Is your security camera safe?
Millions use cheap Chinese made WiFi security cameras to monitor their property. These are common in homes and commercial locations and they are popular because of the low cost and easy installation. Using WiFi there is no need for any home run wires as long as you have access to AC to provide power.
Most are safe but it pays to look before you leap just to be safe. You could be installing a back door to your entire network without knowing it.
I recently tried an outdoor Pan/Tilt camera from Sricam and quickly decided NO WAY would that be part of my system at home. Here is what I learned only after buying it ( I got a refund! )
It cannot be used with third party camera viewers so it won't integrate well with other brands.
It cannot be used with a ddns service to allow remote viewing over the Internet. You must install only their software which connects to a Chinese owned server to access the camera. This means you grant an unknown person or persons access not just to your camera, but via your WiFi or Ethernet cable, access to your internal computer network. Potentially they could access your computer files. They could take control and use your system to distribute spam, malware and conduct attacks on other networks. It also means if their server is down so is your camera.
I am not saying this happens but it could and you may never know. As soon as this was apparent I pulled the plug, removed their software and arranged a refund.
I still have IP cameras and I believe they are safe because I am not using any of their software other than firmware in the cameras. This may not be a guarantee but if you follow a few tests first you should be okay.
1. Make sure you can access the camera via an IP address and port number directly in your web browser. Try it again with your Internet connection disabled leaving only your internal network running. Nothing should change because by viewing via the IP address you have a direct connection to the camera.
2. Make sure you are able to change that IP address and do so.
3. Make sure you can change the port number and do that as well.
( Each camera you have should have it's own FIXED IP and PORT number )
4. Test ONLY via your web browser at this point. Everything should work as before with no internet connection indicating it is working stand-alone with no extra software installed on your computer.
5. Use only known third party software to manage, view and record cameras. Avoid any software that came bundled with the camera with the possible exception of the utility required to change IP and port numbers. iSpy is a good option that will work with virtually every camera.
6. If you must view your camera from the internet at another location or on smart phone you will most likely need to configure your router to allow access from the outside. Due to the large variety of routers in use, the specifics of configuring your own is beyond the scope of this article. Consult your user guide or call your ISP for help.
7. Since most people do not have a static IP from their provider, it may change at any time without notice. If this happens while you are away you will lose the ability to view your cameras. A free ddns service from a company such as no-ip.com can provide the solution by automatically checking your IP and providing a URL to your cameras. Many routers have this ability built in so you do not need to leave any computer running at home. If this is a feature your router does not support you can install a small utility on a running computer which will communicate any change of IP to the ddns provider of your choice. Each camera will have it's own port number so you can use free apps on smart phone to view all of your cameras. Don't use viewer apps that may come with the camera. They may be safe but best to use third party to avoid the concern.
If you like the idea of video surveillance of your home or business go for it but be aware of potential dangers and plan ahead. Take steps to minimize the risk.
REFUSE any camera that you cannot configure as above or that requires you use their software to access.