The Boogeyman You Can’t See: Securing Home Security Systems from Hackers
It’s a frightful thought: The wayward teenager down the block gains access to your home’s climate control system. After he turns the thermostat up to a sweltering 90 degrees, he moves on to other home automation systems, turning the lights on and off and putting your refrigerator into deep-freeze mode.
Tweak the story a bit, and you have the stuff from which great horror films are made: Imagine the “teenager” is really a professional hacker, and the goal is to track the temperature to figure out when you’re home and when you’re away. Even worse, what if the target is your home security system? As if that doomsday scenario weren’t macabre enough, what happens when a major criminal organization decides to use your humble baby monitor to initiate a nation-wide attack on the country’s networks and infrastructure?
Smart Homes: The Newest Cyber Target
Unfortunately, the nightmare on Main Street has already become reality. The worst-case scenario actually happened on October 21, 2016, when a group of hackers captured home appliances around the country to launch one of the largest and most sophisticated cyber-attacks in U.S. history. That moment may have marked a watershed in the history of technology.
Once upon a time, only government agencies and large organizations worried about network security breaches. Then came the days of personal computers and internet connectivity. Suddenly the average American woke up fearing their personal information would become public at the push of a button. Nowadays, with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), including the proliferation of connected appliances such as refrigerators and vacuum cleaners, hackers are fast becoming the boogeyman of every modern homeowner.
Putting the Threat of Home Cyberattacks in Perspective
Since home surveillance cameras have become essential security tools for residences and businesses alike, it’s unlikely the threat is going to disappear anytime soon. Indeed, as costs have come down, more and more homeowners are choosing to install a residential CCTV surveillance system to protect their homes and their families from the multitude of threats that plague the world.
For good reason. With millions of household burglaries occurring every year throughout the country,1 security remains a top priority for many Americans, and a trusty home monitoring system is the linchpin of every modern protection strategy. While there is a very real threat that hackers could gain access to such cameras and use them against the people they were meant to protect, it is a relatively remote danger when compared with the imminent threat of home invasion. That being said, the threat of cyberattacks is real, and it’s not a bad idea to understand the steps being taken to protect home security systems.
Protecting Your Home Camera System
Of course, people didn’t throw their computers out the window when they realized hackers could gain access to their files. They simply hunkered down and came up with solutions, including advanced firewalls, encrypted information, and anti-virus programs. Similarly, automakers didn’t dump cars in the junkyard of history when they realized the dangers of driving. Instead, they invented seatbelts.
The same is true of smart appliances and home video surveillance systems. Indeed, the good news is it’s not all doom and gloom in the wonderful world of smart homes. Security experts have been hard at work patching up the vulnerabilities that expose home automation systems to the nefarious deeds of abominable cyber-criminals. They’ve also been busy compiling lists of cyber security tips and tricks for both businesses and individuals.
Some of the most common suggestions for protecting an office or home surveillance system include:
- Updating device software regularly
- Creating better network security rules, including stronger password protection
- Using scanning tools to increase application security
- Implementing stricter restrictions on IP address usage
- Disabling remote administration abilities
- Employing security incident and event management (SIEM) services2
While there’s still plenty of work to do to secure home and office surveillance systems from potential cyber-threats, awareness of the problem is widespread and comprehensive solutions are already in the works.
- S. Department of Justice. “Household Burglary, 1994-2011.” http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/hb9411.pdf
- Security Intelligence. “Is Your Smart Office Creating Backdoors for Cybercriminals?” https://securityintelligence.com/is-your-smart-office-creating-backdoors-for-cybercriminals/