How to Protect Your Digital Signs from Being Hacked

Digital signs are eye-catching pieces of equipment that can engage anyone who comes across it. They can be used for information purposes, such as a map to a shopping centre, or they can provide your front reception with exciting media content. Many areas with a waiting room will have a digital sign displaying the news or advertising other products and services.

How to Protect Your Digital Signs from Being Hacked

Just because the screen is only being used to display images and videos, doesn’t mean that it cannot be used for something more sophisticated like overriding the company’s entire network. These are some of the major steps to take to protect digital signs from being hacked.

Identify Threats

hacker in mask

Hackers may do what they do for fun, to push propaganda, or to be malicious. Whether it’s a major organisation with thousands of offices or a small clinic, every company with digital signage is at some level of risk from hackers. A smaller company may not even think they can fall prey to being hacked because it has never happened before. It’s critical to identify who and what potential threats may be lurking. Perhaps it’s a disgruntled past employee looking to embarrass the business. Or, someone trying to show just how easy the system is to gain access to.

Whatever the case, businesses need to know what to protect themselves against by imagining every possible scenario that could play out. Those pesky teenagers that might just be having fun, could very well be looking for a way into the company’s infrastructure. If the systems are on the same network, this can be used as a backdoor into any organisation’s main system where all files and information are kept.

Cloud-Based Management Systems

Instead of loading media onto the system using a physical box, companies should look into cloud-based options that are completely offsite. With cloud-based digital signage software, the content and security can be managed from a remote location that needs to be protected over the internet. With cloud-based solutions the administrator won’t need to physically go to each display device to update content, says Kieron, content creator at AdFlux. Instead of the traditional USB drive and keyboard, cloud-based digital signage is much quicker to work with. Multiple devices and screens can be managed by one person, at one location.

Managing a cloud-based system is easier if there is restricted access on the device and the proper layers of encryption and security certificates have been installed. The only protection will be from someone gaining access online, which can be monitored better than physical security systems.

Physical Security

Digital signage often isn’t protected from a simple plug-and-play hack. It could be any random person walking by that notices an opportunity to easily switch the media displayed on the screen. It can be done by inserting a different flash drive into the USB port or unplugging the video cable. Even an autorun file can be loaded onto the system from the USB port. This will corrupt the whole system so that all that can be done is to reload and start fresh. Physical security such as a lock-up cage that surrounds all access points is important to stop these types of attacks.

Block out any unused ports and protect cables by securing them to the wall with bolts and screws. If the digital signage screen is placed in a public area, make sure to protect the BIOS with an extremely difficult password to prevent anyone from making changes from the inside. If a hacker gets this right, they can lock the company out of the system entirely. Then there will be an even bigger problem because the hacker has access to the first level of security, and can hold the information for ransom.

Application-Specific Security

Unless the screen and system come with a robust security application or the media software is heavily guarded, additional levels of security should be considered. Basic protocols like FTP and HTTP need to be avoided altogether, and SSL certificates must be installed. To add better security, include as many different protocols as possible. Think about encryption for the application as well as any data kept on the device. It could be original marketing material the company designed that may not be copyrighted. There are plenty of reasons that a hacker will try to get into the system, so protection against any number of possibilities is key.

Other security measures could be changing the signals that pass over the internet from IP to AV. Audio-visual signals use specific message targeting that can be managed both remotely and centrally. AV can be used to monitor content and administration on any digital signage system. Just keep in mind that taking this route will involve using fibre-optic cables over the standard copper types. Copper cables are regularly stolen for scrap metal, and fibre-optic is just more secure.

The technology issue is that anything digital has the potential to be hacked, and a lack of security is only asking for trouble. Security for digital signs isn’t difficult; you just need to understand what the potential threats are and to install as many protocols as you can to make hacking the system that much harder.

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How to Protect Your Digital Signs from Being Hacked