With homeowners investing more in their properties, there is a growing need for tighter home security measures.
Home CCTV cameras are the cornerstone of any home security system. They allow you to monitor any activity in or around your home, at any time of day or night. Cameras also serve as a visible deterrent to would-be intruders. Therefore, it’s essential to make sure your CCTV is operating to its fullest potential.
There is one persistent area of concern, however. Even the most advanced setups are prone to being hacked by criminals.
Is hacking a threat to homeowners?
The reality is that any device with an internet connection is vulnerable to hackers. This is true of CCTV cameras and other networked surveillance systems. As the technology becomes more advanced, so do the techniques hackers use to gain access.
Cyber attacks are becoming more frequent. That's according to the latest survey carried out by the UK government in 2021. Four in ten businesses reported security breaches, as cybercrime continues to evolve. In the space of a decade, it has become a part of our day to day lives.
What’s worrying about cyber attacks is their unseen nature. It’s easy to understand why homeowners may be wary of bringing IoT (“Internet of Things”) technology into their home. The worst case scenario is that it can be exploited by malicious actors.
When it comes to home CCTV cameras, there are concerns that these are also vulnerable to hackers. If successfully hijacked they could be used to watch you and your family instead of their intended purpose of protecting you. CCTV should deter and prevent criminals from entering your home!
Here are the common worries surrounding hacking home CCTV cameras:
- Hackers can watch live and archived video from your cameras.
- Criminals can view the layout of your property. They can also see whether it's occupied.
- Cameras fitted with microphones can be used to attempt communication.
- Data can be stolen, including an email address, username and password. As people tend to use the same details across multiple logins, this can be a particular worry.
- The hijacking of other devices connected to the same network.
- The spread of harmful malware to other devices.
In March 2021, it was reported that hackers had gained access to 150,000 Verkada cameras. With Verkada being one of the CCTV industry’s most renowned brands, this was a high profile attack. Hackers were able to bypass their authorisation system, obtaining camera and video data. This was done by obtaining an administration password.
In 2017, surveillance cameras from Hikvision’s range were hacked via a backdoor exploit, allowing hackers to gain control. The war against hackers is an ongoing battle, though one CCTV manufacturers are constantly trying to stay on top of.
In this blog, we’ll explore the topic in more detail. We’ll explore whether home security cameras can be hacked and how to tell if they have been compromised. There will also be advice on how to best safeguard your CCTV system from threats.
Can my security cameras be hacked?
When we think about what hacking a system actually looks like, we imagine someone lurking outside your home. It’s a common trope we see in movies and TV thrillers. This type of local hack does exist, with hackers attempting to guess your wifi password or brute force their way in. It is far less common than remote hacks, which can are performed from anywhere in the world.
Any device connected to a network can be hacked. Even the most expensive and complex CCTV setups are vulnerable to remote attacks. Unsurprisingly, cheap DIY indoor CCTV cameras are especially susceptible to hackers. These are mainly wireless security cameras purchased online from popular vendors such as Amazon, eBay, and Wish. They all pose a risk to the security of you and family. Last year, Which? reported that over 100,000 cameras in the UK had huge security flaws. These included brands such as Accfly, ieGeek, and SV3C. Some of these wireless cameras have now been removed from sale.
On one hand they're cheap and convenient. However, if should choose a professionally installed and maintained CCTV camera system. This offers much better safety than DIY alternatives.
While convenient and adaptable, IP cameras can be vulnerable to hacking attempts. Internet Protocol (IP) cameras store video, sending and receiving data over wifi. Each camera has its own IP address. Using advanced search engines, hackers can locate these cameras. They then attempt to access them by guessing an admin password. If successful, hackers can view video footage and even change the settings of your camera. This could leave you exposed to intruders.
Another way hackers can access your cameras is through backdoor exploits. Manufacturers are proactive in combating threats, but sometimes they can leave a “backdoor”. This then allows hackers to enter their systems. If successful, they can retrieve and leak the personal information of customers. Hackers are then free to access CCTV systems, obtaining video data and locking users out by changing account details.
How to tell if your camera has been hacked?
It can be hard to determine whether your security cameras have been hacked. Attacks can go completely undetected, especially if you don’t know what to look out for.
Are your cameras operating slower than usual? While it could be a sign that your cameras need repairing, a drop in performance may also be indicative of a cyber attack. Other indicators include:
- Notification that your account was accessed from an unknown device.
- If you log in details (username and password) stop working.
- Strange noises coming from your camera speakers.
- If the LED lights on your camera are flickering or lighting in strange patterns.
- Your cameras cameras move, pan, and tilt, unexpectedly.
How to improve your CCTV security
The best defence is a good offence. It’s an old proverb though one that can help you in securing your CCTV system against potential intruders. Learning more about the techniques hackers use will equip you to better counter these threats.
We've discussed how hackers can gain access to cameras by searching for IP addresses and guessing passwords. Countering this threat is very simple. Once IP cameras are installed, homeowners can fall into the trap of not changing the username or password. Hackers have been able to access systems using the default passwords.
Even if your CCTV has versatile cameras, firewalls, and network protocols, this method can still bypass these barriers. So, make sure you change your username and password following installation. The strongest passwords consist of three words, or a combination of upper and lower case letters, with numbers and special characters. We recommend changing this password every 30 days.
In addition, make sure your CCTV system offers two-factor authentication (2FA). This is a common security feature most of us are now accustomed to. When trying to access a system, it will ask you to confirm the login via a secondary input. This could be a code sent via your personal email or SMS.
In their battle against hackers, manufacturers strengthen the integrity of their products by releasing regular firmware updates. These are designed to prevent malicious actors from obtaining user credentials.
When choosing a home CCTV system, be sure to do your research. Look at the brands you are interested in thoroughly and that their cameras offer the best level encryption. Again, our security experts at Chris Lewis can advise you on the best solution, giving you peace of mind.
A security company will review the complex code that powers their security solutions, helping to prevent “backdoor” access. Homeowners and camera operators should make sure their cameras always have the latest firmware patch installed. Our ongoing support and maintenance packages will ensure your CCTV is always performing at its most secure.
Staying one step ahead of hackers requires a joint effort from homeowners and CCTV manufacturers.
There are easy steps you can take to make sure that your indoor and outdoor CCTV cameras are secure. Take advice from the experts, invest in reputable brands, and install cameras that offer high-end encryption.
Stay notified of who has access to your system. Update your credentials to prevent unauthorised people from signing in, while also enabling 2FA. Meanwhile, companies will continue to improve their software and products using firmware updates. Choose brands that have a proven track record of being vigilant in their fight against cybercrime.
We're now living in the age of the smart home with more connected devices than ever. The more we integrate our technology, the more exposed we are to cybersecurity threats. By 2026, there could be as many as 23 billion IoT connections. SecurityInfoWatch calculates that $16 billion will be invested to combat the joined cybersecurity threats. Being aware of the risks will better prepare you for our increasingly connected future.
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