Can Home Security Systems be Hacked?
Home security systems are an essential part of your home because they protect your valuables and physical safety. With improvements in camera and Wi-Fi technology, security systems are now easy to customize for a variety of homes with specialized security needs.
Home security system hacking is not common, and the risk of successful thefts occurring is usually low. However, hackers may be able to blackmail you with video recorded on your indoor or outdoor cameras. You need to understand basic security best practices when choosing and installing a security system independently or with a professional’s help.
HOW TO AVOID BEING HACKED
Securing Your Wi-Fi
The answer to “Can home security systems be hacked?” is strongly influenced by your overall Wi-Fi security. Most home security systems are now wireless, which makes installing and updating them much easier. However, it also makes hacking easier, especially if the hacker can get within range of your Wi-Fi connection.
Sometimes security system devices are easier to install and update on an unsecured network, but this should be avoided at all costs. Even if you occasionally have to reenter a password or reconfigure their connection, this extra step is worth it.
Using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection at home is almost as risky as using one at a coffee shop or airport. Although thieves have to be physically close to your unsecured network to log on, this is theoretically possible if they get close enough to the home while you’re on vacation.
Avoid making your Wi-Fi password something obvious, like “admin” or “password.” Use a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, plus at least one number or symbol. A password of at least 16 characters provides the most protection against brute force hacking methods.
Protect Your Account Log-In Information
One of the biggest potential risks to your home security system is your username and password. If hackers gain access to this information, they may have nearly unlimited access to the system.
Although hackers can enter your account by using cryptographic hacking methods to guess common passwords, it’s more common for them to successfully break-in when you reuse a password you use on a website that gets compromised. Websites with poor security frequently experience data breaches, so when you reuse the same password across all your online accounts, you risk a hacker gaining instant access to all of them.
To prevent hackers from entering your account, use the longest password possible and don’t reuse it on other sites. Use the same level of complexity that you would for a Wi-Fi password. Make any PIN number associated with the account a number other than your anniversary or birthday, as these dates are easy for hackers and robbers to guess if they research you ahead of time.
Also, consider enabling two-factor authentication or notifications when someone logs into the account from a new location. Two-factor authentication is best because it usually requires a passcode texted to your phone to log in. Login notifications are helpful, but it’s easy to overlook them when you’re busy.
If you must share security system passcodes with a housekeeper, dogsitter, or relative while on vacation, try to give them the information in-person or over the phone instead of sending it via text or email. After they have completed the services you need them to, consider changing the passcode and other authentication information to avoid hacks.
If hackers successfully gain access to your home security system, they can usually access live and archived footage from your cameras. If your cameras include microphones, this could give hackers a huge amount of access to your private conversations.
Protect yourself from extortion by keeping cameras only in vital areas of the house. Avoid using them in bedrooms or home offices where confidential work details may be discussed, even if you have the microphones turned off and the camera positioned toward a window. If you’re concerned about break-ins in these rooms, use window alarms and position a camera directly outside the windows instead.
Locks and Peripherals
Garage door openers and smart locks may be vulnerable if the hacker gets within Wi-Fi range or works with local criminals to unlock your home while you are away. However, this is not a major threat unless you are specifically targeted for having valuables, and is unlikely to happen at all if you use a strong password and protect your Wi-Fi connection.
Although hackers can theoretically tamper with any part of your home security system, they are less likely to find carbon monoxide monitors and smoke alarms to be of any real use. They could tamper with them to pull pranks on you with false alarms, but this is uncommon and not an everyday threat.
DIY vs. Professional
The answer to “Can home security systems be hacked?” becomes more complicated when considering DIY security systems. Professional systems may avoid some of the common problems with improper device installation on unsecured Wi-Fi, but DIY systems can be perfectly safe when done right.
However, DIY devices from unknown brands and retailers may not be as secure as they say they are. Well-known and tested security brands are fine, but buying a cheap product with few or no reviews is a potential hazard.
Even if you get a great system, the security of any system all comes down to the actual strength of your networks and passwords. A professional system can still be compromised if the hacker has your account credentials.
Your security system should be as robust as possible to protect yourself and your family fully, and concerns about hacking shouldn’t stop you from making it as thorough as possible in most parts of the house. However, basic precautions are essential to making sure it can’t be hacked easily.
If you want a DIY system but are not confident in your ability to install it properly, buy the parts yourself and then hire someone trustworthy and local to install it. Someone with extensive experience in installing home security systems and a good reputation can connect everything securely. After that, it’s up to you to use strong passwords and protect them to keep your system as secure as possible.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Calvin Fellows is a former military security agent and police detective who headed security administration. Calvin is experienced and knowledgeable in all avenues of personal and corporate security, and is dedicated to educating people on how to preempt any physical or cyber security attacks before they happen.
calvin fellows // Security Expert
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