Can a Home Security Camera Be Hacked?

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While it’s not the most likely scenario, home security cameras are vulnerable to hackers like any other sophisticated technology. To invoke an example, in 2020, a customer of ADT (a major home security company) noticed a strange email address dialed into her home security account. That discovery and the fact that she reported it led to the exposure of a widespread cybersecurity breach leading back to one technician who had spied on people for over four and a half years.

 

ADT has since implemented new safeguards to close any loopholes that would allow such an abhorrent thing to happen. However, this does not exclude other companies from similar susceptibility. Even if your camera system is part of a more extensive nationwide network like Comcast/Xfinity, you need to be prepared. This article focuses on how you can prevent cybercrime from happening to your home security surveillance system.

 

Assessing Your Risk Level

The extensive professionally-monitored systems such as Wyze and Google Nest uniformly contain high-end security encryption (like scrambling messages and allowing key access only). So that’s one level of security you can trust and sleep on soundly. As long as you update your apps and devices regularly, there shouldn’t be any room for either software or hardware cybersecurity threats.

 

These companies have also begun providing rigorous training for their technicians since the ADT incident and even before then. That’s another level of security. Comcast, ADT, and likely others now limit technician access, preventing them from accessing clips or adding emails to the system.

 

Comcast has a team dedicated specifically to camera security, and their technicians and installers have no access to customers’ recorded video or feeds. These can only be accessed by a small group of engineers, under monitored conditions, for issues like technical troubleshooting. Another spokesperson for the company Vivint said similar things, that “only customers can decide who is allowed to access their Vivint system.” These companies also conduct manual audits.

 

DIY systems allow customers maximal control over their security, as no technician is required for installation. However, if customers want additional monitoring from other external sources, this complicates the issue.

 

With all these safeguards, training, enhanced features, and reduced technician access, the camera systems on the market today are much safer than years prior. However, they’re not invincible, so read on to find out the systems’ other weak spots and how to prevent hackers from taking advantage of them.

Other Ways Hackers Could Access Your Home Security Cameras

Hackers can access your surveillance systems from two focal points: local and remote.

 

Local

A local cybersecurity threat means the hacker is in range of your wireless network (if using IP/PoE cameras, of course!). This means they have circumvented safeguards to access your wireless network, from guessing your password to “spoofing” the network and “jamming” the real one.

 

Some older cameras don’t have the technological sophistication for password encryption or protection, so they are especially vulnerable to hackers.

 

Unless you’ve got an enemy lurking out there, you don’t need to worry about local hacks, as they have an intended direct target. Far more likely is a remote hack.

 

Remote

These hacks occur at larger, systemic levels. All that needs to happen is for your login credentials to your home security system to fall into the wrong hands. Even if the system’s security is pretty robust (including encryption and other safeguards), if your password is identical to that of other places on the internet and one of those places is compromised, your entire home security camera system is now vulnerable to hackers.

 

If you don’t rotate or change your passwords for various internet entry points, you’re at greater risk. If you don’t change the username and default password for your specific home security system, you’re equally at risk. Another crucial point is that un-updated software and hardware also puts the whole system at risk.

 

Have Your Cameras Been Hacked?

Whether or not your home security cameras have been hacked is potentially invisible to the naked eye (though not always) and takes a lot of savoir-faire and finesse, so pay attention to the tips we provide here so you can train yourself to at least try to spot inconsistent or strange intrusions/patterns.

 

Here are six key concrete (a mix of local and remote) ways to tell if your cameras have been hacked.

 

1.    Strange voices or sounds

Unusual voices or sounds are indicative of a breach. Pretty self-explanatory. This would be a local hack.

2.    Repositioned camera

Again, pretty self-explanatory, and a local hack.

3.    Change in password

This could be either a remote or local hack. If the security camera suddenly asks for your password, please sound the alarm – pun intended.

4.    In IP/PoE cameras, an increase in data consumption

If your smart camera is transmitting much more data to the cloud than is usual, this is a red flag. A ready solution would be to install a firewall to keep a tab on any changes in data transfer.

5.    Suspicious login history

Remote or local. Get an app with a feature that tracks login activity.

6.    Blinking LED light

Some home security cameras’ LED lights blink when someone has accessed them. If it’s not you, it’s someone else.

 

One red flag would be if the camera is performing suboptimally – either too slowly or malfunctioning. Since cameras have limited memory, the computational system behind the camera has to work extra hard if an attacker has taken advantage of this memory. Don’t mistake poor performance for a hack, however: it could be faulty internet, for instance. This is why it’s imperative to prevent such attacks in the first place. This is what we outline below.

 

Can a Home Security Camera Be Hacked

All the Precautions You Can Take to Prevent Cyberattacks on your Home Security Cameras

There is a myriad of ways you can take safety precautions to prevent hackers from accessing your home security cameras.

 

Update Firmware Regularly in Accordance with Your Manufacturer’s Instructions

Check to ensure that your home security camera manufacturer is serious about preventing cyberattacks. If they are, they’ll regularly release firmware updates that close loopholes in security vulnerabilities and fix software problems. Pay especially close attention to whether these updates are automatic or you need to do them yourself. Make this as routine as updating your smartphone apps. It’s worth it.

 

Change Your Password

If you leave the default username and password as they are and don’t change them to something you’ve customized, you’re leaving a gaping hole open for a hacker to access your wireless camera.

 

Also, vary your password – don’t make your camera password the same across different places on the internet. There are studies whose research substantiates this suggestion. In a nationally representative survey of around 1,000 adults, 13% said they kept the same password for all their accounts. Uh-oh! Not good. Use complex permutations of symbols, special characters, numbers, and letters and their casing to create a strong password to prevent cyberattacks on your home security system.

 

Create a Password Manager

These are incredible advancements in cybersecurity technology. They generate super-strong random passwords that are all stored in an online “vault” to which only you have access. There are many free versions, and if you research the paid ones, they’re probably worth it.

 

Set Up 2-Factor Authorization

Companies like Google already do this with their mail systems. They abstract security to another level by referring to other personal contact information that only you have physical access to, like your email or phone. This enhances security more than twofold.

 

Examples of great 2-Factor-Authenticated home security cams include Google Nest, Lorex, and Ring.

 

Buy Surveillance Cameras with High-End, Advanced Encryption

Do your research before buying your home security cameras. Look for reputable and established brands vetted on consumer report sites. The best ones will have such encryption features as WPA2-AES and SSL/TLS.

 

Limit the People/Devices Who Can Access Your System

Keep it in the family. The fewer, the merrier. This prevents people you don’t know from accessing your personal data, and it’s a critical point.

 

Putting Standalone Cameras on Their Own Network

You wouldn’t get the perfectly integrated “smart home,” but you’d be jamming access to your wireless security cameras.

 

Can a Home Security Camera Be Hacked

Conclusion

We’ve given you an overview of how hackers can gain access to your home security cameras and what to do to stop it from ever happening. It requires a bit of technological and technical know-how, but knowledge is power. The more equipped you are to prevent cyberattacks, the more peace of mind you will have in keeping yourself and your loved ones safe.

 

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