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Keeping your home or business safe from intruders is of the utmost importance, which is why investing in security cameras is a good plan of action. If you’re zeroing in on the purchase of a web-connected surveillance product, there are plenty of features to which you’ll want to pay attention. These include the field of view, resolution, motion capabilities, and storage options. But what about an issue becoming more common the more people invite this tech into their homes? How to prevent security camera hacks.
Here’s the thing: If your camera connects to the Internet (many DIY security cameras do these days), then you’re at risk of getting hacked. In fact, any device that’s connected to your Wi-Fi, including the network itself, can potentially be breached.
That said, there are several precautions and buying decisions you can make to prevent security camera hacks. Here are several recommendations to get you started on preventing security cameras from being hacked.
Create Strong Usernames and Passwords
We get it. You have an evergrowing list of accounts across a wide array of platforms and services, and they all require some combination of username and password. While it can be tempting to use the same credentials repeatedly (mainly for the ease of remembering all those blasted logins), this is precisely the kind of behavior that hackers are betting on from you. If your login is the same for Device A (your Wi-Fi network) and Device B (your security camera), you’re putting your privacy and data in danger.
When creating account info for your security camera (and other hardware), it pays to be as convoluted as possible. Opt for passwords with multiple case changes, numerics, special characters and long lengths. Simply put, the harder it is to guess in the first place, the harder your security camera will be to hack.
Change Your Passwords Often
Consider this an extension of the above suggestion. Suppose you’re choosing complicated logins to make it difficult for hackers to breach your security cameras. In that case, another step you can take to make life even harder for malcontents is changing those passwords regularly. Set a calendar reminder for the first of every month to log into your security camera app, head into account settings, and change your password. We recommend doing this for your router, too — it’s not just your security camera that attackers can hack easily.
While it may seem like a nuisance, the more you intentionally and routinely complicate your credentials, the better your peace of mind will be. If you’re not interested in coming up with a complex code every month, you could always use a password manager instead. Some managers will run a few bucks upfront but offer perks like automatic password generation, multi-platform compatibility and strict encryption.
Set Up Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is becoming fairly standard these days for phones, security cameras, other web-connected products, app downloads, and site logins. When enabled, 2FA platforms will issue you a unique PIN or some other type of login key, typically delivered as a text message or email, when attempting to access an account or device — in addition to whatever password you use when logging in. While it may be somewhat easy for even a non-skilled hacker to guess the username and password of your security cameras, 2FA safeguarding makes it all but impossible for them to break into your camera without having your phone or computer in their possession.
These days, more and more security camera companies are implementing 2FA as a standard feature that can be toggled on/off through the camera’s companion app. Ring made 2FA mandatory for users to use its services and devices. The Ring Indoor Cam, for example, is one of the company’s indoor camera solutions that require users to enable 2FA during the setup process.
Keep Your Camera Firmware Up To Date
When you first installed your security camera, there’s a good chance it performed a sizable firmware update once you reached the end of the setup process. However, this update isn’t a one-and-done situation, though — or at least shouldn’t be. Firmware updates are a regular part of a web-connected product’s life cycle. Maybe the camera manufacturer wants to add a slew of new app features. Or, more pressingly, perhaps the company discovered a major glitch that put their users at risk of having their equipment hacked.
Whatever the reason for an update may be, and whether it’s big or small, to help prevent security camera hacks, it’s essential always to update your camera’s firmware to make it is as secure and hack-proof as possible. If you didn’t enable automatic updates during setup (or if your camera doesn’t have auto-updates), you can usually find them in the camera’s app in the settings menu (look for options like Update or Software).
Add a Firewall or Upgrade Your Router
A firewall acts on a predetermined set of security rules designed to keep close tabs on your network activity that, when broken, send the firewall into protection mode. Once the wall is up, it will prevent hackers and other undesirables (like malware and viruses) from jumping onto your bandwidth.
While you can purchase firewalls as dedicated devices or software packages, advanced routers and even some security cameras now come with built-in firewalls that you can toggle on/off and customize. Furthermore, it may be worth considering a router that supports WPA2 protocols, adding tougher encryption to your network. Take the Firewalla Red, a tiny device that connects to your existing router that provides firewall protection to inspect inbound and outbound traffic for any suspicious activity.
Use Geofencing To Disable Cameras
Ideally, you’re going to want your security cameras enabled and ready to send you relevant alerts when you’re away from home. After all, wasn’t that the point of buying them in the first place? Whether for peace-of-mind reasons or much graver property concerns, some households will prefer to operate their security cameras 24/7. While this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, the reality is that a live, web-connected security camera is prone and therefore harder to prevent hacks. For those who prefer only to use their cameras while away from home, what you can do to keep your cameras safe from hackers is to utilize your camera’s geofencing capabilities (if they have them). It should be easy to automatically disable your system once you arrive home.
Think of geofencing like a virtual fence that is smart enough to know when a trusted user arrives on the property. Brands such as Arlo have settings built into their companion app to detect your phone when you’re in range, which can then kick your cameras into Home Mode (disarmed).
Keep an Eye on Network Activity
Notice that your Internet has been running a bit sluggish lately? If you haven’t added any devices to your network and performance across your home’s range of web-connected gear is notably different, this could be a sign that your Wi-Fi is under siege from malevolent forces. If this is the case, it’s time to change your network password and crank up your router’s security settings.
You can find out if your network has been hacked by checking your network activity. To do this, you’ll want to login into your router. Launch a web browser on a desktop computer (a mobile browser is okay too, but may be limited in functionality, type in your router’s IP address (typically 192.168.1.1), and hit search. It should then take you to a dashboard full of settings and customizations for your home’s router. Next, look for a setting called Bandwidth or Network Activity, or something similar. Using this tool, you’ll be able to monitor for unusual upticks in network activity that don’t correlate to your typical Wi-Fi usage.
Consider Cameras with Privacy Shutters
A privacy shutter is a mechanical or digitized “cover” that intentionally obscures a security camera’s lens, microphone and other parts of the camera body. Cameras like the SimpliSafe SimpliCam and the GE CYNC utilize physical shutters that you can enable and disable through the camera’s app. Then there are webcams like the Logitech C920S that has a hinged cover that you can manually drop over the camera lens when it’s not in use.
There are also several third-party lens covers that you can buy online. This CloudValley webcam cover is designed for the cams built into MacBooks, iPads, and other devices, while this option from MoimTech is intended for specific Logitech webcams.