Cameras that stream live video — like doorbell smart cameras, baby monitors, and security cameras — are a popular way to keep an eye on your property, family, and pets. These cameras may be called smart cameras, connected cameras, or IP cameras. Using an app on your phone or computer, you’re able to watch or listen to live video and audio feeds, also known as livestreams. But these cameras can be hacked, so read on for ways to help you secure them.
Research Before You Buy
You might be looking for a camera to keep an eye on your home, children, or pets. To keep the livestreams and recordings secure and private, do some research before you buy a camera.
Be sure the camera you buy has built-in security features. For example, look for a camera that encrypts, or scrambles, your account information, livestreams, and archived videos so hackers can’t see them.
Already have a camera? Find out what kind of encryption it has and how to turn it on. Check the manufacturer’s website, read the label on the box, or contact the manufacturer directly.
Secure Your Home Network
Because most cameras are connected to your home Wi-Fi network, make sure your network, especially your home router, is secure by:
- using a strong password on your router
- checking that the router’s firewall is turned on
- ensuring your router has the latest software updates
- checking that your wireless network is encrypted with WPA3 or WPA2
Consider putting your cameras on a separate network from other devices, like your computer or printer. That way, if someone hacks into your computer or gets onto your main network, they wouldn’t also have easy access to your cameras. For instructions on how to set up a separate network, check your router manufacturer’s website or contact the manufacturer directly.
Update Your Software
Most cameras have software that needs occasional updates to fix security bugs and other glitches. To ensure you get these updates:
- visit the camera manufacturer’s website to see if there’s a new version of the software to download and check back regularly to download new updates when they come out
- sign up with the manufacturer to get updates automatically
In addition to the software on the camera, make sure that whatever app you use to watch recorded and livestream videos is up to date. Set it to update automatically.
Use Strong Passwords That You’ve Never Used Before
Cameras usually have default settings that keep your videos private and require a password. To make sure your camera is set up to require a password, check the camera’s user guide for directions.
Choose a strong password that would be hard for a stranger to guess. Don’t use the camera’s default username and password — and don’t use a password that you’ve used before for another website or account. Default choices and reused passwords can be easy for hackers to find online.
If your camera stores your videos in the cloud, it should already require you to set up a password for your cloud account. Look for the option to set up two-factor authentication for the cloud account, as well, if it’s available. This requires something in addition to a password — like a verification code sent by email or generated from an authenticator app — to let you log in.
Turn on Your Camera’s Security Features
If you have the option to turn on encryption and a firewall for your camera, do it. If your camera lets you log in using a web browser, make sure that the login page for your camera has a URL that begins with https. If it doesn’t, the username and password you enter won’t be encrypted. That means a hacker who has access to your online traffic could get your username and password, and use them to access your camera feed. Once you’ve logged in to your camera’s webpage, the URL should still show https. If it doesn’t, your livestream isn’t encrypted, and other people may be able to view it.
Safely Watching Your Camera Feed Remotely
Many cameras let you watch live video remotely, so you’re able to check on your home while you’re away. But before you set up a camera for remote viewing, consider your security and privacy — especially if a camera shows a private part of your home, like a bedroom. If your video isn’t secure, a hacker might be able to watch your video, too. To protect yourself, make sure that your camera feed is encrypted and that you’ve locked down the devices or accounts that you allow to view your feed remotely. Consider looking for a camera that allows you to disable remote viewing.
Securely Sharing Your Livestream With Others
If you plan to let other people watch your livestream, consider getting a camera that offers different levels of permissions. For example, some cameras let you choose an administrator who can make remote changes to your settings — like creating new accounts, setting passwords, and changing the direction the camera faces or the camera’s zoom function. Other cameras let you choose who can watch your livestream and when. For example, you may want a friend to check on your home when you’re away, but not be able to watch the livestream when you’re in town. Not all cameras offer these settings, so look for them when you shop.
Have more smart devices you want to keep secure? Read Securing Your Internet-Connected Devices at Home.