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Intrusion Detection Systems

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Intrusion detection systems, also called alarm systems, are a tremendous technical security asset. Like most technical security systems, intrusion detection systems are designed to either function as standalone systems or as part of a comprehensive security solution consisting of several security systems. Intrusion detection systems are a basic component of most security designs and provide many key attributes to a security solution.

When deployed properly, intrusion detection systems are a critical security layer. When deployed improperly in facilities with highly valuable assets, the system serves as a technical security vulnerability that provides a false sense of security.

The O will focus this blog on general information pertaining to intrusion detection systems and focus future blogs on effective and ineffective deployment of these systems.

The heart of intrusion detection systems is the main panel. The main panel is where all programming logic is stored, communication hardware is interfaced, and all other main system functions take place. Most intrusion detection system control panels are also able to accommodate a minimal number of direct-connect intrusion sensors and keypads. The main system panels typically have a dedicated keypad or serial connection for programming. Although each system is slightly different in design, programming, and features, nearly all have the same basic functionality. Each system will monitor the associated intrusion detection sensors, have a means for its owner to arm and disarm the system, and communicate any alarms to remote monitoring facilities.

Many facilities require a greater number of detection sensors than can be wired to the main panel. In facilities with this scenario, expansion panels are used to connect additional devices. The expansion panels are all connected by a communication bus to allow them to interoperate and communicate with the main system panel so that it all functions as one large intrusion detection system. The expansion panels can either be collocated with the main system panel or distributed throughout the facility in logical locations near the sensors to decrease the amount of wiring required. The expansion panels provide tremendous flexibility given that they can be added after the initial installation is complete. This allows for any future additions to the intrusion detection system.

Wireless intrusion detection systems are also gaining popularity. The main benefits are the time, inconvenience, and money saved that is traditionally required to run cable from the panels to the sensors. Wireless intrusion detection systems certainly have their attractive benefits, but also have several vulnerabilities that need to be considered when deciding which infrastructure is best for new installations. Like any wireless communication devices, power is required to transmit data to receivers. These transmission components are usually powered by batteries, which is the biggest disadvantage to wireless intrusion detection systems. If the system is not maintained and routinely tested, the zones will cease communication when the batteries fail. In addition to batteries, there are other vulnerabilities with wireless systems, but mainly related to high security installations. Radio frequency flooding and other sophisticated techniques can be extremely effective in disabling wireless systems, but these types of advanced attacks would unlikely be deployed against most common facilities.

Intrusion detection systems offer a wide variety of detectors and sensors. These devices are designed to consider aesthetics, environment, and other important conditions that determine what type of detection device is best for the given situation. For example, the use of infrared technology is very common in places where the ambient temperature is kept at comfortable levels, but would be highly ineffective if installed in hot areas. Each sensor technology including infrared, microwave, vibration, seismic, thermal, glass break, ultrasound, and many others use different methods of detecting intruders. Each type of device has advantages and limitations. The numerous sensor types can be confusing, but provide tremendous advantages in intrusion detection system effectiveness when expert integrators like those who work for Orion Security Solutions are called upon to optimize the system design.

Intrusion detection systems are comprehensive and will be covered more in future blogs here at The O. Don’t miss next week’s blog where we will cover another exciting technical security topic.

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Sean Crain is founder and CEO of Orion Security Solutions (OSS). Prior to starting OSS, Sean spent over eight years with the U.S. Department of State as a Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Officer working in nearly 40 countries on 6 continents around the world including Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Switzerland, Indonesia, Australia, Cambodia, Austria, Germany, Poland, Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Brazil, Peru, and Columbia.

He received advanced training in the techniques and methodologies of counter intelligence and anti-terrorism in order to carry out responsibilities which included designing, installing, and maintaining state-of-the-art security solutions to protect national security information, U.S Embassies and other sensitive U.S. facilities, and diplomatic personnel, including U.S. Presidents and Secretaries of State. Sean was also called upon to design and implement security protocols and systems which included video surveillance, intruder detection, access controls, locks, perimeter security, and assessments. He also played an integral role in writing the U.S. Department of State security policies for post communications centers, controlled access areas, and building management systems in U.S. Embassies, U.S. Consulates, and inter-agency facilities worldwide.