In 2020, an ADT home security user observed a strange email address associated with her home safety account, which included cameras and other equipment inside her house. This simple discovery, along with her complaint to the corporation, triggered a chain reaction that led back to a technician who had been spying on dozens of customers over four and a half years, invading their private lives, watching them undress, and even engaging in intimate activities.
ADT claims to have rectified the flaws that the technicians exploited by installing "new safeguards, training, and procedures to increase account security and client privacy." However, privacy intrusions are not limited to ADT, and certain vulnerabilities are more challenging to address than others. Whether you have a well-monitored safety system like ADT, Comcast Xfinity, or Vivint, or simply a few off-the-shelf cameras from companies like Ring, Nest, or Arlo, there are several principles you can follow to help safeguard your device security and data.
Enhancing Home Security
Regardless of the home security system you choose, it's crucial to bolster your protection by implementing some key strategies. By doing so, you can reduce the risk of unauthorized access and potential privacy breaches.
- Strong Passwords: Start by setting strong, unique passwords for all your security devices and accounts. Avoid using common passwords or easily guessable information, like birthdays or names. Opt for complex combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Two-Factor Authentication: Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of verification, such as a code sent to your phone, in addition to your password.
- Regular Software Updates: Keep your home surveillance electronics' firmware and software up-to-date. Manufacturers often release updates to fix security vulnerabilities and enhance overall system performance.
- Secure Network: Ensure that your home Wi-Fi network is secure with a strong password and WPA2 or WPA3 encryption. Avoid using default network names or passwords provided by your internet service provider.
- Guest Networks: If your router supports it, create a separate guest network for visitors to use. This prevents potential access to your surveillance devices and sensitive data.
- Physical Security: Position your cameras and other surveillance equipment in secure locations, out of reach from intruders. Additionally, consider using tamper-resistant camera mounts and enclosures.
- Review Access Permissions: Regularly review the access permissions granted to various users, including technicians or service providers. Remove unnecessary access promptly.
- Read Privacy Policies: When choosing a home security provider, carefully read their privacy policies to understand how they handle your data. Opt for companies with transparent and robust privacy practices.
By implementing these measures, you can significantly enhance the security of your home surveillance electronics and safeguard your privacy.
Surveillance cameras have become increasingly affordable over the years, offering users enhanced security and peace of mind. However, the accessibility of these cameras should not come at the expense of personal privacy. Companies like Wyze are making strides in striking a balance between affordability and privacy protection.
Some professionally monitored systems, including Comcast and ADT, address this issue by implementing stringent restrictions on the activities that personnel can perform while assisting clients with their accounts. For instance, they may prohibit staff from adding email addresses or accessing any video recordings.
Comcast, in particular, takes camera security seriously. A Comcast spokeswoman stated, "Our dedicated staff ensures camera security. Our technicians and contractors do not have visibility into our consumers' video feeds or recorded footage. Such access is strictly limited to supervised settings and is granted only to a select number of engineers for specific purposes, such as tech debugging."
By employing such measures, these companies demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding their customers' privacy and protecting sensitive information. Users can have greater confidence in the security of their surveillance systems and the data they generate.
According to a spokeswoman for the home security provider Vivint, consumers have complete control over who can access their Vivint system, including video feeds. Users can manage user settings, create, delete, or update admin users, allowing them to customize access as they see fit. Additionally, Vivint conducts regular manual and automatic systems audits to ensure the security of their customers' data.
Vivint's DIY setup allows customers to install their own devices, eliminating the need for technician access. However, if clients opt for additional monitoring services, which are often offered with specific products, the access situation may become more complex.
The market offers a wide array of cameras, whether users choose a professionally monitored security system or a do-it-yourself option. Frontpoint, for instance, takes strict measures to limit employee access to customer information. Agents are prohibited from watching customer camera feeds unless they receive authorization from the customer for troubleshooting or other forms of assistance during specific instances.
The ADT incident did not involve any technical coding from the technician's side, but it does raise concerns about potential hacking. Remote hacking has been a recurring issue, and even sophisticated devices with high-level encryption can be vulnerable under certain circumstances. FortiGuard security specialist Aamia Lakhieni explains that hackers can gain control of a video feed using two basic methods: locally and remotely.
For local access, the hacker needs to be within the range of the Wi-Fi network to which the camera is connected. Intruders may attempt various tactics to gain access to the wireless network, such as physical force, guessing the security password, or impersonating the Wi-Fi connection and jamming the legitimate one.
Some older security cameras lack encryption or password protection within a local network, relying solely on the security of the wireless network to deter unwanted access. However, once a hacker gains access to the internet, they only need to perform a few actions to gain total control over the cameras and potentially other Internet of Things (IoT) devices in your home.
To ensure the security of your home surveillance electronics, it is essential to follow the best practices mentioned earlier, such as setting strong passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, and regularly updating your devices' firmware. These measures help protect your devices from potential hacking attempts and safeguard your privacy and data.
Regardless of whether you employ a professionally monitored security company, using the same passwords for multiple accounts across the internet can make you vulnerable. If any of those credentials are compromised in a data breach, your privacy becomes jeopardized. Additionally, outdated software, old devices, or security equipment from manufacturers with insufficient emphasis on security can increase your privacy risks.
Hackers with even basic knowledge can easily find unprotected video streams using a simple Google search. Shockingly, many consumers and businesses set up security camera systems without changing the default login and password, leaving them susceptible to unauthorized access. Platforms like Shodan.io demonstrate how unprotected video streams can be accessed and displayed publicly, further highlighting the need for users to prioritize security by setting unique, strong passwords and keeping their devices and software up-to-date.
How to know if your cameras have been hacked
One potential red flag for malicious activity on a security camera is if its performance becomes slower or poorer than usual. When attackers gain access to cameras, the CPU cycles may have to work extra hard, causing ordinary camera activities to become practically or entirely worthless at times. FortiGuard security specialist Aamia Lakhani points out that many webcams have limited memory, making them susceptible to performance issues during unauthorized access.
To enhance your security and minimize the risk of unauthorized access to your cameras, consider the following measures:
Regularly update firmware and software: Keeping your camera's firmware and software up-to-date can close potential security loopholes and improve overall performance.
Use strong, unique passwords: Set strong passwords for your camera and ensure they are different from passwords used for other accounts.
Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): Adding an extra layer of security with 2FA can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access.
Monitor network activity: Keep an eye on your network activity and look for any suspicious or unfamiliar connections.
Consider camera placement: Position your cameras in secure locations, away from easily accessible areas.
By taking these precautions, you can make it harder for hackers to compromise your security cameras and baby monitors, thereby increasing the protection of your privacy and personal data.
How to protect your privacy at home
Absolutely, while no system can guarantee complete immunity to attacks, implementing essential safeguards can significantly reduce the risk of being hacked and help protect your privacy in case of a compromise. Here are some key steps to enhance the security of your surveillance cameras:
- Choose Reputable Brands: Opt for cameras from well-known and reputable companies, especially if they are part of a professionally monitored security system or a do-it-yourself gadget. Established companies often have robust security measures in place and prioritize protecting their customers' data.
- End-to-End Encryption: Select cameras that offer end-to-end encryption. This means that data transmitted between the camera and the storage or viewing device is encrypted and cannot be easily intercepted or accessed by unauthorized parties.
- Strong Credentials: Change the default login credentials of your cameras to something difficult to guess. Avoid using passwords that you already use for other online accounts, as this reduces the risk of attackers gaining access through password reuse.