a result, some carriers are now offering stand along active shooter policies, according to a post on InsuranceJournal.com.

One program cited in the article includes liability coverage for “lawsuits arising from harm caused by attacks using deadly weapons.” The program also features risk assessment and crisis management services, as well as event responders and post-event counseling services.
Insurers originally began by offering the coverage to educational institutions, but now the coverage is offered to all types, including hospitals, sporting venues, retailers, religious organizations and more.

Business and organizations should also consider including fully integrated shooter detection systems alongside other safety and comfort systems like fire detection and suppression systems and HVAC systems.

Shooter Detection System’s Guardian uses acoustic and infrared sensors to instantly identify gunshots inside a facility. The precise location of the gunshots is noted, and authorities are alerted immediately. Warnings are also instantly sent out to people in the facility and vicinity advising them to evacuate or take cover. Guardian gunshot detection can also be integrated with a number of other systems, including text alerts, incident management dashboards and building systems like door locks and video surveillance.

The instantaneous response significantly cuts response time and reduces the opportunity for human error.

Interested in learning more about the Guardian active shooter detection system? Register now for one of our Live Fire events to see a live demonstration, or call us at (800) 567-1180.

ECT Services partners continue growth

Recent weeks have brought news of new integrations, products and acquisitions for several ECT Services partners.

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On December 1, HID Global announced the acquisition of Bluvision, adding enterprise Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to its capabilities.
Bluevision offers real-time location system technology, presence and proximity-based location capabilities and condition monitoring solutions as well as cloud infrastructure, gateways, beacons and software as a service (SaaS).The acquisition will expand HID’s real-time asset tracking capabilities and extend HID’s cloud services for access control and related applications.
HID also announced the launch of the industry’s first end-to-end identity access management solution that offers a single credential for accessing doors, IT systems, networks and data. HID PIV unifies physical and IT security systems, a must for government and regulated industries.
On December 5, Shooter Detection Systems announced that its Guardian Indoor Active Shooter Detection System now integrates with Software House’s C•CURE 9000 access control system.
Then integration will provides the ability for instant shot location information, initiation of lock down procedures, capturing live and recorded video from cameras in the incident related areas, and immediate notification to first responders.
On December 15, target=”_blank”>Axis announced it would begin marketing seven new models of Canon network cameras. According to a press release, the cameras include the VB-S30VE, a compact outdoor mini PTZ dome camera, and the VB-H761LVE, an outdoor fixed box camera with 20 times zoom and IR illumination. Most are designed for outdoor surveillance, and all offer HDTV 1080p resolution in full frame rate.
Looking for innovative, effective building integration solutions? We can connect you to the right partners.