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Rising concerns about home security have driven more and more households in the UK to take preventive steps to protect themselves. A quick search, online or in shops, is typically all it takes to find cheap CCTV cameras.
They’re so easy to set that most households don’t need to do more than plug them to the network to experience the full benefits of a CCTV system.
Ultimately, the public perception is that CCTV is synonymous with security. However, while in theory, CCTV cameras can provide a greater sense of security at home, in practice, many cheap security cameras you can find on the market have alarming vulnerabilities.
Indeed, instead of the secure household many were hoping for, CCTV vulnerable to hacking and cyber intrusion have put customers at risk. According to a Which? Review on the CCTV market, the hyper-availability of affordable CCTV cameras online can have dramatic consequences for consumers.
Installing a security system requires professional knowledge, a lot of consumers find themselves in a difficult position where they can buy cheap CCTV cameras but fail to understand their features and settings in-depth. Never before has affordable technology threaten to expose so much of your privacy.
Unfortunately, more often than not, the marketing communication around some of the most competitively priced CCTV models fail to explain the risks to shoppers.
As Which? explains in their consumer guide to buying CCTV cameras, “lack of standard quality control creates a situation in which customers are at risk while brands, online marketplaces, and governmental institutions refuse to take action. If you are considering adding a CCTV security solution to your home, here are the things you need to know to stay safe”.
Mass-produced cheap home security are often vulnerable
There is no secret. Cheap products are cheap for a reason. When it comes to CCTV cameras, the price difference comes from quality control tests that are designed to make those cameras fit for market.
Mass-produced articles with a low price tag tend to skip any qualitative control, meaning their digital features make them easier to hack for someone with the right tools. Indeed, a CCTV camera that is hooked to your network needs to prevent intrusions, both of a physical and cyber nature.
However, their competitive price on the market means the production process needs to be streamlined and avoid costs that don’t affect the functionality of the end product. As such, cyber vulnerability falls at the bottom of the list of concerns.
As long as the camera is easy to install and record its surroundings, the product is ready for consumption. However, Which? review analyst reveals that with approximately 2 million of cheap and vulnerable CCTV, households need to understand the risk they face when they choose a more affordable model.
Cheap CCTV Invites Outside Threats Into Your Home
There are three main security issues you need to look for when buying your CCTV camera. Popular wireless security camera brands that are sold on online marketplaces like Amazon, but also eBay share common security flaws.
As a rule of thumb, brands that are not well-known outside of the online market should be avoided at all cost. Affordable CCTV solutions from Shenzhen-based factories in China sometimes fail to meet wireless safety standards.
Which? review ranks the risks from “your private data being exposed, to a hacker being able to gain complete control of the cameras”.
Brands that have been tested for vulnerability and that you should avoid are the following; ieGeek, Sricam, SV3C, and Vstarcam. All come with a friendly price tag, but they are quick to join the list of the hacked CCTV cameras that put your privacy and security at risk.
Tested by professional security lab, Context Information Security, cheap CCTV cameras show that they fail to prioritise customers’ security even those they are bestsellers in online marketplaces.
Top 3 security flaws with cheap CCTV systems
There should be signs of how secure a CCTV camera is. To understand the risk, it’s crucial to consider how wireless home CCTV cameras can be hacked.
Hacked CCTV cameras tend to vulnerable to at least one of the following types of hacking:
- They have a weak default password and username setting, which can be easily discoverable. If the user doesn’t change those settings, it’s very easy for hackers to find their way into your camera control system.
- They don’t encrypt your data so that your home router password input is un-encrypted and accessible to any cyber attacker. By using the home router password, they can gain access to other devices on your home network, can monitor your Internet history and any stored data on connected devices.
- They let external users gain root access to the camera itself, allowing hackers to take control and see your camera footage.
The last thing customers want when they purchase a baby monitor, pet camera or home security camera, is to make their household vulnerable.
From full exposure of your everyday life through to accessing private data, consumers could pay a high price using lesser-known brands. You can’t afford to settle on a cheaper security system when there is no guarantee when it comes to security.
How to know if you’re at risk?
According to the Which? review, around 50,000 vulnerable cheap CCTV cameras are active in the UK, including households and small businesses. However, the number of affordable security cameras with security flaws that are available on online marketplaces such as Amazon is growing every day.
While security experts have already identified some vulnerable brands, there’s no denying that mass production manufacturers can bring new brands and products to the market. As Which? reminds consumers, “any one of those cameras could be exploited by an attacker”.
The way forward is to make sure you avoid cheap and unknown brands. With a lot more untested products available on Amazon and other marketplaces, it’s fair to say that you can’t afford to gamble with your security.
Adam French, consumer rights experts at Which?, warns that “there appears to be little to no quality control with these substandard products, which risk people’s security.”
As he notes, cheap cameras, “are being endorsed and sold on Amazon and finding their way into thousands of British homes” precisely because the competitive price makes them a popular and unwise purchase.
You shouldn’t rely on marketplaces for research
Online markets such as Amazon or even eBay are committed to providing a variety of products at the best possible price to customers. For consumers, while they gain access to a vast range of products, and some at the most affordable prices, there’s no guarantee of quality.
Ultimately, it’s not in the interest of an online marketplace such as Amazon to remove some of their best-selling products, even if those present significant risks to the security of their customers.
Despite the Which? team getting in touch and informing Amazon about the threat posed by some of their cheap CCTV cameras, they have not been removed from the selling list.
Amazon and other marketplaces should, “improve the way they scrutinise these products”, according to Which? Consumer rights expert. So far this has not happened and governmental structures have not yet, “looked to make [Amazon] more accountable”, customers need to really scrutinise their CCTV system.
How can you avoid making yourself vulnerable?
Ideally, you shouldn’t make any decisions without making yourself familiar with the different features and security requirements you can find from CCTV cameras. Ideally, a professionally written consumer guide to buying CCTV cameras is a helpful ally in your quest for a more secure household.
You can also research known brands both online and in shops. Most brands publish customers’ reviews on their websites. But, should these not be available, you can consider a site such as TrustPilot to check the efficiency and anti-hacking features of your preferred brands.
Additionally, you’ll find that most tech selling shops are likely to have some CCTV cameras on display, which can be the perfect opportunity to observe them. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the best-suited models for your needs. Seeing them in the flesh might seem like a lot of hassle, but it can save you a lot of trouble in the long term.
Consult an expert when buying CCTV systems
Choosing a CCTV camera and installing your CCTV system are two different things. As failure to set your security system is one of the most common vulnerabilities hackers take advantage of, you want to avoid any issues with a professional CCTV installation.
With a professional installation, you can receive all the tech support you need to ensure your camera is protected against hackers. Additionally, many customers rely on an expert not only to set their system but also provide training and explanations on how to make the most of the camera.
At the end of the day, your security is worth investing in, which means that when you pay more for a known brand, you are guaranteed to get a product that’s meet security standards. Your installer can help you to set and use your system safely.
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