How to Protect Your Home Security Camera from Being Hacked

Security cameras that are online are easy to hack. Here's how to stop a breach before it happens.

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Home security cameras offer peace of mind by letting you monitor your home environment. Smart cameras allow you to catch intruders, check on a young child playing in their room, or eyeball your pets from anywhere via an app on your phone. Check out some of the other places smart homeowners install security cameras.

While smart security cameras are handy, they have a dark side, too. You’ve probably seen scary headlines about people hacking home security cameras. For example, a family’s camera was hacked, then used to scare the family into thinking that the United States was under a missile attack. In another incident, a child’s bedroom security camera was hacked, allowing a stranger to talk to the child. Unfortunately, just about any device that is connected to the Internet can be hacked. Still, there are ways to protect yourself and your home.

Is your security camera vulnerable to hackers?

Probably. As mentioned above, if it connects to the Internet, it’s vulnerable to hackers. Some cameras are more susceptible to hacks than others, but you can fight back. Cameras with two-factor authentication requiring a password can prevent easy access to your online account or app. Typically with two-factor authentication, a code is sent to your email or phone that you need to log in. Any Ring Camera and the Nest Cam Indoor come with this feature. Some cameras, such as these Lorex cameras, don’t need to be connected to the Internet. You lose functionality but they can’t be hacked. Don’t miss these home security tips that can save your home from a break-in.

Why would someone want to hack your security camera?

In many of the cases reported, the hackers just wanted the thrill of scaring the owners. But these cameras can be easily used to discover personal information or to capture images of people in vulnerable moments. See the cybersecurity secrets hackers don’t want you to know.

How to prevent hackers from stealing your information

There are several ways you can protect yourself from hacking, besides two-factor authentication. Elena Mauer of SecurityNerd.com, an online resource that focuses on sharing knowledge about home security solutions, offered these tips:

  1. Set up a username and password that are complex and difficult to guess. Too many people just leave passwords as the default or use something simple like “password” or “1234” or their birth date. Passwords should be at least eight to ten characters and include symbols and punctuation marks. Your camera, security system, and Wi-Fi router should each have their own username and password, and you should change them all periodically.

  2. Set up WPA2 security on your router, which requires each new device to submit a password to connect (contact your router’s manufacturer to learn more). If WPA2 is not an option, consider buying a new router with this type of security.

  3. Don’t access your security camera or your home security system from a public Wi-Fi network. You might want to check in while you’re at the café or in the park, but these networks aren’t secure and hackers can use them to find your information.

  4. Many security systems and cameras allow you to check logins to see who’s accessing your account. Check those periodically to be sure there’s no unusual activity. If you suspect that someone else may have logged into your system, it’s time to change your passwords again. The password changing can be annoying, but it’s important.

  5. Stay on the lookout for any strange activity, like if your camera indicates it’s on when you haven’t activated it (usually a light comes on), or if it moves or pans on its own. That could mean someone else has accessed it.

  6. If you’re giving friends or family members access, don’t let them use your username and password. Create a separate username and password for them so that you can turn off access if you need to. Then you don’t risk your password getting into the wrong hands.

What to do if you suspect you’ve been hacked

First, unplug the camera from its power source. Then change the passwords on your camera’s account, on the app, and to your router. Finally, contact the manufacturer of the device and local law enforcement. Next, check out the common online scams to be aware of and how to avoid them.

Originally Published on The Family Handyman