Hundreds of baby monitors and CCTVs hacked: how to keep your cameras safe

The only way to be absolutely sure that hackers aren’t in your webcams is to turn them off. But there’s a lot you can do to keep your cameras safe on the internet

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 20 November 2014 18:31 GMT

The news this morning that hundreds of baby monitors and CCTV cameras had been broadcasting unknown from inside UK homes and businesses is a reminder that the internet can be a scary place. Almost every camera in your house could be exploited — but you can keep yourself safe by being vigilant on the internet and ensuring that you stay safe from malicious use.

Ensuring that cameras aren't looking at sensitive places, or ones useful to thieves, and turning them off when not needed can make sure that you would be safer if hackers were to gain access to your cameras. But how can you avoid them getting there in the first place?

Laptops and computers

Almost every device, whatever the size, now comes with a webcam built in — and though the warnings this morning referred to standalone cameras, PC and laptop cameras are liable to malicious access, too.

RATs — remote administration tools, or remote access Trojans — can make their way into your computer through apparently harmless downloads like a game or an email attachment.

Once the program is installed onto the computer hackers can take control of your PC — allowing hackers to make use of personal information and internet use, as well as looking and recording through any attached webcams. Hackers have occasionally used the information or images got through such viruses to commit fraud or blackmail the computers’ owners.

Though some computers have lights to indicate whether or not the webcam is in use, those can also be disabled by hackers. The best way to be sure that nobody is using your computer is to be as careful as possible on the internet.

The best way to head them off is to keep an updated and secure virus checker on your computer and never to download a file that you are not sure about the safety of. Also make sure that your computer and apps are updated as soon as possible, and be careful about downloading anything that could leave your computer open to attack.

CCTV and baby monitors

Other cameras that work on their own rather than through a computer can be accessed directly.

The open feeds that were warned about on Wednesday morning were mostly breached because people had used default or easy to guess passwords. Default passwords are freely available on the internet and hackers can try those until they get in.

The easiest way to head off such an attack is to ensure that your password is changed from the default. While you’re at it, ensure that the password is as secure as possible: strong passwords can be generated on the internet and should include non-dictionary words and symbols.

Also check the other security settings — if you can limit the amount of people with access to the camera, or require extra credentials to access it, then it’s best to turn those on.

Of course, the safest way of avoiding such a breach is not to open it up to attack — if it’s not necessary, it might be best to turn off the camera’s internet connection entirely. But as long as all security suggestions are followed, there is little reason to worry.

Ultimately, the only way of being sure that webcams are not being remotely viewed is to cover them up — if you’re worried, and it’s feasible, you could stick a piece of paper over the screen when it’s not being used or turn it against the wall.

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