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RLE Technologies Addresses Some Common Concerns About Wireless Monitoring Systems

2017 November 14

Contributed by our friends at RLE Technologies

The advantages of a wireless monitoring system include ease of deployment/expansion and even the simplicity of the relocation of sensors as site configurations change. Unfortunately, I regularly hear from site managers with concerns about the security risks of installing a wireless monitoring system who may not understand just how secure a well-designed system can be. Hopefully, these Q&As might help provide peace of mind for those who are on the fence and considering a wireless monitoring solution.

First and foremost, don’t confuse WiFi sensors that communicate directly with your network with a system utilizing 868 MHz/900 MHz sensors that communicate directly with an appliance designed to accept those signals. Obviously, there are adherent risks with a monitoring system based on WiFi sensors and incorporating a WiFi router on your network as an access point. 868 MHz/900 MHz sensors do not communicate with WiFi routers. They communicate directly with a wireless manager that is designed specifically for the purpose of monitoring the sensors, providing a GUI of the current conditions, alarm notification and providing a way to easily integrate the wireless sensors into a network or building management system.

Can someone use a wireless signal to hack into my network through a wireless manager accepting MHz wireless signals?
No. Generally, the 868 MHz/900 MHz receiver on a wireless manager will only communicate with 868 MHz/ 900MHz sensors or range extenders and the communication is proprietary. In a well-designed system, only the sensors and range extender transmits a wireless signal. The wireless manager has a wireless receiver but not a wireless transmitter so bi-directional wireless communication with it is impossible. The 868 MHz/900 MHz signals that it receives are coded into the wireless manager and the manager will not recognize any signal that has not been coded to communicate with it.

How secure is a MHz wireless manager that is connected to my network?
It is as secure as the firewall that it is installed behind. If the wireless manager is behind a firewall, then the firewall determines access to the wireless manager. If port 80 (HTTP/Web) is open or port forwarded, then a remote user may still be required to log onto the wireless manager. If successful, the user has access to the port 80 web GUI. At this point, the user could change the configuration of the wireless manager, but has no access to the sensors or the network.

Can someone use a wireless manager as access point into my network?
Absolutely not. A well-designed wireless manager does not route anything. It simply serves its own web GUI, along with passing Modbus, SNMP and BACnet signals to a BMS/NMS. Additionally, client applications should include SMTP (mail) notification so alarms can be delivered to the appropriate personnel.

Can someone upload their own firmware to take control of a wireless manager?
No. Not with a well-designed system. The flash application should be proprietary so nothing can be uploaded to it except for updated firmware created and provided by the manufacturer (and there should also be numerous checks and lockouts!).

Is it necessary to have to pay subscription fees or recurring costs for a wireless monitoring system?
Definitely not. Instead of spending money to simply maintain what you have, it makes more sense to spend the money to continue to enhance the system that you already have.

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