Updated: Jan 6
An internet protocol (IP) camera lets you monitor your home or business using software that connects it directly to the internet. Unlike a webcam, it doesn’t need a computer to transmit video online. But if the IP camera you buy doesn’t encrypt the information it sends, other people might be able to access and view your video data.
A cloud based camera is a distinction some make between traditional IP cameras that you had setup yourself using port forwarding and simple apps. Today however you can purchase a camera like Arlo or Nest Cam and you get full blown mobile applications to use as easy as your other IoT device.
Regardless, when you’re shopping for a wireless camera, you’ll want to put security features at the top of your list of priorities. Let's take a look at some things you need to be aware of while shopping around for a wireless camera for your home or business.
An IP camera in your home sends its feed to your home wireless router. A good wireless security protocol helps secure your video feed as it travels to the router. Look for a camera that supports current wireless security protocols, like WPA3, at the very least WPA2. Make sure your wireless network uses a strong passphrase as well.
Secure Internet Data
If you access your camera’s video feed remotely, your camera will send information beyond your home wireless router via the internet. Not all cameras provide the same levels of security for this. Look for one that encrypts your information, including your username, your password and the live feeds. Check the label on the box or read online to see if the camera uses SSL/TLS (may see the words Asymmetric Encryption). If your camera uses SSL/TLS to protect your login credentials, the URL for the camera’s login page should begin with https (the “s” is for secure).
Keep Devices on Separate Networks
Another option that folks may use, would be to place security cameras on a separate, dedicated network apart from the network along other IoT devices in the home are connected. By having separate networks for your camera and other devices, any possible attacks on the camera can be prevented from spreading to the other network and its devices and vice versa. However, some homeowners might find having to keep watch and maintenance on more than one network more time-consuming and maybe beyond their technical capabilities so decide carefully.
Keep the software up-to-date
The software that comes with your camera needs occasional updates. Register your camera or sign up to get updates to keep the software current. Registering sometime allows you to be notified when an update is available if auto updating isn't an option. Before you install your new camera, visit the manufacturer’s website to see if there’s a new version of the software available for download or check as soon as you get the device online.
Check your camera’s security settings
Some IP cameras allow you to turn off the camera’s password requirement. But unless you want or need to share the feed from your camera publicly, there really isn't any need to do from a secure standpoint. Set up your IP camera to require a password - always. Check the camera’s user guide for directions if you are unsure how to adjust the settings.
Use a strong passphrase
Choose a strong passphrase that would be difficult for a stranger to guess rather than using the camera’s default username and password. Those default choices can be public knowledge and you don't want to be part of the next news story. Also to note, make sure you CAN change them, some cheaper cameras might have hard coded information, not good!
Enable your camera’s security features
If you bought a camera that encrypts data transmitted via the internet, turn this feature on. The log in page for your camera should have a URL that begins with https. If it doesn’t, the username and password you enter won’t be encrypted and other people may be able to access them. Once you’ve logged in to your camera’s webpage, the URL still should indicate https. If it doesn’t, your feed isn’t encrypted, and other people may be able to view it.
Make sure your app and phone software is up to date
Check the app developer’s website, or use your mobile app marketplace to check for updates. Usually this is done automatically, but something you may have to set in the settings menu.
Use a strong passphrase, and consider logging out of the app when you’re not using it. That way, no one else can access the app if your phone is lost or stolen.
Password-protect your mobile devices
Even if your app has a strong passphrase, it’s best to protect your phone with one, too. This can be done by using a traditional password, PIN or pattern on most devices. Don't forget you can use bi-metrics as well, fingerprint scanners and facial recognition are pretty standard features on most devices these days as well.