Expert: Homeowners should secure surveillance cameras

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Someone may be watching you.

Home and business surveillance systems have improved dramatically in the past few years. Now, many of them route video through the internet right to your smartphone, but if your camera is not secure you may be allowing strangers to watch your every move.

“They’re putting themselves out there for anyone to log into and view their activity online,” explained cyber security expert John Sancentio, President of Information Network Associates.

Sancentio demonstrated just how easy it is to go online and watch live video feeds; a man on his computer at home, even people at work.

“Here’s this woman walking around her house,” said Sancentio. “These are all pictures of things that are archived in the system.”

These people probably have no idea they’re live on the internet, and if your system isn’t secure, you could end up on a similar site. It’s legal if you don’t have a password.

“It’s no different than if you open up the doors to your home and let anyone walking by see inside,” said Sancentio. “You’ve put it out there, you’re not taking any steps to safeguard your own privacy.”

Some sites charge a fee to view unsecured cameras. Others are free.

It didn’t take us long to find cameras in our area.

Within minutes of searching, we spotted ten camera feeds from Providence, including one pointing toward a playground. We also found live feeds from someone’s backyard in Cranston, as well as other shots from Middletown, North Kingstown, and Rehoboth.

“In some cases, you can actually narrow it down to a particular neighborhood or maybe even identify the building in which they’re in,” said Sancentio.

The solution is simple: Create a unique password on your camera.

“The length of the password is very important,” explained Sgt. Eric Yelle, of the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit. “The longer the password, the better. The password breaking software in these super computers that they use to break these things can randomly run numbers and names and words through these powerful machines now. A simple password can be broken in seconds with the right software.”

According to Evolve Security Academy, if you have a password that is 5 characters, there are about 11 million possible combinations. If you add just one character, creating a six character password, there are more than 300 million possible combinations.

Sergeant Eric Yelle from the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit says a strong password should include a minimum of 12 characters, a mix of upper case and lower case letters, and symbols and numbers.

“I think the biggest issue is people use simple passwords,” said Yelle. “They use their names and dates of birth or their children’s name and date of birth.”

Make sure you also secure your network and set a password on your router.

“At minimum, I would make sure that your router security is set to WPA2,” said Yelle. “That’s the highest form of encryption available to consumers at this time.”

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