Worried about data security? You should be

Having in-home CCTV is becoming more popular with homeowners wanting to check on pets, children or house-sitters and with the rise in connected devices and the Internet of Things people expect to be able to operate their heating, their security systems and even their lighting from their phone.

This is all great, because there have been some enormous leaps in technology that can be applied to a number of situations, but there is always a downside, and that is the security of these connected devices and their vulnerability to hackers or bugs in software. A homeowner in the UK received clips from a home CCTV recording device that showed another family’s home, including audio in which a child could be heard. The files were sent to the Swann app on the customer’s smartphone, and there is still no word on who was receiving her footage by mistake. She reported the problem to Swann, the manufacturer, who advised they could not do anything until after the weekend, and she continued to receive clips from the other camera until Monday, when the firm’s PR agency were alerted to the issue. Another user of the same technology received footage from a pub, which he realised was nearby, so he went to speak to the landlord about the issue. They could not understand how the footage was being mixed up as they had two different security keys and different log in details.

Swann made a statement about the first incident stating that “human error” was responsible for two cameras being issued with the same security key, thereby enabling the cameras to send footage to the wrong app. The second incident was nothing to do with duplicated security keys and there is still some confusion as to how the footage became mixed up. It does raise questions about the integrity of these security devices, and shows how easy it is for people to unknowingly have their personal lives documented and sent to strangers over the internet. These two cases were mistakes, and not the result of hackers, but it does go to show how vulnerable the system is and how easily footage can be redirected to the wrong app.

People who use connected devices to manage their home, such as thermostatic controls, lighting controls and intruder alarm controls are vulnerable to exploitation by hackers, as once they are in your personal home network they can access virtually anything they want to – what might start out as someone having a look in your smart-fridge and changing your thermostat could end with them disabling the burglar alarm and breaking in to your house, knowing it is empty as they can view your security camera footage as well.

While we’re not trying to put anyone off using home security cameras – they can be very valuable as evidence in a crime – we would urge people to steer clear of the DIY camera kits available on the high street, as they have been found to have vulnerabilities that totally undermine any sense of security they might bring on the face of it.

At P&R Alarms we use tried and tested equipment and systems from the leading manufacturers, including Samsung, Sony and Avigilon. We also carry out our own installation and testing on our premises before offering any products to our customers, so you can be sure that we are totally confident in the systems we choose and that we know them inside out.

For peace of mind always use an NSI Gold Standard supplier, such as ourselves, as it may also be a requirement of your home and contents insurance policy that you do so. You can also rest assured that any systems installed by us will not send you footage of someone else’s home, nor will any of your footage be sent to your local pub landlord!