There’s a wide range of meanings that can be ascribed to the word “security” in higher education. From IT security to physical security to safety and emergency response, many disciplines fall under the term “security.” Schools typically address these issues in an overall operational security policy, which dictates the overall security posture of the organization. The operational security policy covers a variety of assets, including physical assets like chairs, intellectual assets like data, as well as actual people on campus. School officials use the estimated risk they expect people and property to face to determine the appropriate amount of effort required to keep assets (and people) safe. Audio/video professionals need to be aware of the operational security policy of the institution, as systems designs often must address many of these concepts.
As it becomes increasingly common for AV systems to integrate with or migrate onto enterprise networks, organizations expect AV system designers and managers to maintain policies and practices that align with IT security goals. Any device, including AV devices, has the potential for vulnerabilities that a sufficiently determined attacker could exploit. This is an unfortunate fact of life. However, because university and college campus networks are constantly encountering attacks, it is imperative for universities to recognize potential weaknesses and devise a plan for ensuring that AV systems and assets remain secure.
IT security itself breaks down into three basic areas. First, there is network security. This includes security features that protect the network itself, such firewalls and VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks). Secondly, there is user access control, which protects how people access information, ensuring the right people access only the right information. User access control features include user accounts, passwords, permissions and encryption among others. Finally, there is host access control, which protects the servers themselves from infection from viruses or malware that could result in unauthorized information access and transmission. AV implementations can address these issues in a variety of ways, including properly isolating AV devices (as the system design allows) and using LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) to centralize control of which users have access to which part of AV devices and systems.
Physical security is primarily concerned with restricting unauthorized access to controlled facilities, systems, and equipment. Physical security can be as simple as a locked door or as elaborate as deploying multiple layers of barriers, access control systems, video security, guards and more. Audio/Video assets are primary targets for unauthorized use and theft. Not only are these products valuable, they are often exposed to and are accessible by the public. This is a volatile combination that universities must constantly address.
A good place to start is to consult and work with the campus security professionals. At the very least, make sure they are aware of the location and value of AV equipment, and have a basic understanding of who should and should not have access. There is a variety of technology solutions available to address this, including managed room access, lock systems, RFID inventory tags and more. You can also protect valuable equipment with proprietary security screws, locked cabinets, and security mounts like those available for AMX touch panels. You should also make sure your equipment closets are on the guard or video tour.
Safety and Emergency Response
Ultimately, the safety of students, faculty and visitors is of utmost importance to colleges and universities. With proper planning and system integration, audio/video systems can play an important role in helping secure and protect a campus. At their core, AV systems are about communicating. Consider the effectiveness of integrating AV and sound systems into building management systems (BMS) for automatic responses to alerts and other announcements. Audio/video technologies in place within classrooms and hallways are important resources and should tie into emergency messaging systems such as zoned public address systems and digital signage.
As illustrated in this informative video on Smart Buildings, proper integration of AV and building management systems can enable a whole host of facility efficiency and safety capabilities. From lighting and HVAC, to access control, learn how to connect building systems to create a truly intelligent environment that configures and monitors all building systems.
As you can see, “security” is quite a broad topic in higher education, and the methods to address these varying security requirements are just as broad. However, with a holistic and calculated approach to your system AV, you can sufficiently address many of the concerns of operation security in colleges and universities.
What types of “security” issues have you dealt with in higher education? Let us know in the comments.