Wireless video cameras represent an affordable way to keep an eye on your home. Yet they have their own security weaknesses. Indeed, we have all heard stories about hackers tormenting homeowners by gaining access to their cameras for the express purpose of taunting them. And now another problem has popped up: hacking video cameras for the purposes of swatting.
The FBI recently began warning homeowners about swatting via smart home devices. They say that perpetrators are hacking wireless video cameras and speaker-enabled devices, then instigating swatting incidents so that they can stream live video or communicate with law enforcement on site. It is an illegal practice that can be dangerous and, in some cases, deadly.
More About Swatting
Swatting is the practice of placing a hoax call to law enforcement stating that a crime involving an immediate threat to human life is in progress. The idea is to encourage law enforcement to respond in force. If the perpetrator can get a SWAT team involved, all the better.
Some people instigate swatting incidents as a way to get revenge. Others do it as a prank, streaming live video of the incident going down on public platforms. Regardless of the reason behind it, swatting causes problems for both victims and law enforcement agencies. It also pulls officers away from more important matters.
2-Factor Authentication Recommended
Perpetrators do not have to access smart home devices in order to instigate a swatting incident. But they often do because wireless technology gives them opportunities to do more things. To thwart perpetrators, the FBI recommends securing all home automation devices with 2-factor authentication.
Enabling 2-factor authentication requires you to verify your identity before accessing an online account. The first factor is typically your username and password. The second factor involves a code retrieved from your email account or your smartphone. For instance, you might have to enter a code sent to your phone in order to access one of your accounts.
The FBI recommends deploying 2-factor authentication via your phone rather than email. Why? Because email accounts are easily hacked. Your phone is a much more difficult proposition simply because you always have it on your person. Receiving an access code via a text message is a lot more secure than receiving that code through an email.
Devices Are Not Perfect
Enabling 2-factor authentication would not be required in a perfect world. But as you know, the world is far from perfect. It turns out that smart home devices are not perfect either. As secure as manufacturers try to make them, hackers are still capable of finding loopholes and other weaknesses.
Vivint Smart Home recommends sticking with well-known brands when buying security cameras, video doorbells, smart home hubs, etc. Even the best brands are still vulnerable, but they are more likely to alert customers to problems and offer security patches as soon as said problems are uncovered.
Vivint also recommends not reusing usernames and passwords for multiple accounts. Moreover, passwords should be as complex as possible. Combining a variety of letters, numbers, and other characters creates the most secure passwords. People should never use passwords that are in any way associated with personal information – like birthday, wedding anniversary, pet names, etc.
Unfortunately, swatting is a practice some people find amusing. It is yet another reason to make video cameras and other home automation devices more secure with 2-factor authentication. If you have smart home devices and you are not using 2-factor authentication, it is time to change things. Your cameras can only keep you safe if you put forth the effort to make them secure.