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How your Wi-Fi can be hacked to tell criminals if you’re away from home

As smart home products continue to dominate store shelves and living rooms, one type of item stands out as the most popular of the bunch: Wi-Fi security cameras.

In the past, CCTV cameras could cost a fortune, and would be difficult to set up if you didn’t know what you were doing. Flash forward to today and you’ll only spend about an hour or so installing a smart home camera and connecting it to your network. Tap or click here to see our favorite smart home privacy gadgets.

But as convenient as these cameras may appear, a hidden vulnerability found in almost every model on the market can actually put your privacy in danger. If a hacker pushes hard enough, they can use your cameras to find out more about your location, your routine and what’s going on in your house. Here’s why, and what you can do about it.

Security cameras aren’t as secure as we thought

In a new international study, researchers from Queen Mary University of London and the Chinese Academy of Science have determined that unsecured traffic from smart home cameras may be putting users’ security at risk without them knowing. Just by analyzing data feeds from the cameras as they work through a network, a hacker can easily learn a disturbing amount of data about your life.

The researchers worked together with an undisclosed camera manufacturer that provided a data set of more than 15 million streams from 211,000 active users to be analyzed. Once the researchers got to work assessing the data, which included a mix of both free and premium users, they were startled at what they found.

They discovered that a large amount of online traffic generated by the cameras are triggered by motion, data which researchers fear could be used to interpret when residents are in their homes. If traffic suddenly drops during a work day, a hacker watching the data stream could figure that no one is home. This puts the resident at risk for burglary if address data could also be extrapolated.

Of course, finding that data out is a bit trickier than simply listening in on network traffic. But a targeted phishing attack on the user’s online accounts could make such a thing possible, if not probable. Tap or click here to see how you can protect your accounts from phishing.

What can I do to protect my privacy?

As of now, the authors of the study are emphasizing that IoT device manufacturers need to take a serious look at their privacy protections. Multi-layer encryption for web traffic, for example, could go a long way towards protecting users from being monitored without permission.

For those of you who own connected cameras and other IoT devices, always make sure the firmware is up to date to ensure that the latest security patches are installed. Also choose a sophisticated password that would be virtually impossible for someone to guess, and one that’s not used with other accounts.

This will help keep your accounts safe and prevent you from having to worry about snoops in the first place. Tap or click here to see how you can create stronger passwords.

And if the option is available, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) as an added layer of security. Tap or click here to find out just how important 2FA is when it comes to your privacy and how to set it up.

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