2014 Mega breaches: 5 key takeaways

A new study by the Ponemon Institute outlines how the mega security breaches of 2014 are changing attitudes towards IT security.

The breaches affected the personal records and credit card information of more than 350 million people. The financial toll is estimated to be billions of dollars in cleanup expenses, fraud response costs, lost market valuation, reputation damage, lawsuits, and related expenses. IT managers face mega challenges as they try to protect data containing credit card information, financial transactions, and other personal information.

In this January 2015 study, 735 IT security practitioners were surveyed about the impact of the mega breaches on their budgets and compliance practices. Here are five key takeaways from the results.

1. More resources are allocated to preventing, detecting, and resolving data breaches.
61% percent of respondents say their budget or security increased by an average of 34%. 65% of respondents say the increased budget enabled investment in security technology to prevent and/or detect breaches.

The top five technology investments are:

  1. Security Incident & Even Management (SIEM) (50%).
  2. Endpoint security (48%).
  3. Intrusion detection and prevention (44%).
  4. Encryption and tokenization (38%).
  5. Web application firewalls (37%).
Source: Ponemon Institute

2. Senior management level of concern about cyber defense has risen dramatically to 7.8.
Before the Target breach, the level was 5.7 out of ten. In addition, 55% of respondents rate senior management’s concern as extremely high. Prior to the Target breach, only 13% of respondents believed senior management was extremely concerned. Overall concern among C-level executives was up by about 37%.

Source: Ponemon Institute
Source: Ponemon Institute

3. Senior management realizes the need for a stronger cyber defense posture.
The majority of respondents (72%) reported that after the breaches, their companies provided tools and personnel to contain and minimize breaches. 67% say their organization made sure IT had the budget necessary to defend against breaches.

4. Companies have changed their operations and compliance processes.
60% of respondents say they made changes to operations and compliance processes to improve their ability to prevent and detect breaches.

5. Many companies fail to prevent the breach with the technology they currently have.
65% of respondents say that attacks evaded existing preventive security controls. 46% say the breach was discovered by accident.

Machine vision: 100% assembly line inspection

Machine vision technology—the image-based automatic inspection process—has matured greatly and is now becoming an indispensable tool in manufacturing to increase quality and profitability. USB 3.0, with its 5-Gbps throughput and ability to send power and data over the same line, has greatly contributed to this growth.

What is machine vision?
Machine vision is an image-based, automatic inspection and analysis system for applications, such as process control. It automatically takes pictures to inspect materials as they come down the assembly line.

Other machine vision applications include:

  • PCB inspection.
  • Medical vial inspection.
  • Robot guidance and orientation of components.
  • Engine parts inspection.

Machine vision uses a small industrial camera and lights mounted near an assembly line to take pictures of product as it passes. The images are then analyzed by software to determine if various aspects of the product meet acceptable specifications. For instance, if a label is misplaced, the bottle will be rejected. All of this is done at incredibly high speeds—fractions of a second.

Years ago, machine vision systems were very expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in the last 15 years or so, advances in technology have brought the cost of machine vision down, making it a practical solution for 100 percent quality control. And the cost for implementing machine vision keeps decreasing as technological capabilities increase.

Machine vision is now an indispensable tool for quality assurance, sorting, and material handling in every industry, including electronics, food processing, pharmaceuticals, packaging, automotive, etc. It is an economical way to make sure sub-spec product is rejected. Machine vision can be used to inspect for geometry, placement, packaging, labeling, seal integrity, finish, color, pattern, bar code, and almost any other parameter you can think of.

USB 3.0 and machine vision
USB 3.0 brings a number of advantages to machine vision systems. Because of its 5-Gbps throughput, ten times more than USB 2.0, it eliminates problems of stability and low latency for image transmission and camera control. USB 3.0 enables the transmission of higher-resolution, higher-frame rate video with no loss of quality.

USB 3.0 also sends data and power on the same line. This is enough to power a camera without worrying about a separate power supply or power line.

In addition, compared to older systems, USB 3.0 is plug-and-play, making it easy to swap out cameras and other hardware, such as USB 3.0 extenders, hubs, and other devices.

5 Reasons to use AV over IP

You’ve been tasked to engage your audience with real-time, media-rich content. In other words, send high-quality images over a local area network (LAN). Before you get your cables in a bunch, consider AV over IP.

Sending high-quality images and video over a LAN has never been easier or more advantageous. Benefit from full HD capabilities with ultra-low latency and the ability to introduce dynamic content.

Sounds great, but what exactly is AV over IP?
AV over IP is the transport of audio visual (AV) signals over a standard Ethernet network including HD video, audio, control signals, and peripheral signals.

Why use AV over IP?
1. Scalability
The technology eliminates port limitations, which means from one single source you can reach hundreds of displays. Therefore, the number of displays you can reach are only limited by the number of ports in your network.

2. Flexibility
AV over IP solutions from the right vendor provides flexibility to manage multiple displays remotely. As you grow your signage in various locations, a high-end AV over IP device is necessary to easily manage both content and the performance status of each display. This device allows you to bring multiple information sources to a display, including media-rich presentations with full video. Furthermore, it’s possible to display rich interactive content with live RSS feeds and introduce static logos for consistent branding.

3. Distance
Go the distance with AV over IP. This technology has no distance limitations; send video as far as your network reaches.

Although standard Ethernet segments are limited to 330 feet, switches or repeaters can be added to get additional distance. For very long runs, runs between buildings, or in installations in industrial environments with high levels of EMI, standard Ethernet media converters can be used with the system to convert the electrical signals into optical ones for transport over fiber cable.

4. Image Quality
Experience lossless video and ultra-low latency with AV-over-IP.

In venues such as sports stadiums, digital signage is everywhere. For the signage that streams live video of the sporting event, latency is a huge problem. For instance, fans waiting at concession stands could hear the cheering crowd and look to digital signage only to experience a four- or five-second delay for the “live” content to come through.

High-end AV over IP systems placed in stadiums, for example, can use compression algorithms such as H.264 to send packetized data over increasingly long distances. Such compression shrinks the signal delay down to an unnoticeable two or three frames per second. This gives the patrons an enhanced experience when viewing live content.

5. Cost savings
To implement AV over IP, use your existing network equipment. Since AV over IP can be set up over existing LAN lines, there is no need to tear up the walls and install separate cabling. This eliminates the need for expensive electrical contractors.

Purchasing a digital signage content publisher and manager also is an efficient one-time investment. Avoid the need to produce and mount traditionally printed signage and work with the inflexibility of non-networked systems.

So, where is AV over IP implemented?
Sending AV signals over IP introduces a simpler way for companies to better engage viewers by providing richer and more varied content to multiple locations. Today’s consumer expects immediate information. Digital signage can incorporate multimedia that meets this expectation by presenting fresh content that holds the customer’s attention.

We see AV over IP technology used in retail stores, corporate communications, schools, cinemas/theaters, health care, broadcast, command and control, security, exhibitions, concerts, and events.

The demand for real-time content has driven the need for AV-over-IP appliances in these settings. The AV-over-IP devices act as plug in and play, and are controlled by Web browsers. Additional benefits include easy installation and customization.

Next steps
Now that you’re aware of the numerous reasons to use AV over IP, how will you implement the technology at your business?

If you’re ready to explore some AV-over-IP solutions, consider Black Box. The MediaCento IPX is an award-winning HDMI-over-IP solution. We also have a host of ProAV solutions, such as HDMI matrix switches, scalers, and video wall controllers. See the full list.

Use KVM extenders for a better work environment

What is a KVM extender?
KVM stands for “keyboard, video, and mouse,” and a KVM extender is basically a device that extends these interfaces and enables remote access to a computer over distances from a few feet up to several miles, or even over the Internet. A KVM extender unit consists of a transmitter device, sometimes called “local unit,” and a receiver device, also called “remote unit.” These devices can be connected over either CATx copper or fiber cable, and the newest technology can even extend signals over a standard IP network. You can connect your PC to a transmitter at work and plug in the receiver at your home office and work at your computer, just like you would with a direct connection.

What are the interfaces being used?
The video interface is usually either DVI or HDMI on most modern devices, while older computers might be equipped with VGA only. In the past, keyboard and mouse were always separate interfaces and were using a PS2 6-pin mini-DIN connector. That technology has been almost completely phased out, and now USB is the standard connector. It usually doesn’t matter where you plug in your mouse or keyboard, as long as it is a USB port. Other optional interfaces that can be supported are audio and RS-232.

Why would anyone need a KVM extender?
Computer fans are loud, and computer CPUs have fans for cooling because they generate a lot of heat. Plus, they take up a lot of space. None of these features is ideal in an office environment. By using a KVM extender, CPUs can be backracked in a server room in a temperature-controlled environment. All the user needs is a tiny receiver unit on the desk where the keyboard, video display, and mouse would be connected. An industrial environment has different challenges. The work environment might be dusty or dirty—areas where regular CPUs with fans will not last long. The fans will pull the dirt into the cabinet, clogging it up and causing the computer to overheat. By using a KVM extender, the PC can be relocated to a cleaner environment, and the keyboard, video, and mouse workstation can be connected to a remote KVM unit that is fanless. These are just two examples of how KVM extenders are being used, but the variety of applications for KVM extenders is extensive. Learn more at Blackbox.com/KVM-Extenders or check out our KVM Extenders Selector.

Credit card liability shift leads retailers to PoS upgrade

The U.S. is the last major market in the world to use magnetic-stripe swipe-and-sign credit card systems. These legacy credit cards are also one of the big reasons why almost half of the world’s credit card fraud happens in America although the U.S. accounts for only a quarter of all credit card transactions. The Target breach affected the credit card information of about 40 million people and the personal data of up to 70 million people.

The rest of the world uses EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) credit cards. The cards have a chip embedded in them that stores customer data. They are considered much safer than magnetic point-of-sale-infrastructurestripe cards and are much more difficult to hack. The U.S. has been years behind the rest of the world in adopting chip-embedded credit cards. But that is changing.

The push is on in the U.S. to get everyone switched over to the EMV system by October 2015. That’s when there will be a big shift in credit card fraud liability.

After the October deadline, if a retailer is still using the old swipe system, the liability for any fraudulent transactions shifts from the financial institution to the merchant if the consumer is using a chip card.

The shift also involves the opposite scenario. If a retailer has the new terminal, but the bank hasn’t issued a new chip-embedded card, the liability for fraud rests with the bank.

Many U.S. banks, credit unions, and credit card issuers have already issued chip-enabled cards or are in the process of changing over to them. The big question is will retailers be ready?

New PoS terminals
Currently, consumers swipe legacy magnetic-stripe credit cards at point-of-sale (PoS) terminals. The new chip-enabled cards require different processing terminal called a “chip-and-dip.” Instead of swiping, the consumer inserts (or “dips”) the card into the EMV processor. This requires retailers to invest in new equipment and, possibly, new infrastructure to support the processors.

Some retailers, such as Walmart, have already installed checkout terminals that can process the chip-and-pin cards. Other retailers are in the process of installing the new terminals.

One national retailer, a longtime Black Box customer, is using this opportunity to upgrade its infrastructure from the data center to the IDF at the front-line cash registers. The upgrade includes installing new horizontal CATx cable, patch cables, patch panels, and secure wallmount cabinets.

Depending on the network (retail or not), other extension and IDF upgrades can include:

For the key structured cabling standards, you may be interested in this white paper: Structured Cabling Standards and Organizations.

Factory automation: four problem-solving technologies

There is a new industrial revolution. It’s combining advancements in machines and controls with advancements in computing and communications from the Internet revolution. Today’s technology is being applied in ways not even thought of even 10 years ago to solve problems and increase industrial productivity.

That’s where the challenge of mixing new and existing technologies in an industrial environment comes in. Here are four problem-solving technologies for industrial networking.

1. Fiber for distance and EMI/RFI immunity.
Fiber optic cable is often the preferred cable choice in industrial environments because it can cover very long distances and offers immunity to electrical interference.

Fiber doesn’t have the 100-meter distance limitation of twisted pair copper, so it can support distances from 300 meters to 40 kilometers, or more, depending on the style of cable, wavelength, and network.

Fiber also provides extremely reliable data transmission. It’s completely immune to many environmental factors that affect copper cable. The fiber is made of glass, which is an insulator, so no electric current can flow through. It is not affected by electromagnetic interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, impedance problems, and more. You can run fiber next to industrial equipment without worry.

2. A ring topology for redundancy.
Although Ethernet is usually thought of as having a star topology, it’s possible to build an Ethernet network as a ring. This is often used in applications where it may be difficult to run fiber in a star formation from a central switch, such as in industrial or even traffic signal applications.

One industrial networking scenario involves connecting industrial devices, such as computer numeric controlled (CNC) machines, to hardened Ethernet switches. The switches are set up in a ring topology for maximum reliability with a failover time of less than 30 ms, which is virtually instantaneous. The ring has the advantage of providing a redundant pathway if a link goes down. If one part of the ring fails, traffic will automatically reverse direction.

3. Machine vision and USB 3.0.
Machine vision is an image-based automatic inspection technology that is now an indispensable tool for quality assurance, sorting, and material handling in every industry, including electronics, food processing, pharmaceuticals, packaging, automotive, etc. Machine vision technology incorporates cameras, PCs, software, and other hardware to automatically take pictures and inspect materials as they pass along an assembly line.

Machine vision is an economical way to make sure sub-spec product is rejected. It can be used to inspect for geometry, placement, packaging, labeling, seal integrity, finish, color, pattern, bar code, and almost any other parameter you can think of.

USB 3.0 greatly enhances machine vision systems. Because of USB 3.0’s 5-Gbps throughput, ten times more than USB 2.0, it eliminates problems of stability and low latency for image transmission and camera control. USB 3.0 enables the transmission of higher-resolution, higher-frame video with no loss of quality.

4. Industrial serial connections.
Industrial control is a designation for the devices that interface with machinery such as packaging machines, generators, lathes, and even scales. Although most of today’s IT runs on Ethernet, industrial devices often use an RS-232, RS-485, or RS-422 serial interface. To capitalize on the investment in the industrial equipment and machinery, interface converters and line drivers can be used to provide the link between older RS-232/422/485 equipment connections and newer USB and Ethernet networks.

RS-232 transmits data at speeds up to 115 kbps and over distances up to 50 feet, although higher distances can be achieved by using low-capacitance cable. Both sync and async binary data transmission fall under RS-232. Although the original RS-232 connector is DB25, DB9 and RJ-45 connectors are now more common. Also, industrial devices often use a terminal block instead of a connector for the RS-232 interface. RS-232 is somewhat restricted as an industrial interface because of its restricted range and because it only supports point-to-point links.

For a far more detailed study of industrial communications, see the white paper: Elements of an RS-422/RS-485 System.

How to choose and use PVC and plenum cable

Deciding between PVC and plenum cable is very important because the type of cable you choose can have critical consequences.

The difference between PVC and plenum is the type of jacket that surrounds the cable. Whether you choose PVC- or plenum-jacketed cable depends on where you are going to use the cable. Most of the time, the type of cable depends on your local building codes and/or the age and design of the building.

What’s plenum?
First, let’s define plenum. The term plenum is an HVAC term. A plenum space is the part of a building, or pathway, designed for circulating heated and cooled environmental air and for return airflows. In most buildings, the space above the ceiling or below a raised floor is used for HVAC air. Duct work is also considered a plenum. A plenum ceiling is where the air is forced through the ceiling rather than being ducted.

Plenum spaces are air tight and usually have a greater atmospheric pressure and a greater oxygen content. Plenums can be particularly dangerous in case of fire. The oxygen can turn a small spark into an out-of-control fire. And because the air is forced through the plenum, smoke and fire can very quickly travel throughout the building. If cable is run through a plenum, it must be a plenum-rated cable if no conduit is used.



Plenum cable
Plenum cable has a flame-resistant jacket and is usually made of fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP), such as Teflon® by DuPont. The coating is designed to lower the emission of toxic fumes or smoke when burned. Plenum cable is designed to have a low fire-spread index. It must self extinguish and not reignite. Plenum cable is designated CMP for data communication cable.

Low Smoke, Zero Halogen (LS0H, LSZH)
LS0H is a type of plenum cable with a thermoplastic or thermoset compound in the jacket. It limits the emission of smoke and corrosive gases and permits no halogens to be released when exposed to high heat or flames. Halogen in cable jackets is considered to be a good flame retardant, but it emits toxic fumes and smoke when exposed to flame and it can create acid when exposed to moisture. LS0H cables are ideal for use in areas with poor ventilation, such as aircraft and rail cars. They are commonly used in Europe.

One of the differences between plenum cable and LS0H cable is that plenum construction is designed to reduce the amount of smoke. Also plenum cable releases halogen when burned, while LS0H does not.

PVC cable
PVC cable features an outer polyvinyl chloride jacket that gives off smoke and toxic fumes when it burns. It’s most commonly used between the wallplate and workstation. It can be used for horizontal and vertical runs, but only if the building features a contained ventilation system. If PVC cable is used in a plenum, it will spread fire and noxious, black smoke throughout the building. PVC cable is designated CM or CMR.

If you’re not sure if you need to use a plenum cable or not, check with the NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) the National Electric Code (NEC), or your local city department.

Insurance and cable
Because plenum cable is less toxic than PVC cable, it is often specified for use throughout schools and hospitals, often due to insurance requirements. A fire in these facilities could prove to be catastrophic because of the large number of people.

Installation ease
PVC cable is the most flexible cable and thus easier to install. Plenum and LS0H jackets are slightly thicker and heavier making installation a little more difficult.

The expense factor
Generally, PVC cable is less expensive than plenum or LS0H cable. If plenum cable is not required or specified in a project, PVC cable will most likely be used. If you’re having a contractor install cable, make sure you specify what type of cable you want to use and where. Some unscrupulous contractors will use PVC cable in plenum spaces just to cut costs. Some organizations, to be on the safe side, are stipulating the use of plenum cable throughout the building.

Alphabet soup
CM, CMR, and CMP. You see these printed on cable jackets, but what do they mean? In the US, the NEC specifies the environment where each cable is used. There are actually 16 ratings, but only the most common are listed here. You can substitute a higher level of cable for a lower one, but not the reverse.

CMP: Communications (Plenum). This cable can be used in any spaces, ducts, plenums, and spaces used for environmental air. Cables that are plenum rated meet the NFPA-262 safety standard. No substitutions. (Canada: CSA FT6)

CMR: (Riser). This cable can be use in vertical runs in a shaft or from floor to floor. Not for use in environmental air spaces. Cable must self-extinguish and prevent the flame from traveling in a vertical burn test. Cables that are riser rated meet the UL-1666 safety standard. Substitution: CMP.

CM or CMG: Communications (General Purpose). This cable is for use in locations other than risers or plenums. It is often used for workstations and patching. It has less strict burn test requirements than CMR cable, but still has to self extinguish. Cables that are general purpose meet the UL-1685 safety standard. Substitution: CMP, CMR (Canada: CSA FT4).

Burn testing
To ensure consistent quality, legitimate cable companies put their cable through burn testing at national recognized testing labs, such as UL or ETL. Four times a year, Black Box sends random samples of cable from our warehouse out for testing.

Graphics courtesy of D Mahalko.

Why you should use digital signage enclosures

A digital signage deployment isn’t truly complete until an enclosure has been included. The practical benefits to even the most simple digital signage enclosure are numerous, and if a signage display is going to be outdoors, it’s ever more important to pick the right enclosure for a player.

An enclosure is the first line of defense signage has against any type of tampering. At its most basic, a locking metal box around a player prevents vandalism, cable disconnects, or even repositioning. An enclosure protects the investment that digital signage represents. Most enclosures feature Gorilla® Glass, which is easier to clean off than an LCD or plasma screen of a display. Plus, it’s tough, and can usually prevent damage from thrown or wielded objects.

digital-signage-enclosureAesthetically, an enclosure is the difference between a nicely framed and matted picture and a poster tacked to a wall. A digital signage screen in the proper enclosure has a neat appearance. The enclosure encompasses cables and other connections, giving a mounted display a contained, well-maintained appearance. Additionally, an enclosure is an opportunity for branding—a canvas as it were, for logos, team colors, and other messaging.

Another practical consideration for digital signage is mounting, and enclosures give users more options than a player on its own.

If digital signage displays are going to be placed outside, enclosures are not optional. Enclosures protect signage from the elements and regulate operating temperatures. Rated with an Ingress Protection (IP) Code, it is clear what digital signage enclosures protect against. Usually two numbers, the IP Code rates for solid particle protection (0-6) and liquid ingress protection (0-9), with 0 meaning no protection; 6 meaning dust-tight; and 9 meaning protection against close range, high-pressure water jets. For most outdoor applications, the most popular ratings are 65 (dustproof and water resistant) and 67 (dustproof and waterproof, including short immersion in water).

Outdoor enclosures also employ glass treatments for optimal visibility. A UV-absorbent film placed over the glass ensures no glare on the screen. Polarized glass will disperse light rays instead of letting them penetrate the enclosure, but at the same time, let light out for easy viewing of screen content.

In short, when purchasing a digital signage system, remember to research and choose the right enclosure to protect your digital signage investment for years to come.