How to purchase and install an SSL certificate for SecuritySpy

SecuritySpy has built-in support for HTTPS (HTTP Secure), which allows you to set up an encrypted web connection to your SecuritySpy server over the internet.

In order to set up any HTTPS server, an SSL certificate is required (SSL being the protocol that provides the security features to HTTPS). With some web servers this can be a complicated process, but we have designed SecuritySpy’s HTTPS server to be a simple as possible to set up: you simply enable the HTTPS option in the Web Server Settings window and SecuritySpy will do the rest for you. SecuritySpy will automatically create and use a “self-signed” certificate for this purpose, which gets you up and running immediately and provides a fully encrypted connection. The downside of such a certificate though is that it won’t be automatically trusted by any client software that you use to connect to SecuritySpy (e.g. a web browser such as Safari), so you will get a warning message to this effect. In this case though, as you are the one setting up the server, you can be assured of its authenticity, so it is safe to ignore such warnings.

The other option is to purchase an official certificate for your SecuritySpy server from a recognised Certificate Authority (CA). Any web browser connecting to SecuritySpy will automatically trust such a certificate, so the person viewing the web interface will see the reassuring padlock icon and no warning messages. This may be preferable, for example, if your server is to be viewed by people outside your organisation. Below are instructions on how to do this.

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Raspberry Pi Camera to SecuritySpy

Below is a guest post by one of our users, Wayne Jacobsen, who is using a Raspberry Pi computer to turn a USB webcam into an IP cam that can stream video to SecuritySpy, in order to expand his Mac video surveillance system. Wayne is an Art Glass artist  - you can see some of Wayne’s work on Pinterest. Wayne has contributed the following description of his setup:

The Raspberry Pi can make a nice security camera in a SecuritySpy system with surprisingly little effort. I wanted a way of seeing what temperatures my kilns were, especially when they were cool enough to open and take the glass out. I had a Raspberry Pi (RPi) equipped with USB WiFi dongle and an old Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 webcam sitting around from my old PC days. A little research on the web led me to many ways to use the RPi with the webcam and I used the instructions on this page as the basis of my setup. Someone has done all the software development work for us in a program call Motion.

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SecuritySpy and ONVIF

SecuritySpy is our flagship video surveillance software product for Mac OS X, and as of version 3.2, SecuritySpy supports the ONVIF protocol. Here are the answers to some common questions, and information about this new feature.

What is ONVIF?

ONVIF is an open industry standard for IP-based video surveillance products. In the past, SecuritySpy would have to be pre-programmed with profiles for each camera it supports, containing information about the supported streaming formats, audio capabilities, communication ports, resolutions, frame rates, Pan/Tilt/Zoom features etc. This is inconvenient and time-consuming for us as developers, and also bad for customers because there is an inevitable delay between a new camera coming on the market and an update to SecuritySpy to officially support it.

With ONVIF, all this information can be obtained from the camera automatically. Therefore, any new ONVIF-compliant camera hitting the market can be immediately used with SecuritySpy using the ONVIF setting built into the software.

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10 Recommended IP Cameras

The IP camera market is changing rapidly, and while we do make some specific camera recommendations in our SecuritySpy Installation Manual, we are always coming across new noteworthy cameras, and there are simply too many to list in the manual. So we have put together our current 10 recommendations for network cameras in this blog post – the cameras described here are in no particular order (they are quite varied in terms of cost and feature set, which makes them difficult to rank in a “top 10″ list), however they are all cameras, due to their impressive collections of features, that we recommend to our customers. All the cameras featured here are capable of MPEG-4 and/or H.264 compression, which can be directly recorded by SecuritySpy for optimum quality and efficiency.

1 Dahua Technology IPC-HFW2100

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Adding a Camera Unknown to SecuritySpy

We have an extensive list of cameras that are known to be compatible with SecuritySpy. All these cameras have profiles built into SecuritySpy, making for a quick and easy setup in most cases.

However, it’s a fast-changing market and new cameras are continuously being released. While we do our best to release frequent updates that support these new cameras, it’s a difficult task. You may find yourself intending to use a particular camera that is not yet on our list – this blog post will show you how.

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Comparison of Streaming Formats

The latest version of SecuritySpy supports new streaming formats which significantly enhance compatibility with new and existing network cameras. The following information about these formats will be useful when making purchasing decisions and setting up video surveillance systems based upon SecuritySpy.

Network Streaming Protocols
There are two main protocols used for carrying video and audio data over IP networks: HTTP and RTSP. Using these protocols, it is possible to transmit video and audio in various compression formats (JPEG, MPEG-4, H.264, AAC etc.).

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Setting Up SecuritySpy Over SSL

UPDATE 4 JUNE 2014: SecuritySpy now has built-in support for HTTPS, so the setup described below is no longer needed for setting up SecuritySpy over SSL (although it may still be useful for generating SSL keys, certificates and certificate signing requests for other purposes). See the Web Server Settings section in the SecuritySpy user manual for information about the built-in HTTPS feature.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a cryptographic protocol that provides secure communications on the internet. It uses two keys to encrypt data: a public key and a private key. URLs that require an SSL connection start with https:// insead of http:// and operate on port 443 instead of 80 by default. SSL increases security as it makes it impossible for someone intercepting the stream of data to decode any information from it.

SecuritySpy does not have built-in support for SSL, however Mac OS X comes with Apache, a fully-featured and powerful web server, that can be used to set up the secure communication between the internet and SecuritySpy. In this way, Apache will be acting as a secure “reverse proxy” web server for SecuritySpy. This post describes how to set this up.

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Protecting Yourself from Server Outages

When your SecuritySpy system is running autonomously at a remote location, there are a number of measures you can put in place to help ensure reliable operation, and to remotely control it if necessary, avoiding the need to physically visit the site to resolve any problems. Problems that may occur include computer crashes and router problems. Although such problems are rare, it is a good idea to implement some or all of the below suggestions, especially if the site is far away and a visit in person would be inconvenient.

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USB Cameras and SecuritySpy

We typically advise against using USB cameras with SecuritySpy. This is partly due to their general low video quality and short cable length, but also due to bandwidth limitations on the USB bus making it difficult to use multiple USB cameras at the same time. However, we understand that they can be an attractive option in some situations due to their low cost and simple plug-and-play connection to the computer. Therefore, a USB camera can potentially be a cheap and useful addition to a video surveillance system in certain circumstances.

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Network Topology

Overseeing a new installation of a video surveillance system recently gave me some useful insights into network hardware and layout. The system is relatively high-spec, using Arecont AV2100 and ACTi ACM-1231 megapixel network cameras, with a Mac Mini as the recording computer (running SecuritySpy of course!). If you are unfamiliar with Arecont, they produce simple box cameras with unparalleled visual quality. ACTi cameras were chosen for other areas because they offer additional features such as infrared night vision and audio.

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