Questions to Ask to Maintain A Secure Digital Signage Network

Josh Saiz gives tips on how to keep your digital signage network off the 6 o'clock news.
Published: August 26, 2015

If you are planning an installation or are currently running a digital signage communications network on campus that also means you plan to, or have, uploaded content to run on your screens.

How are you planning to ensure that the messaging you are running, or planning to run, is the right content for the right audience? Do you have plans in place to prevent someone from posting something that should not run on your screens?

Because of the prevalent use of handheld mobile devices and social media on campus, and if you have not taken steps to protect your digital communications network, don’t be surprised if your displays become a story on the 6 o’clock news broadcast, or go viral on Twitter or Facebook.

You may already be aware of incidents that were noticed after the fact, such as simple spelling errors, information that was changed but not updated, or maybe template and branding modifications enabled the display to show something that nobody should have seen.

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However, the consequences can steepen if mistakes extend across multiple displays, or if administrators get wind of careless errors.

Think of this scenario, for example: You’re walking to your student union building for that mid-afternoon “pick-me-up.” As you enter the building, you look up to see the latest event or promotion on the union’s displays.  Your jaw drops as you notice that a digital signage display that you helped maintain is showing an image that not only goes against every branding standard defined by your institution, but also is not an approved use of your digital signage system.

You ask yourself, “is this just on this one display, other displays within the student union, or is it across all displays on campus?” Then you also ask yourself, “has the institution’s executive administration, provost or president, seen this message?

Picture another scenario: You helped develop an interactive signage system that relies on content from the digital signage system along with content from other web-based systems. You receive a call from an individual who states when they press on a map of the institution, they are redirected to a site that is not related to your university. The individual also says not only does the content not connect with the university map, it also has inappropriate content displayed.

How could this happen if procedures are in place to limit access to your content by only approved site administrators? Could your system be exposed? Could it be the result of an external “hack?” Or, could it have been the result of internal meddling where someone accessed and altered your content because the security mechanisms were too lenient or not well defined?

Often, those who plan and implement digital signage systems or those charged with oversight of those systems do not think of implementing standards to secure their networks.

Too often, a digital signage communications system is viewed as a simple content publishing system with no need to restrict access. But unanticipated mischief can at best prove to be inconvenient, or at worst, have grave and costly consequences.

If you are responsible for planning, management or oversight for your campus-wide digital signage communications network, you should be aware of the issues and concerns related to securing your systems and content – which also means protecting your university’s brand.

To better protect your network, you should consider the following seven questions:

1. What access levels do your users have?

2. Does everyone have access to everything?

3. Do you have controls in place to define different levels of access?

4. Who should have access to what sections of your system?

5. Who are your users, and what can they do (and not do)?

6. Are your users using the same account and password?

7. Are any of your administrators “sharing” accounts?

If you cannot answer at least one of the above questions, consider attending the presentation at the EduComm Expo titled: “Staying Off the 6 O’clock News: What You Need to Know About Keeping Your Digital Signage Network Safe,” on Wednesday, Sept. 30th, from 3:00-4:00pm at the Georgia World Congress Center.

During that session, I will address the described topics above as well as other topics related to security with digital signage systems.

Josh Saiz, Analyst/Programmer III and Adjunct Faculty at the University of New Mexico (UNM) has responsibility for the University’s digital communication technologies on campus including digital signage and interactive integration using existing institutional systems. Saiz is currently the chair of the Digital Signage Committee for UNM, and is considered one of the main references for digital signage for UNM.

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