A calm and quiet household is a sign that everything is alright, and that’s exactly what people expect when they introduce a security camera at home. Peace of mind is appealing. However, there’s a hidden risk lurking in that tranquility, one that’s difficult to notice even after it’s happened.
I’m talking about your security camera being hacked. Hacks are an ongoing battle, as evident in the numerous stories about hackers gaining unauthorized access to indoor cameras and creeping out people.
I spoke to a former hacker turned security expert to ask why these hacks are happening in the first place, and spoke with engineers who’ve worked on a mechanical privacy shutter, to get a clearer picture of what needs to be done to reinstate confidence in security cameras.
So, how would you know you’ve been hacked? Here are the most common signs.
Strange sounds or voices
If hackers deliberately want to make their presence known, they’ll speak through your camera using its two-way communication function. The majority of cameras offer this feature, letting people to chat with whomever is at home, but you’ll instantly know something’s amiss when you start hearing strange sounds — or even voices that try to stir up conversation.
Take notice, even if it’s a small, minor peep.
The LED light is on
As a precaution, indoor cameras typically have an LED light to indicate the camera is actively being accessed by someone remotely. Seeing the LED light turned on is a dead giveaway the camera is being accessed, and an important visual element to keep people aware.
Panning or tilting
While most indoor cameras are static, offering wide angles lenses that cover a fair amount of space, there are a few that offer a degree of articulation. The Foscam Z2 is an example that offers pan and tilt functions, allowing people to adjust the camera’s vantage for an optimal view of their home.
If you happen to see any movement, you should be cautious. because it’s another obvious way to tell if your camera has been hacked. Since these cameras articulate, there may be sound that accompanies the movement, giving you an audible alert that something is up.
The password to your account has changed
When setting up a security for the first time, you’re usually asked to set up a new account with the service. When you unexpectedly realize the app doesn’t log in, it’s an indication that your camera is being hacked. While you may receive an email address starting that your password has been changed, that’s not always the case.
Most companies add another level of security by forcing users to change their passwords after a period of time, but if you can’t recall doing that yourself, someone else did it for you.
Increased data traffic
Accessing a live stream of a camera’s feed requires a fair amount of data to be transmitted, which is another way to tell if it’s been compromised. One way to determine this is by using your router’s advanced tracking and security functions. For example, the Xfinify xFi gateway has its own built-in security that’ll monitor data traffic from all the connected devices at home.
If your camera is transferring a substantial amount of data, it’s a key indicator something’s not right — especially if it’s transmitting data during times when you know you’re not accessing it. Not only will some routers and gateways monitor data traffic, but some will even indicate the times during the day there are spikes.
Take, for example, the Xfinity xFi gateway router, which actively monitors all the devices connected to the network. Not only can you see the amount of data being transferred by each device, but it’ll even display times throughout the day when it registers unusual spikes in data transfer. If you happen to see an anomaly, it may be an indication something is up.
Login history with app
Some home security cameras have apps that let you check the login history of your account. This can shed some light who may be getting unauthorized access to your camera.
One security system maker, SimpliSafe, offers another level of awareness with its history log of devices accessed in its app. Whenever you log into the app using the correct user and password information, SimpliSafe stores that particular device into its history log — detailing the device, date, and time when it was last used. Naturally, if you notice a suspect in the log, it’s an indication you’ve been hacked.
Be suspicious, be safe
Do these tips seem basic? We agree.
Unfortunately, the decision to place a security camera inside your home, despite it benefits, also exposes you to a new avenue of attack. To make matters worse, the companies behind smart home security cameras often don’t prioritize security features.
Vigilance is often your only recourse. If your smart home security camera behaves strangely, take not. It might be nothing. It also might be a sign that your camera is hacked.