Caution: Some Home Security Cameras Might Share Your Private Videos

Here’s a word to the wise: your electronics devices can be used against you. Yes, you read that right. Your phone could be used to track you. Your front door look could be used to detect when you’re leaving or coming. And your home security cameras could be used to spy on you. The best hidden camera is one that you can’t find.

Now, I know that sounds like fear mongering, and at first blush it is. But for good reason. You should always err on the side of caution when using any electronic device that is connected to the Internet. Simply assuming that you’re protected just isn’t good enough these days.

And the same caution should be applied to the really anything, include the top home security systems, since many of them are now connected to the Internet, allowing you to monitor your home via sensors and cameras. So always set up your system by speaking to a representative when you can, and be extremely cautious if you purchase equipment second hand or not factory sealed.

Or you could end up like this woman, who was inadvertently emailing her recorded footage from her Canary security camera to the security camera’s previous owner. To be clear, this isn’t really Canary’s fault. What happened you ask?

The Canary was previously owned. Which is to say it was returned to the store it was bought from. However, the previous owner, as he explains in the video, had already set up the camera, attaching his credentials, including his email, to it. So when the camera detected motion it would email the footage to him. Unfortunately, the new owner didn’t perform a hard reset on the camera – likely because she didn’t entirely know what she was doing or that it was a used camera – and as a result when the Canary detected motion, it was automatically sending it to the previously registered address.

According to Netgear, Canary and a few other makers of security cameras like this, they have a policy that requires the retailer to ship it back returns to them for this exact reason. But as NBC Bay Area discovered, not all retailers are honest. They bought a Zmodo EZcam from Fry’s Electronics in Sunnyvale, set up the camera, and then returned it. The next day their producer returned to Fry’s and bought the very same camera – they were able to verify this because they used ink only detectable with a black light. The result you ask? The previous owner, which in this case was the news anchor, was able to access the footage of the new owner, or in this case the producer.

Arlo Hard Reset Button
Insert a paper clip here to perform a hard reset on the Arlo security cameras.

So what do you do if you buy a camera and it’s not setting up correctly or you may suspect or know that it’s been previously used?

  1. Start with the hard reset button. In the case of Netgear, which sells their Arlo and a variety of versions, it’s located on the back of their included hub.
  2. See if you can perform software reset using the included app or software for your computer.
  3. Call the manufacturer and provide the serial number for the camera. They should be able to tell you if it’s been used before.
  4. And last and perhaps least, return to the store and swap it for a new one, provided you have that option.

It’s for this very reason that we always suggest buying IoT devices from a trusted manufacturer, ideally with a long good standing history. It was just last year that half of the Internet was taken down thanks to a variety of IoT device that hadn’t been hardened with the necessary security to avoid a massive and wide spread attack on the web, otherwise known as a DDOS.

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Christen Costa

Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."

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