Surveillance Systems

Written by Jacey Harmon
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Surveillance systems have become a common part of the world we live in. It seems every retail outlet has some sort of surveillance system. Many home owners employ the use of a private surveillance system to protect their property. There is good reason for all this seeming paranoia. According to the Department of Justice, in 2003 alone, there were over 18 million property crimes in the United States.

Surveillance systems have become rather sophisticated over time. Technology has advanced surveillance camera designs. Cameras can be concealed in several common items such as wall clocks or even pens. Technology has improved how we monitor surveillance systems. Digital video recorders allow users to record several days of video footage without the need to replace tapes. Video surveillance systems can be set up to start recording only when triggered by motion detector systems.

The Internet has become a valuable tool in monitoring and controlling security systems. Users can view live footage from multiple cameras at remote locations. Cameras can be controlled through internet applications as well. The Web allows surveillance system owners to monitor their system from any location, at any time. Remote access to computers and POS devices is another way to monitor what's going on when away from the business.

A FBI Surveillance System

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has utilized the Carnivore surveillance system for several years. Carnivore is something every citizen who uses e-mail should be aware of. Essentially, Carnivore is the equivalent of a phone wire tap, but it monitors e-mail communication instead. Carnivore works on a computer that is physically connected to the network. Carnivore computers can be installed at internet service providers, corporations, universities, or any organization with a computer network.

Once installed, carnivore uses a "sniffer" to collect all data that passes through the network. This includes all sent and received e-mails, viewed web pages, and instant messaging text. Once collected, data is processed through a filter that eliminates information that does not pertain to the suspected individual. All collected data is written to a removable disk, which is then removed by a FBI agent.

The scary part with Carnivore is the lack of checks and balances that are common with other forms of government surveillance. The US Patriot Act of 2001 allows any US or state attorney to install a carnivore without the need to go to court to obtain a warrant. In many instances, investigators can receive a "blank" search warrant which allows surveillance of any internet service provider in the United States.

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