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Smart Security Cameras - Using Them Safely

Smart security cameras such as dog cameras, baby monitors or home CCTV are vulnerable to attack if not setup correctly, and even if they are, vulnerabilities not being fixed can still leave them open to attack.


I recently bought my own smart camera, so I thought I would share some information around choosing the right camera, and protecting yourself from cyber criminals if you decide to use one.


So, smart cameras usually connect to the internet via your home Wi-Fi. This means you can watch a live camera feed and receive live alerts while your away from home, and sometimes you can record/save this footage.


However, as with any smart device that can connect to the internet, you should take a few extra steps to protect yourself. I will explain a little bit about this further on.


What is the issue with smart cameras?


Live streams or still images taken using smart video cameras can be accessed by unauthorised users, putting your privacy at risk, although very rare, there is still a risk. The reason that this is possible is because smart cameras are configured so you can view them when away from home.


The most common reason cameras are accessed remotely by cyber criminals is that these cameras come shipped with a default password which is set by the manufacturer. These passwords are often well known, easy to find online, or are easily guessable (such as admin, 0000, 1234 etc). Cyber criminals can use these passwords along with other techniques to access the camera remotely.


How do I make sure my camera is safe?


I have some recommendations that will make it much harder for cyber criminals to access your smart camera.

  • If your camera comes with a default password, change it. You can change it using the app that comes with the camera. Its usually easy to do. We recommend using a secure password. You can set a secure password by using three random words, and to make it extra secure, add in some numbers or special characters.

  • Keep your camera up to date. If available, switch on automatic updates. Using the latest updates not only improves security, it often adds new features. Note: Sometimes the software your camera uses is referred to as firmware.

  • If you don’t need to view your cameras video or pictures from outside of home, consider disabling the feature that allows you to do this. Note: This will usually prevent you receiving alerts when motion is detected, and will often stop you linking to home devices such as Alexa or Google Home.

  • Buy a smart camera from a reputable manufacturer. They should be known for providing regular updates. Check the reviews. See if the manufacturer has committed to providing privacy and security features/updates.

If you received a manual with your camera, you will find the instructions on how to make the above changes there. If you don’t have it, go to the manufacturers website and look up your specific model in the support section.


Finally, check your routers settings


Many routers use technologies such as UPnP and port forwarding to allow devices to find other devices within your network, or for them to be accessed from the wider internet. Cyber criminals can exploit these technologies to potentially access your network, and any devices on it. You should consider disabling these features if you don’t need them. This of course depends on your personal risk appetite.


Note: Disabling UPnP may prevent certain things from working such as online gaming or smart devices. If you decide you need these things to work, you’ll have to decide if your comfortable in deciding to give up some security by allowing these features.

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