Eyes On the Transactions
Eyes On the Transactions

Feb 1, 2005 12:00 PM
By Randy Southerland

A woman walks into a bank and up to a teller. She is clearly upset. Speaking quickly, she begins telling a bank official that someone stole her ATM card and withdrew money from her account. She demands that something be done immediately.

Sitting at a computer screen, Synovus Corporate Security taps in a few key strokes to access the bank's computer network. Within moments a picture of the transaction in question appears stamped with identifying data. The screen clearly shows the customer herself withdrawing the money right down to the same blouse and scarf she is wearing now.

"This system uses a central monitoring station that allows our in-house people to conduct investigations faster than ever before," says Wayne Smith, vice president for security technologies at Synovus. "Using this technology we are able to provide the bank with a system of access control, digital video and fraud reporting to reduce losses for the bank and to aid in the prosecution of various crimes."

Columbus, Ga.-based Synovus, a financial services company with nearly 300 local branch banks and $25 billion in assets, is putting several high technology solutions in place to reduce the time it takes for investigations of various crimes the bank faces.

Fighting these crimes is no small task in the banking industry, where, according to one report, fraud alone costs banks, customers and businesses $20 billion a year.

Synovus Corporate Security puts investigations, operations and security technology under one umbrella. This approach has allowed all three areas to share an understanding of their unique needs and capabilities. It has also led to the development of an updated security system that uses the latest in technology.

"In the past, our investigations department was having a difficult time with the traditional VCR tapes as it related to investigating fraud," Smith says. "They were trying to research with poor video and it was just taking too much time to go back and review cases. It was a considerable undertaking and, at times, fruitless."

The old process for handling a fraud situation dictated that, after a customer came in to file a report, the investigator would order a copy of the video tape from the local branch.

"They sent it to us and the investigator looked over hours of poor quality video," Smith says. "The new system enables us to look at evidence instantly, and, in many instances, to close the case in minutes."
A better video

The path to a new system for Synovus came courtesy of the increasing availability of high-quality digital video systems as a replacement for the old tape-based cameras and VCRs. The company examined and experimented with several systems before choosing GE products.

Synovus chose digital recorders as a solution for teller lines and particularly for standalone ATM machines. The increased storage capacity of digital recorders over tape-based VCRs and the ability to record continuously (by automatically overwriting the oldest recorded video) are particularly valuable. At many banks, ATMs may be left unattended for days, and the video becomes the only record of activities between inspections by bank personnel.

With images stored on computer hard drives and backed up regularly, the stacks of cumbersome tapes are eliminated.

Smith and his team selected GE's DVMRe Triplex, which combines a digital video recorder and multiplexer in one unit, coupled with UltraView cameras.

"We're in the middle of implementing this equipment in all new branches that we build or renovate," Smith says. "These cameras have allowed us to obtain much higher image quality, especially on ATMs where there may be a lot of back light."

The DVMRe records video from up to 16 cameras and single channel audio to its internal hard drive. The digital technology provides greater image quality and requires less maintenance.

Wide dynamic range cameras are able to compensate for bright daytime sun that might otherwise have obscured images and even rendered the video unusable.

"In one case we had a robbery in which we had a lot of sunlight coming into the camera, but the unit was (still) able to capture a vivid image of the event," Smith says.

To complete the system, Synovus also implemented the ProBridge 3 data interface to capture the text transmitted by each teller line and ATM transaction. The DVMRe captures ASCII text data, associates it with the proper camera and saves it with each video file.

"If you go to the bank, put your ATM card into the machine and withdraw money, it will record all the data pertinent to that transaction," Smith says. "So whenever we have someone come in and make a charge that they have been defrauded, based on that transaction number, we can verify a picture of the person making the transaction within 30 seconds. The same is true for transactions at the teller line."

In addition, the company is also using the StoreSafe digital video recorder for its ATMs. This smaller unit meets the needs for recording and searching capabilities when a more complex 16 channel DVR is not needed. It provides personnel with one-button functions for image printing and evidence preservation by writing video to a CD on site.

This video and transaction data is stored at the local branch and can be accessed at one of four central stations on the Synovus network.

"When these issues pop up, we just log on to that particular location and pull up the transaction," Smith says. "If we have something in Destin, Fla., or Columbus, Ga., we can pull that transaction from our central office. Then we can capture the video and e-mail it to the bank officials or the local police department. This has helped us solve robberies, vandalism and other crimes quickly."
Linux advantage

The GE video recorders use the Linux operating system, which Smith says is a central advantage. Video transaction is much less susceptible to virus attacks, worm propagation and general hacking. It also produces fewer problems when melded with the various forms of anti-virus software that the company uses to protect its system.
Controlling the system

The GE WaveReader ties the system together. This remote viewing software provides a view of live or recorded video from the remote digital recorders connected to the network. WaveReader software recognizes the unit to which it is connected and provides full access to that unit's features. This software program allows distant monitoring stations to search for alphanumeric text strings and then to view the associated video feed.

Synovus is also installing a new GE MAS software system that alerts central monitoring stations when a hold-up alarm is activated at a local branch. Live video feeds pop up to alert security personnel to an event in progress. A technician can view events in real-time and take immediate action to alert local authorities.

This video monitoring system has also proven useful during local disasters, such as the recent hurricanes that ravaged coastal Florida. The company could view damage and weather conditions remotely without endangering personnel.

The goal of this technology project is to make better use of resources. With cases being resolved far sooner than before, bank security personnel provide better service to the company and its customers.

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