by Aaron Smith
Smart video surveillance is the kind of technology that lets you see through your cameras from your smartphone over the internet, or connect your cameras with other devices in your home. They’re great for improving the physical security of your home or business, but they can be a security liability in another sense — cybersecurity.
So just how vulnerable are surveillance cameras to cybersecurity threats? Here’s what you should know about the potential cybersecurity risks of video surveillance and the solutions that can help mitigate them.
Camera Hacking That Results in Unauthorized Access
If your business relies on a POE camera system for security, then it’s possible for your cameras to be hacked remotely. POE cameras are often a target because they use the same network as your computer. A hacker may try to gain access to your camera system and view live footage or recorded videos.
Hackers who gain access to your security camera can use it to spy on you, your family, or your business. Once they have access, they can also remotely disable your security cameras, or launch attacks on other devices connected to the same network.
While most businesses understand the importance of cybersecurity, many don’t realize that their security cameras can be a weak spot in their defenses. If you’re choosing a surveillance system for your business, it’s important to take steps to protect your network from being hacked.
Here are some best practices:
- Use a firewall to protect your network
- Change the default password for your camera system
- Keep your security camera software up to date
- Monitor your network for suspicious activity
Insider Threats and Security Camera Tampering
Cyber threats aren’t always from outside your organization. In fact, many times, they come from within. Disgruntled employees, for example, may gain access to your video surveillance system and cover up instances of theft or malicious activity. And if they have your password, they can tamper with the footage to make it appear as though nothing is wrong – even while they’re stealing data or sabotaging your system.
In order to protect your business from insider threats, it’s important to have a comprehensive security strategy that ensures your video surveillance system is well protected against tampering and unauthorized access.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Restrict access to your video surveillance system to authorized personnel only
- Implement role-based and modern access controls like biometric authentications and facial recognition to ensure that only those with the appropriate permissions can access the system
- Monitor activity on your network for any suspicious behavior
- Use tamper-proof cameras and encrypt all video footage to prevent tampering and unauthorized viewing
- Change the password frequently, especially after any changes in staff
Misuse of Surveillance Data by Employees or Subcontractors
When people in charge of your video surveillance data misuse it, the results can be disastrous. In 2016, a CCTV operator in China was caught selling access to live footage of women in retail changing and hotel rooms to voyeurs. The case made global headlines and raised serious data security and privacy questions. In another instance, a U.S. school district was forced to pay $300,000 in damages after it was caught secretly spying on students through their laptop webcams.
These examples make it clear that when video surveillance data falls into the wrong hands, it can be used to violate people’s privacy and security. That’s why it’s important to have strict controls in place to prevent misuse by employees or subcontractors.
Here are the steps you should take:
- Limit access to video surveillance data to a small number of employees or subcontractors.
- Make sure all employees or subcontractors who have access to the data understand and agree to your company’s privacy and security policies.
- Regularly monitor employee or contractor activity to make sure they are following your policies.
Connecting to the Internet without Proper Security Measures in Place
Whether you’re monitoring video surveillance on your devices, storing and analyzing footage in a central location, or sharing information with law enforcement, you’re creating cybersecurity vulnerabilities if you’re not properly secured. When connecting your system to the internet, be sure to use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your data and protect your network from outside threats.
In addition, take steps to secure any software you use for video surveillance. Be sure to update your software regularly and use strong passwords to prevent unauthorized access. The weakest link in any cybersecurity system is usually the people who have access to it, so be sure to educate your employees about proper security measures and procedures.
Implement these measures
- Store footage in a secure location: Footage from your surveillance cameras should be stored in a central location that is only accessible to authorized personnel. This can help prevent unauthorized access and tampering.
- Use strong passwords: When setting up your video surveillance system, be sure to use strong passwords for all accounts. Avoid using easily guessed words or phrases, such as your address or birthdate. Make use of a password manager to protect your company-wide credentials.
- Educate employees: Be sure to educate your employees on proper security measures, such as not sharing passwords with anyone and not downloading unknown files.
Video Surveillance Data Loss or Corruption
Theft or destruction of video surveillance equipment and data online, whether intentional or not, can result in the loss of data. For instance, drone pilots may lose their equipment via theft or cyber sabotage, resulting in the loss of footage that may contain sensitive mapping data and GPS. If this happens, it could create legal liability for themselves or the companies they work for.
In addition, video surveillance footage can be corrupted, which can make it difficult or impossible to use. This can happen if the footage is not properly backed up or if the wrong file format is used. Video surveillance systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are able to store large amounts of data. This data can be very valuable to a company, so it is important to protect it from loss or corruption.
A few ways to prevent data loss from cyberattacks:
- Use a reliable and tested backup system
- Store sensitive data in multiple locations
- Use a secure file format
- Encrypt all data including your customer data, video surveillance data, etc.
- Regularly test your system to ensure it is working properly
Should You Be Worried About Cybersecurity Threats?
Nearly every business owner should be concerned about cybersecurity threats. But before you get too worried, it’s important to understand that there’s a lot of misinformation out there about the risks of installing a network security camera system. And as a result, many business owners perceive video surveillance as a cybersecurity threat.
All things considered, the vast majority of security threats you can expect to encounter will likely be physical on-location. So expect a professional-grade security system to be a net positive for you.
The traditional benefits of a security system:
- Deterring criminals: If a criminal knows that their actions are being recorded, they’re less likely to target your business.
- Providing evidence: If malicious activity does occur, video footage can be used as evidence to help catch the culprit and prevent future attacks.
- Keeping you alert: Most reputable security camera systems will alert you to suspicious activity, depending on their settings.
Key Takeaways for Your Security System
Video surveillance is a valuable tool in protecting your business from cybersecurity threats. You just need to be smart about how not to close one door but open another. Be especially wary if your company manages valuable digital assets like customer data.
Consult with your cybersecurity company before you talk to your camera provider.
Bio: Aaron Smith is an LA-based content strategist and consultant in support of STEM firms and medical practices. He covers industry developments and helps companies connect with clients. In his free time, Aaron enjoys swimming, swing dancing, and sci-fi novels.Share
About the Author:I am a cybersecurity and IT instructor, cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. I am an owner of the WyzCo Group Inc. In addition to consulting on security products and services, I also conduct security audits, compliance audits, vulnerability assessments and penetration tests. I also teach Cybersecurity Awareness Training classes. I work as an information technology and cybersecurity instructor for several training and certification organizations. I have worked in corporate, military, government, and workforce development training environments I am a frequent speaker at professional conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, the (ISC)2 World Congress 2016, and the ISSA International Conference 2017, and many local community organizations, including Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2006 at http://wyzguyscybersecurity.com