You’ve probably heard some of the stories appearing in the news this year about widespread hacking attacks using the Internet of Things—in other words, devices other than computers that are connected to the internet, such as appliances, TVs, and security cameras.
As a home security company, we want to arm you not just with the technology to protect your family but also the information you need to keep yourself safe. To that end, here is a summary of what you need to know about hacking attacks against security cameras to keep from becoming a victim.
Ways That Security Cameras Can Be Hacked
So, how are hackers doing it? Don’t make the mistake of thinking they need physical access to a camera system or personal device. Most hacking is done through remote attacks, where hackers find vulnerabilities in networks and security software. From there, they can make a device act as they wish – accessing files and photos, downloading viruses, looking for passwords and other sensitive data, and generally wreaking havoc.
There are now so many types of hacking attacks, experts have divided them into categories. For example, brute force attacks are trial-and-error attacks that involve guesswork. So if someone wants your password, they can use software that tries to guess your password by submitting large numbers of guesses—up to thousands every minute.
Data breaches are another type of attack. They involve illegal access of sensitive information like credit card numbers, bank account numbers, passwords, and personal information. These can be small-scale or headline-making events – just ask a company like Target, which dealt with one of the largest data breaches of all time and eventually settled a class-action lawsuit for $10 million.
After a data breach, hacker’s next step is sometimes a masquerade attack. Stolen passwords and other sensitive information allows hackers to impersonate people.
Data breaches are especially hard to protect yourself against, since they don’t target you as an individual but rather the companies you do business with. One thing you can do, however, is not use the same password for multiple applications—that way, if your login credentials are compromised in a data breach at one company you do business with, criminals can’t use the information to access your accounts at other companies.
Why Do Criminals Target Cameras?
Why do hackers want access to security systems and phone cameras? To see long, boring shots of people walking in office hallways? To see dozens of silly selfies? You might think that as long as you don’t use cameras to take racy photos, there’s no reason a hacker would be interested.
However, cameras can provide a huge amount of sensitive information. For example, a camera inside a business might be in the right spot to see credit card numbers as people remove them from wallets for payment. Your home’s security system might show you entering the password to get in, as well as the times you’re usually not home. What if someone’s watching?
How to Determine If Your Camera Has Been Hacked
It’s difficult to tell if your camera has been hacked. Look out for slowness and a system that doesn’t act like it should. Does your camera suddenly take 20 seconds to activate? Keep an eye on the indicator light too. If a LED light normally only activates during use, a light that comes on at other times could indicate a hacked camera. Also, if possible, look at your system’s screen that shows the processes running. A maxed-out system might be hacked.
How to Protect Your Cameras From Hacking
The best way to ensure nobody is accessing your cameras is to prevent them from doing it in the first place. That begins with choosing the right kind of security cameras and getting them professionally installed. Here are some more protective measures you can take.
Don’t buy used equipment. When you buy used cameras and devices, they could come pre-loaded for hacking and spying. Never purchase tech gear from strangers, and don’t trust that devices have been reset to factory settings or wiped.
Use complex passwords and change them often. It’s a hassle, but it’s one of the easiest ways to foil hackers. Passwords should have a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. They should be changed any time you suspect they may have been compromised—for example, if you get a notification that a company you do business with has been the target of a hacking attack that resulted in a data breach. Also, in the case of a business, passwords should be changed any time an employee who knows the passwords leaves the company.
Keep software up to date. Allow automatic software and security updates to take place. In you have a business, put someone you trust in charge of making sure your security camera software is up to date.
Secure wireless systems. Ensure your wireless network is secure. Make sure the WiFi access is only available by password to known devices. Use a dedicated network for large systems. Look into newer, more sophisticated equipment that comes with signals that transmit on various channels and are resistant to jamming. For maximum security, you could even opt not to connect cameras to the internet. Some businesses maintain closed systems that are only accessible within buildings, by in-person users.
Keep an eye on users. It’s also important to be vigilant about monitoring who has access to your cameras. For personal use, this can mean not allowing friends and acquaintances to use your cell phone, home security system, and WiFi. If you are having someone take care of your pets or watch your house while on vacation, consider changing the password after you return. For a business, it means you should keep a tight roster of who’s allowed to access your system.
Protect Your Phone’s Camera Also
Finally, a few words about cell phone cameras. The companies that develop them take great care to guard against hacker exploitation, but every phone is still vulnerable. The Apple iPhone is perhaps the best-protected phone on the market because it’s extremely difficult to hack. Android phones using out-of-date software can be exploited through security flaws.
Curious if your phone is vulnerable? Google “hack phone camera” to see a frightening list of instructions and software anyone can use for camera hacking.
Keep your phone secure by using a screen lock password, making sure its software is up to date, avoiding suspicious apps and links, staying off unsecured WiFi services, and paying attention if your phone is suddenly slow, or its battery is draining faster than normal.
And of course, always ensure your personal and business safety by partnering with a reputable security company.