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The scary way your home security system can actually put you at risk

The scary way your home security system can actually put you at risk
PHOTO COURTESY OF FOSCAM

You've been hearing a lot about the Internet of Things. These are Internet-connected devices like lightbulbs, vacuums, garage doors and home security systems that you can control from your smartphone, even if you're thousands of miles away.

IoT is a major advancement in technology, and it's being quickly embraced. In fact, every day, an estimated 5.5 million Internet of Things devices are connected in homes around the world, according to research company Gartner.

But that rapid adoption of new technology has a serious downside. Your privacy and security are being put at risk.

Frighteningly, that includes the cameras on some home security systems that, ironically, you install in your home to keep your family safe. This includes newer Foscam brands of home security systems. Some include "P2P" on the packaging, but some don't.

That P2P refers to peer-to-peer networks, where computers communicate with one another. In this case, that's with computers around the world. It's bad enough that your home security camera may be communicating with computer systems around the world without you knowing about it, but it gets worse.

These Foscam systems are designed to break through any firewalls you have in place to protect your home computer systems, according to KrebsOnSecurity. Until recently, you also couldn't turn off Foscam's P2P communications.

However, giving in to pressure from concerned customers, Foscam to its credit has addressed the issues with its cameras head-on. On the Foscam website, the company says that, as of February 14, 2016, "there are no known vulnerabilities with any of our cameras."

Foscam also outlines 5 ways to secure Foscam cameras:

  1. Make sure you're using the latest firmware
  2. Change the device's default username and password
  3. Usernames and passwords should be 8-10 characters long, ideally with a complicated combination of letters, numbers and symbols
  4. Change your default port: "By using a non-standard port, it will make it more difficult for hackers to find your camera"
  5. Use Foscam's embedded logs to see if any unauthorized IP addresses are accessing your camera

Foscam has also said that its P2P feature doesn't store any data from your cameras. Representatives also told KrebsOnSecurity that the point of using P2P on some of its home security systems is to find the fastest server available, among other things.

Still, this is small comfort if your home security system's camera is communicating with servers around the world. If you manufacturers aren't putting your privacy and security first, you must.

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