Cheap Home Security Cameras Are Actually More Risky Than Nothing At All

pet cam, pet monitor, baby monitor, baby cameraOne of the most popular home gadgets of recent years has been the home camera. They’re sold as a baby, pet or security monitor which allow you to watch what is going on at home from wherever you are. People love them because as a baby monitor you can see as well as hear what your child is doing, letting you judge if you have to dash upstairs to prevent disaster, or take it easy, it was just a doll falling out of the cot.  

They’re handy as a pet monitor too. Dogs left at home get bored, and can often be anxious if left alone for too long. Their feelings can manifest themselves in destructive behaviour, or making a mess of your home. A pet monitor here lets you know if the dog is behaving, and if you opt for a camera with a mic attached then you can tell Fido that you’re watching and not to misbehave!

They’re also handy as security devices too. They may not be a visible deterrent to burglars preventing a break in from taking place, but they do let you see what’s going on at home and, if necessary, you can use them to record footage of any intruders walking around your house and call the authorities based on the images you see coming from your camera.

The problems start to arise from the technology’s popularity, and the cheap products which are mass produced to meet the demand.

You might well think you know what you’re getting when you buy a bargain home camera, it’s a bit flimsy, it may only work for a little while before it conks out, but if it does you’ll just recycle it and get a new one as they don’t cost much to begin with. And while that’s fairly normal for most tech you can pick up at low prices on the high street, that’s not a very wise way to approach your home security cameras.

The problem is that the security attached to cheap baby and pet cameras is about as flimsy as the materials they’re made from. “So a hacker can see my dog misbehaving, or an empty nursery? And what?” you might think to yourself. “They’re not going to get much out of that!”

However, geeks just looking around your house is the least of your security monitor worries.

Imagine someone sitting at on your shelf throughout the day, eavesdropping on all your conversations. They know when you’ll be at home, when you’ll be going out, when you’re planning on going on holiday, and therefore when your house is going to be empty. And that’s just from getting the audio-visual feed being broadcast from the camera. The cameras don’t have strong default passwords, often an entire brand will ship with the same default, meaning that anyone who’s interested can turn up outside your house, find your camera via their phone or tablet and log straight in. Once they have that access they can look around, see what you have, see if it’s worth stealing and then check out whether you’re at home or its’ just the dog.

As well as weak passwords themselves, either uniform across the brand or printed on stickers attached to the device these poorly secured products may also send your wifi password unencrypted over the internet. This piece of information is a golden nugget to anyone intent on hacking your devices to get as much as they can out of them. With this information it’s quite possible to capture all the data you’re sending from your phone, laptop or other connected device into your home network and the internet, and therefor to get access to data stored on them too.

Video courtesy of Which? Magazine

But because the cameras are connected to your home hub the security flaws mean that they could quite conceivably unlock the front door if you’re using Smart access controls and disable any or all of your security systems if they’re all connected too. So you may have invested in a brilliant home CCTV system, but the security flaws created by a fun gadget will mean that the burglars are able to circumvent it and take whatever they like.

Monitors undergoing little or no quality control are being shipped to the UK in their tens of thousands, and being sold through online marketplaces to unsuspecting consumers. Many of them are getting outstanding customer reviews and even gaining four and five star Amazon reviews, leading people to trust they are getting a good quality product at an unbeatable price when in fact the reviews are fake and the stars are based on nothing but sellers gaming the system. As they sell in increasing numbers they make it to the marketplace’ Best Sellers list, making them ever more appealing to consumers who are shopping on a budget and see a product with fantastic reviews, high take-up and an irresistible price.

With a market flooded with poorly secured monitors it can’t be long until every burglar with a laptop or phone is making use of the technology to do all their planning and execution over the internet, waiting until properties are empty, closing down security systems, and taking all the time they need to move your possessions out of your house and into their lock-up.

So that’s enough of the scare stories, what, if anything, can be done?

The first thing anyone who suspects their password and connected security could be weak or easily compromised can do is apply a strong, long password to their device. Even devices with dreadful security built in as a default will allow owners to create their own passwords. If possible, change the device’s name too. If a baby camera is sending out the name of its manufacturer as part or the connection process it is easy for someone to find default passwords. If you don’t give any such clues it makes life that much harder for hackers to identify.

If you’re using Smart home technology such as CCTV and burglar alarms, go to a professional installation service. They will not only place them in the best location to cover all the windows and doors, they will also ensure you get the best devices on the market. They’ll securely and safely install them onto your Smart home network and ensure that it’s as hard as possible for anyone who shouldn’t be looking to be able to crack your security.

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