Digital Security Cameras Solving Vegas Crimes, But Are They For You?
For many homeowners, a home security camera can offer peace of mind. It can allow you to keep an eye on your property, your family or even your pets. And, it may even help law enforcement officials recover your property in the event that something goes awry.
In fact, in the Vegas area, home surveillance cameras have recently been credited with helping solve area crimes.
But a video surveillance camera’s effectiveness depends on who controls it. These days, the cameras are more than standalone devices. They’re digital devices, allowing you to view video on home monitors or through remote access with a smartphone or tablet; they can even email you at the first sign of trouble.
Potential to ‘be compromised’
The downside? These security systems have the potential to be compromised.
A complaint by the Federal Trade Commission against one surveillance camera manufacturer serves as a warning. In its complaint, the FTC alleged that the company’s IP camera, a device that connects directly to the internet to transmit video (it doesn’t require a computer or access to a home security system), had security flaws that allowed a hacker to access the private video feeds of about 700 users.
IP security cameras, though, seem to be helping in solving crimes. In August, a local resident provided video footage from such a device to help identify a burglary suspect. In an interview with FOX5, homeowner Ed Vidal explained how he discovered that there had been a break-in at his house. He supplied video footage of the burglary to Metro police, and then uploaded it to Facebook. Just two days later, the burglary suspect turned himself in; meanwhile, users of social media had shared Vidal’s video—part of which appears in a local news report—about 20,000 times.
Stories like this can sometimes pique interest in digital surveillance devices. But homeowners need to take precautions before installing such systems, advises Laura Berger, attorney for the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.
Tips for keeping digital cameras secure
“Obviously, consumers find these products useful,” she says, “but they need to keep in mind some tips for keeping a home camera system secure.”
In tandem with the FTC’s educational article, “Tips for Using IP Cameras Safely,” Berger offers the following suggestions (while specific to IP cameras, the tips can be useful for other video devices as well):
- Decide on a goal. Are you monitoring a child, an empty home, a person with limited mobility, or a pet?
- Make a budget. Figure out what you can and will spend on cameras or other equipment.
- Consider the whole setup. Is each piece of equipment compatible with the others? Is the camera compatible with your wireless router, for instance?
- Make use of usernames and passwords. Set up IP cameras with passwords. And, consider a camera that allows different levels of access. For instance, you may provide a trusted neighbor with remote access to the camera for a limited time (while out of town, for instance).
- Read carefully. If you plan to download a mobile app to be able to view the camera feed on your phone, study the app’s “permissions” information in advance, and find out what personal data the app may share or use. Also, register apps, cameras, and other equipment so that you receive security updates. OnGuardOnline.gov offers additional guidelines for mobile apps.
If you’re considering buying a digital security camera, knowing your options can help you select one that fits your budget, goals, and requirements for privacy and safety so you can rest easy at home.
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