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The No. 1 Problem with DIY Security Surveillance Camera Installations

We know, as professional, certified, security camera integrators that our number one competition is the do-it-our-selfers. We know that you can walk into any electronics store or go onto any online store that sells cameras and you can order your own system, get a ladder, screw some cameras into a wall or on a tree, and link it to your home router and access it via your home computer. But do you, the consumer, also know how by doing it yourself you are often doing the exact opposite of what you want by unwittingly inviting extremely smart and talented security camera hackers right into your most private moments? Many DIY home and business surveillance good intentions end up right into a predator's hands. They can hack your system so easily and watch you. They can monitor your routines, the time of day you leave, when you put your children to bed, where you keep your jewelry, if you lock your back door, if you have a doggie door big enough to fit through, how easily your pets are overcome by the excitement of a treat, and many more of your in-home behaviors and locations.

The problem is a DIY-er will buy a camera system and set it up easily, but won't read the full manual and leave default settings in. The DIY-er will live-stream their cameras via the internet to be able to monitor things at home while away, but won't take the necessary Internet of Things security steps, mainly because they don't have the knowledge. The DIY-er may buy the camera that is on sale and not know that the particular brand has a bad reputation for being easily hacked or intentionally hacked (ie Foscam, which was recently in the security industry news.) Or, the DIY-er will place cameras where they think are the right spots but they really won't understand the true vulnerabilities of their home or business; in other words, how a criminal would see it, because the typical DIY-er is not a criminal and does not work in a field dealing with the deterrence and prevention of criminal activity, like a professional, certified security installer and integrator like GenX Security does.

Back in 2013 a study was done to see which country was most vulnerable in terms of security camera hacking, and the United States topped the list. An investigator discovered a website where anyone who could gain access could watch people on unsecured security cameras right in the privacy of their own homes! That's right, all live-streamed on the internet. Many people don't know about this site because many people are busy with their days and have good intentions to lead happy and morally conscious lives so they aren't looking to peep into other peoples homes. But, some are. This is the new peeping-tom. They no longer hide in trees peering into some 2nd story bedroom window to see if the neighbor is getting ready for bed. Today, they either hack into your DIY security system themselves or they find a creepy website that does it for them.

This investigator could also see the types/brands of cameras most often hacked into, but noted that most of the cameras were simply named "IP Camera." In fact, of the camera brands identified you should know that these are mostly cameras you would buy yourself, not professional brands like the ones we use here at GenX Security. How did these hackers get in? Through default passwords!

As a side note, if you are using Axis cameras we highly suggest you unplug them immediately. Keep reading and you'll find out why.

A year later, the same investigator with followed up to find out which country was still topping the list of the most hacked security cameras and the United States was still number one. We've shared the follow up article below written by the investigator for for you to read. If you are considering a home or business security system, please give us a call as professional, certified installers and integrators of home and commercial security and surveillance systems. Our quotes are always free. Together we can ensure your fortress.

Image: KylaBorg

The following was originally published December 21, 2015 at Cyber Security Online

In November 2014, access to the video streams of 73,011 unsecured security cameras were available on a site that provided a Peeping Tom paradise for voyeurs and creepers. At that time, there were 11,046 unsecured security cameras in the U.S. Now there is roughly half that amount, but the U.S. is still number one by having more insecure security cameras than any other nation in the world.

On December 17, there were 4,104 unsecured security cameras located in the United States that were listed as part of the Insecam project, which claims to have “the world’s biggest directory of online surveillance security cameras.” With six cameras per page, that was equal to 684 pages which I viewed while counting the brand of network video cameras available online, because each of those U.S. cameras did not have a unique password to protect it. That took between five and six hours, including the time to grab some screenshots as well; during that time, the number of unsecured cameras in the U.S. fluctuated wildly and dropped to barely 4,000 before going back up to cover 684 pages again. The most common unsecured cameras in the U.S. found on that site was made by Foscam, and the first 30 pages of links to unsecured IP cameras linked back to those under the Foscam brand.

Although it is unlikely that thousands of Foscam camera owners wised up within a few days, of the eight brands featured on Insecam, Foscam dropped to sixth place in a matter of two days.

On December 19, there were 5,604 unsecured security cameras in the U.S., but the numbers did not fluctuate in the six hours spent counting them by brand. Today we are looking at unsecured cameras in the U.S. by the numbers.

There are only six cameras listed per page when browsing unsecured security cameras in the U.S., and clicking on any one of those takes a viewer to a page featuring a larger view of just that camera. On December 19, the U.S. had 934 pages of unsecured cameras, 250 more pages than just two days prior. Put another way, in two days’ time, 1,500 cameras were added to the list of unsecured cameras in the U.S.

By page 400, or 2,400 of the 5,604 unsecured cameras in the U.S., the count was:

  • Foscam: 10

  • Linksys: 12

  • Netcam: 2

  • Sony: 6

  • Panasonic: 11

  • Axis: 2,359

  • Axis2: 0

  • TPLink: 0

500 pages into the unsecured IP cameras in the U.S., or 3,000 of 5,604 total, the breakdown looked like this:

  • Foscam: 111

  • Linksys: 144

  • Netcam: 145

  • Sony: 55

  • Panasonic: 111

  • Axis: 2,430

  • Axis2: 3

  • TPLink 1

By page 600, 3,600 U.S. cameras of 5,604 security cameras without unique passwords to keep them private were:

  • Foscam: 166

  • Linksys: 207

  • Netcam: 362

  • Sony: 125

  • Panasonic: 173

  • Axis: 2,534

  • Axis2: 28

  • TPLink: 5

Page 700 of 934 pages, or 4,200 of 5,604 unsecured security cameras in the U.S., had a breakdown looking like this:

  • Foscam: 215

  • Linksys: 286

  • Netcam: 457

  • Sony: 292

  • Panasonic: 223

  • Axis: 2,633

  • Axis2: 86

  • TPLink: 8

By page 800, or 4,800 of 5,604 unsecured cameras hooked to the Internet in US, the listings were as follows:

  • Foscam: 305

  • Linksys: 376

  • Netcam: 485

  • Sony: 366

  • Panasonic: 317

  • Axis: 2,809

  • Axis2: 130

  • TPLink: 12

By page 900, 5,400 of 5,604 connected cameras without unique passwords were the following brands:

  • Foscam: 305

  • Linksys: 401

  • Netcam: 485

  • Sony: 366

  • Panasonic: 405

  • Axis: 3,260

  • Axis2: 156

  • TPLink: 22

Finally, on December 19, hours after first starting, on page 934 that represented the last page of 5,604 total cameras in the U.S. in which users set them up without considering that they were opening a digital windows into their lives, the totals were:

  • Foscam: 305

  • Linksys: 483

  • Netcam: 485

  • Sony: 366

  • Panasonic: 527

  • Axis: 3,260

  • Axis2: 156

  • TPLink: 22

A year ago, there were 73,011 total unsecured security cameras globally on Insecam; today, there are 21,122 listed globally. A year ago, there were 40,746 unsecured cameras for just the first 10 countries; today, there are 15,488 listed for the first 10 countries.

Notable changes also include the fact that there are no listings for Hikvision or AVTech DVRs; while cameras from manufacturers Foscam, Linksys, and Panasonic are still there, “new” to the list are unsecured Axis, Axis2, Sony, TPLink and Netcam cameras. Previously, other manufacturers were listed simply as “IP cameras.”

As mentioned before, the number of cameras continues to fluctuate with the U.S. always on top for bad security. Today, December 21, there are 955 pages of unsecured IP cameras in the United States, pushing the total up to 5,740; that is 136 more than just two days ago.

The numbers continue to change as anyone who can Google Dork or use Shodan can submit a camera to be added to the directory. The site claims it will remove cameras from the listing if it is requested, but says “the only solution to make your camera private is to set up a password!”

Here is an example, screenshots taken at different times, to show how much the listings do fluctuate in the U.S. and even globally.


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