One of life’s great ironies is that the devices we construct to defend ourselves can also be used against us.
According to a new survey, 61% of Americans are afraid that their Wi-Fi-enabled home surveillance cameras will be hacked.
While the chances of this happening are slim, the fear is not unfounded. Professional hackers can break into internet-connected products in minutes, as demonstrated by recent attacks on Jeep, Vtech, and Mattel products. With each purchase of a connected home computer, consumers unwittingly provide hackers with a new entry point.
If all connected devices are vulnerable to hacking, then Wi-Fi-connected home security cameras aren’t immune to attack. The good news is that homeowners can protect themselves from hacking by taking easy precautions and trusting their linked home protection systems.
Let’s look at how home security hacks can occur and what customers can do to avoid them.
Hack # 1: Controlling the connectivity of your home surveillance camera
Takeover of connected computers for use in a botnet or other malicious intent is one-way hackers like to break into them. A botnet is a set of infected private computers that are operated as a community without the owners’ knowledge. The hacker is taking advantage of the camera’s connectivity in the case of a home surveillance camera. Other seemingly harmless devices, such as printers and DVRs, are vulnerable to this form of attack.
The object of this hack isn’t to use your camera’s video feed against you; rather, it’s to use the camera’s web connectivity and processing power for a different reason, usually a Disturbed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.
A DDoS attack is a method of overloading an online service with traffic from multiple sources to make it inaccessible. These attacks can affect a wide range of valuable resources, from banks to news websites, and they pose a significant threat to people’s ability to publish and access critical information online.
Hack # 2: Getting to the video feed of your home surveillance camera
The second, and more terrifying, hack involves gaining direct access to your camera’s video feed. This can take the form of a local or remote attack. A hacker must be within range of your router to gain access to a camera locally. If that’s the case, they can try to run a program that tries to crack the password to your wireless router.
A hacker must be within range of your router to gain access to a camera locally. If that’s the case, they can try to run a program that tries to crack the password to your wireless router. They will gain access to your network as well as your linked home security camera once they have the password.
A hacker can also gain access locally by “spoofing” your router and then locking you out of your actual computer.
If you’ve ever set up a wireless network, you’ve probably found that after the initial connection, your devices don’t need to be told to access the network. Instead, as soon as they come within signal range, they immediately connect to the network.
While this is a useful function, it is also vulnerable to exploitation through a hack known as “spoofing.” Hackers often target a wireless network by simply creating a new “spoof” network in the same region as your legitimate network with a stronger wireless signal and a copied service set identifier (SSID). As a result, unsuspecting computers and devices are automatically connected to the spoofed network instead of the legitimate network.
Homeowners are much less likely to be hacked locally than they are to be hacked remotely. A remote attack is a malicious activity that attacks one or more computers over the internet. A hacker uses weak points in a computer or network’s security software to gain access to the machine or device in a remote attack.
When a linked home surveillance camera sends its video feed over the internet, it can be vulnerable to password attacks. A data breach, for example, could expose your connected home security camera and other connected devices to remote attacks. There isn’t anything you can do to avoid remote attacks, except for one surefire way: change your passwords often.
How to know if your home security cameras has been hacked
It is difficult to tell whether one of your wired gadgets has been hacked. However, sluggish or drastically reduced performance may be a red flag for connected home security
When a hacker gains control of a connected home security camera, the camera’s CPU cycles are pushed to their limits, which can cause normal camera functionality to be disrupted.
Of course, intermittently degraded output could simply be the product of a bad link or signal and isn’t always indicative of a hack. However, if your camera’s performance suddenly and consistently deteriorates, it would be best to take preventative measures.
Ways to protect your home against security threats
- Use strong passwords- It might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people (and businesses) install security camera systems without changing the default username and password.
Be sure to use a good password when setting up your cameras. Experts recommend using a combination of letters (both upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols when creating passwords. The more complicated the better. Your only defense against hackers is a good password.
- Secure your wireless network- Another seemingly obvious approach for shielding your WiFi-connected home surveillance and other systems from hackers is to secure your WiFi network. Using WPA2 encryption, setting a stronger password for you home router, upgrading the default SSID name, and/or shutting off guest networking and sharing are all options.
We also suggest that you consider connecting your surveillance cameras to their own network. If you connect your cameras to a single network, a hacker won’t be able to access any of your other devices if the cameras are hacked. If you want to go any further, you can use a virtual private network (VPN) to control which of your devices can connect to the network where the security cameras are located. You may also choose to log all network activity to ensure that nothing out of the ordinary is going on.
Another way to secure yourself is to install a firewall between your internet connection and all of your computers. This will necessitate the assistance of a specialist.
- Update your cameras firmware consistently- Home security camera manufacturers release firmware updates on a regular basis to patch bugs and improve product performance. These bug fixes can often patch security bugs, so make sure you’re still running the most recent version.
- Turn off remote viewing- Many WiFi- connected security cameras support remote viewing, allowing you to keep an eye on your home while you’re away via an app or website. The ability to log into your security camera remotely is appealing, but if your passwords aren’t strong, app and/or website access will expose you to hackers. If you’re concerned, simply disable remote monitoring when you’re not using it.
- Purchase your system and cameras from a trusted source- When it comes to WiFi-connected home surveillance cameras, there are several options to choose from, whether it’s a DIY solution or a locally controlled home security service. Do your homework and make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company that provides outstanding customer service.
Many popular wireless home security cameras, such as those sold by Home Depot, Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon, authenticate users without needing them to create passwords. Because of this flaw, hackers could be able to gain access to your network.