Many moons ago, we used to have peepholes. Kids, ask your parents about how they’d look through a little hole to see who was at the door to make sure it was safe to open the door.
In 2013, inventor Jamie Siminoff brought his idea for a video doorbell to TV’s “Shark Tank” hoping for a deal. All the sharks flatly rejected him, saying it was a dumb idea. But the product, Ring, became a huge hit and Amazon purchased his company in 2018 for over $1 billion.
Video doorbells are easy to set up and use, but don’t rush through and skip essential security steps. There are a few settings you need to change to make sure you’re as secure as possible. Remember, just because your home is safe from intruders doesn’t make it safe from hackers.
1. Get two-factor authentication
Let’s face it, there’s no point in paying for a security system if it can easily be hacked. Although Google and Amazon (the companies behind Nest and Ring, respectively) offer solid cybersecurity, your account can still be compromised if a hacker is dedicated or tricky enough.
To protect your system, it’s a good idea to set up two-factor authentication — just like you should with any online account. Tap or click here to learn more about the benefits of 2FA for your social media accounts.
The extra layer of verification adds a stumbling block for anyone attempting to access your account. Best of all, you’ll receive alerts for all login attempts — meaning you’ll know if someone’s trying to break into your account as it’s happening.
To set up 2FA for your Nest Hello device, open the Nest app, tap on the Settings gear and choose Account. Select Manage account and tap Account security. Select 2-step verification and toggle it on.
From here, follow the on-screen instructions to enter your password, phone number and verification code, which will be sent to your trusted device. Click Done to complete the setup.
Once you set up 2FA, you’ll be signed out of any connected Nest devices for security reasons, so don’t be surprised when you’re asked to login again.
To set up 2FA for your Ring doorbell, open the Ring app and tap the three-line icon in the upper-left corner. Tap Account, followed by Two-factor Authentication. Tap Turn on Two-Factor, enter your password and enter the number for your trusted device.
Wait for the app to send your trusted device a code, then enter it into the appropriate field and tap Continue to verify.
2. Tell your device what and when to record (and when not to)
When using your home security system, it’s important to pick up footage and audio as effectively and covertly as possible. Your devices light up to let you know the camera is on and recording, similar to how your laptop camera lights up when you’re using it.
For Ring, its the circular light surrounding the button. On Google Nest, it’s the glowing green dot.
You might think it’s a good idea to disable this feature so potential intruders don’t know they’re being recorded, but some privacy advocates disagree. They argue entities like Google (or a hacker) could spy on you without your knowledge. As a result, Google has removed the ability to disable the green status light.
Ring devices also have no way to disable the status light. Tap or click to see why Google removed the toggle.
To work around this, you could just tape over the light like you would a laptop camera, but an elegant tech solution to try on Google Nest is dimming the light. On your Nest phone app, select your camera and tap the Settings gear. Then, select Status light and choose Low. It will still light up, but it will be much dimmer.
Now that you’re able to record a bit more stealthily, you’ll also want to capture audio along with your recorded footage. For both Ring and Nest devices, audio recording can potentially catch activity outside of the camera’s field of vision.
To enable audio recording on your Nest Hello device, open the Nest phone app, select your camera and tap Settings. Then, select Microphone and tap the toggle to turn it off or on.
Ring devices have audio enabled by default, but you can toggle it on or off in the app or within a call by tapping the Microphone button.
Google Nest devices also allow you to set up an Activity Zone for motion detection, which can help you capture important footage in the moment.
To get started, open the app and choose the camera you want to make an activity zone. Then tap Settings and select Activity Zones. If you don’t see this option, it’s because you don’t have the Nest Aware subscription, so this won’t be available to you.
But if you do have the subscription, click Create Zone + and turn your phone so it’s in landscape mode. Tap and drag inside the zone to move it. You can adjust the shape of the zone to your liking and tap the pencil icon to give your zone a name. Click the checkmark to save, then tap the new checkmark to save the zone.
Ring devices automatically detect motion and will notify you if anything is detected. Speaking of which …
3. Get notified
If you want to take full advantage of your security system, enable push notification to your smartphone. This way you’ll know when your camera catches something important.
For a Ring device, go to your Device Settings in the Ring app and toggle both Ring Alerts and Motion Alerts on. The app will push the notifications to your lock screen.
Nest has a bit more of an in-depth process, which depends on whether you subscribe to Nest Aware. You can choose to receive your notifications via email, phone or both. You also have the option to get alerts every time someone triggers the camera, or only when you or someone with shared access leaves your house.
You can filter out specific notifications as well, so you’re not overloaded. Nest devices can tell whether someone is delivering a package, so if you don’t care about these types of notifications, adjust the settings.
In the Nest app, tap the Settings icon in the top right corner of the Nest app home screen and select Notifications. Choose the Nest product you want to change Notifications for, and you’ll be given the option to set up alerts via push notifications or email.
If you have other Nest products aside from the video doorbell, each one has different alert options. Tap or click here to see how to set them up.
4. No need to share
Ring’s Neighbors app adds a social element to home security. Neighbors can share images, videos and information about suspicious activities or lost pets, which can help keep neighborhoods safer.
But this community policing effort comes at a price: your privacy. Police are able to tap into the Neighbors app to catch criminals, which turns the idea of crowdsourced surveillance into a kind of de-facto dragnet.
And that’s not even counting how the Ring Neighbors app can accidentally expose your address if you’re not careful. Tap or click to see why we don’t recommend diving too deep into the Neighbors app.
Thankfully, you only run the risk of exposing yourself if you share things or post with the Neighbors app. There isn’t a way to truly opt out, but you can choose not to use these features for a more private experience.
Bonus: Protect your network to protect your video doorbell – and all your other gadgets
Wi-Fi is the magic that makes these video surveillance systems work. It’s the reason you’re able to have multiple cameras feeding data to one another without a tangled mess of cables and sensors.
But this convenience is a double-edged sword. Because you’re relying on Wi-Fi for everything from data transmission to adjusting user settings, an ambitious hacker who compromises your network could easily undermine your security system — and all the other devices on your network to boot.
To keep your security system and gadgets safe, securing your router from hackers is the strongest preemptive move. Adjusting these security settings can make all the difference in protecting your network from intruders. Tap or click here for 5 router settings to keep hackers away.
Looking for a safer way to protect your home and family? SimpliSafe includes cameras, motion detectors and a video doorbell in one complete home security package. Visit SimpliSafeKim.com today, for a special offer just for you!