Dangers of Deleting Surveillance Video

By: John Honovich, Published on Apr 20, 2010

In this update, we examine the risks of deleted surveillance video and best practices / settings to minimize this problem.

Fairly regularly, a news story emerges about surveillance video of a criminal incident mysteriously disappearing. In March 2010, surveillance video went missing of an American football star accused of rape. In April 2010, the University of Maryland reported that surveillance video of a civil disturbance was lost. In the Mayland case, officials noted that the video automatically overwrites older video and that somehow a 2 minute gap appeared in the exported video.

While we cannot make meaningful observations on these specific cases, they are certainly consistent with a common problem in surveillance video use. Whether maliciously or by accident, surveillance video of important incidents can be lost.

How Recording / Deletion of Surveillance Video Works

By default almost all VMS systems automatically delete the oldest video stored (often called FIFO for first in, first out). In addition, most systems allow users to set the maximum storage duration of video at which older video will be discarded even if space remains (e.g., 30 days storage is set, video that is 31 days old is deleted even in 1TB of storage is 'free').

Most surveillance users tend to economize on the surveillance video - purchasing just enough for their needs. This is driven both by cost and also by the inflexibility of most systems to add more storage without deploying new appliances or changing the existing design.

Advanced Settings that can Impact Storage Duration and Deletion

Storage Duration by Camera: A number of systems have settings where you can adjust the maximum storage duration independently by camera. The advantage of this is greater flexibility to keep video from certain 'high risk' cameras longer than 'lower' risk. The downside is increased confusion or risk that someone forgets or allows video to be over-written (e.g., they did not realize that camera 3 is only set to 7 day storage but camera 4 is set to 14 days).

No System Level Access to Delete Video: Very rarely do VMS systems allow users to delete video from within the application. It's highly uncommon to find a 'delete video' button inside the client application. This provides some safeguard against accidental or malicious deletion.

Accessing Directory where Video is Stored: In most traditional appliances (e.g., DVRs), it was either not possible or very difficult to access the stored video files directly. This provided additional barriers against a malicious user from deleting video. However, most VMS systems by default, allow any user who can access the VMS server to go to the the folder(s) where video is stored and manually delete video with a click of the button. This is an especially important risk if you are concerned about an admin or technician having motivation to do so.

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

Locking Video / Removing from Deletion Queue: While exporting video is the most common way of ensuring that surveillance video is not lost, some VMS systems allow you to flag or mark video segments to prevent them from being deleted in the normal FIFO / oldest video cycle. One practical downside is that the implementation of this feature requires marking each camera and time frame individually so it can be cumbersome to simply set all video from a 1 day or 1 hour to be locked.

Recommendations

It's easy to say that video should be exported immediately or that more storage should be provided to keep video longer. In practice, both have their limits. People often forget, delay or do not know how to export. Plus, more storage tends to be costly and requires a procurement process.

The two less commonly used points we'd recommend are:

  • Restrict Access/Rights from Stored Video Directories: Make sure that surveillance video cannot be easily manually deleted from the server it is stored. Implement restrictions on accessing these files. Downside is that it requires some IT expertise.
  • Lock Video to Stop Deletion: As soon as you believe an incident might require investigation, lock the video to prevent automatic deletion. Downside is that many systems do not support this feature and it still requires an operator to know how to use the feature. Upside is that it can be done quicker and for broader time frames than exporting to file, CD or DVD.
Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Sighthound Transforms Into Enterprise AI Provider on Jun 14, 2019
Sighthound is now rapidly expanding its R&D team, building an enterprise AI service. This may come as a surprise given their origins 6 years...
Embattled $400 Million China Funded Philippines Surveillance System Proceeds on Jun 13, 2019
An embattled 12,000 camera surveillance system project that will cost ~$400 million will proceed.  The project contract was awarded, had its...
Carnegie Mellon AI Startup Zensors Profile on Jun 11, 2019
Zensors is a startup formed by Carnegie Mellon graduates from a Carnegie Mellon research project, offering customized models per camera that they...
Avigilon 32MP and 12MP H4 Multisensor Cameras Tested on Jun 11, 2019
Avigilon has released their H4 Multi-Sensor line of cameras claiming "broad scene coverage and high image detail" We bought and tested the...
Directory of 30+ VSaaS / Cloud Video Surveillance Providers on Jun 07, 2019
This directory provides a list of VSaaS / cloud video surveillance providers to help you see and research what options are available. 2019 State...
OpenALPR Doubles Prices on Jun 06, 2019
There is no 'race to the bottom' in cloud / AI video surveillance. In May, Verkada increased their prices. Now, OpenALPR is doing the same with a...
"New" Arecont Fixes Failures "Without A Fight" on Jun 05, 2019
The "old" Arecont was infamous not only for its camera failures but for making their "partners" fight to get them fixed. IPVM drew the ire of...
Startup Rhombus Systems Says Twice the Features, Half the Price of Verkada on Jun 04, 2019
Closed cloud systems may be the fastest growing segment of video surveillance with Meraki and Verkada. Now another California company is joining...
Smart CODEC Usage Statistics 2019 on Jun 03, 2019
Smart codecs are now nearly a standard feature in IP cameras, but our statistics show integrator adoption has not increased at the same rate. In...
Panasonic Sells Off / Spins Out Security Business on Jun 02, 2019
Panasonic has sold off its security systems business to a private equity firm, after suffering years of challenges. The new company, which will...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Sighthound Transforms Into Enterprise AI Provider on Jun 14, 2019
Sighthound is now rapidly expanding its R&D team, building an enterprise AI service. This may come as a surprise given their origins 6 years...
ADT Eliminating Acquired Brands, Unifying Under 'Commercial' Brand on Jun 14, 2019
ADT is eliminating the brands of the many integrators it has acquired over the past few years, including Red Hawk, Aronson Security Group (ASG),...
NSA Director Keynoting Dahua and Hikvision Sponsored Cybersecurity Conference on Jun 13, 2019
The technical director for the NSA’s Cybersecurity Threat Operations Center will be keynoting a physical security cybersecurity conference that is...
Farpointe Data Conekt Mobile Access Reader Tested on Jun 13, 2019
California based Farpointe Data has been a significant OEM supplier of conventional access readers for years to companies including DMP, RS2, DSX,...
Embattled $400 Million China Funded Philippines Surveillance System Proceeds on Jun 13, 2019
An embattled 12,000 camera surveillance system project that will cost ~$400 million will proceed.  The project contract was awarded, had its...
False Verkada 'Unrivaled' Low Light Performance Claim Removed on Jun 12, 2019
Verkada falsely claimed that it delivered 'UNRIVALED LOW LIGHT PERFORMANCE' until IPVM questioned. In fact, Verkada's low light performance is...
Manufacturer Favorability Guide 2019 on Jun 12, 2019
The 259 page PDF guide may be downloaded inside by all IPVM members. It includes our manufacturer favorability rankings and individual...
Camera Course Summer 2019 - Register Now on Jun 12, 2019
Register for the Summer 2019 Camera Course.  This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based on in-depth product and technology...
Favorite Wireless Manufacturers 2019 on Jun 12, 2019
Many wireless options exist for video surveillance but how are integrator's overall favorites? 170 integrators answered the question: What is...
Carnegie Mellon AI Startup Zensors Profile on Jun 11, 2019
Zensors is a startup formed by Carnegie Mellon graduates from a Carnegie Mellon research project, offering customized models per camera that they...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact