The Rise of Wireless Security Cameras and the Risks They Pose

While there’s a lot of conversation about cyber security and physical premises security, the two rarely overlap. But when you study wireless security cameras, you experience a rare convergence of digital and physical. Do you know everything you need to know about this potentially risky technology?

Next time you’re walking down a busy street, take a look around. More specifically, take a look up. You’ll notice that there are dozens – perhaps hundreds – of cameras hidden away in corners, on lampposts, above traffic lights, in store windows, and everywhere in between. In fact, make a point of looking around next time you go on a walk through your neighborhood. Where I live, there’s no shortage of security cameras on private property.

As technology has improved in recent years, there’s been an increase in the number of wireless security cameras. Renowned for their ease of installation and convenient viewing options, wireless security cameras have become quite popular. They don’t come without risks, though.

Unlike hardwired security cameras that send footage to a closed-circuit television, wireless cameras rely on the Internet to transmit data to different devices that have permission to access the footage. The problem is that, like anything on the Internet, hackers can find ways to tap into the footage and use it for nefarious behavior.

Many cheap over-the-counter cameras, unfortunately, don’t come with encryption features and are actually relatively easy for hackers to access, which is part of the problem. I know when I was shopping for my first wireless camera, data encryption features were on the top of my list. But for those not as familiar with the technical language involved in cyber security, it’s easy to slip up and choose the wrong camera.

Making wireless security cameras more secure
The goal, from a cyber security perspective, is to make security cameras more secure both through technological advancements and end-user behavior. Some of the various steps to be taken are fairly straightforward, while others are a little less obvious.

“Potentially the most dangerous thing you can do is point a security camera directly at your door where a house number is displayed,” security expert Christian Cawley says. “All it takes is for a security cam hacker to check your IP address, identify the owner of that range (for instance, your ISP) and narrow down your location to find your home.”

It’s also important for wireless security owners to pay attention to the overall security of their wireless networks. Routers should be configured using WPA2-based encryption, and it’s not a good idea to view streams on unsecured networks – such as at cafes and coffee shops.

Wireless security camera owners also need to consider whether they really need to be online. “The ability to stream video of what is happening at home to your mobile device is really useful,” Cawley admits. “But do you really need it? Does your Internet cam really need to be streaming data across the web?” There are always other options to be considered.

Putting security first
The irony of wireless security cameras is that they often introduce additional security risks into your home or business. However, if you understand what you’re getting into and commit to making cyber security a priority, you can avoid most of these issues.

It’s time for the security community to come together and address this topic.

Larry Alton, Writer,

[ISACA Now Blog]

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