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Security & privacy

Video doorbell settings you must change

When it comes to smart devices, you have a ton of choices. Not only are smart speakers and assistants affordable and easy to obtain, but so are smart plugs, smart lights, smart thermostats and a ton of other smart devices, too.

One of the more popular options is video doorbells. They come equipped with cameras that give you access to live feeds of your front door or other areas of the home where they’re placed. You can use them to monitor who comes and goes, what they’re doing or see when packages are dropped off.

But while these smart devices are handy for securing your home, they can also come with some issues of their own. In fact, five of the popular video doorbells recently failed security tests. Luckily, most of these potential trouble spots can be tempered by changing a few settings. Here are five video doorbell settings you need to change ASAP.

1. Tell your device what and when to record (and when not to)

What triggers your video doorbell to record will depend on the system you’re using. For the most part, your doorbell’s video feature will be activated either when someone rings it or when it senses motion near your doorway or front porch. When that happens, the doorbell will start recording automatically. You don’t have to do anything.

You can watch a live video feed from your front porch or view recordings later when you have time. It’s important to note, though, that recorded video clips require storage space. If you’re saving video footage to view later, you may need to pay for cloud storage or removable storage to access and store it.

In general, two types of recordings will be available in cloud storage:

  • Motion-based recording, which starts when motion is detected near your camera.
  • Continuous recording, which captures video 24/7 and stores it.

With these storage plans come extra costs. Let’s take Ring, for example. If you want to access old footage, you’ll need a plan that allows it. This video doorbell system’s basic plan gives you 60 days of storage for $30 per year per doorbell — which means that your footage will be deleted after 60 days.

On the other hand, Nest offers plans with either a 30 or 60-day history that you can access. That gives you access to the footage your video doorbell recorded for 30 or 60 days.

You can also stop your Ring or Nest doorbell camera from recording. You may want to do this if you notice the status light is on while recording. This light can show a recording in progress, which can lead to issues with security threats.

If someone doesn’t want to be recorded but notices that the light is on, your equipment could be damaged or disabled. There is no way to record without the status light illuminating on the Nest.

To stop your Nest from recording:

  1. Tap Settings in the top right corner of the Nest app home screen.
  2. Scroll down and select the camera you want to control.
  3. Tap Camera On/Off to reveal the switch.
  4. Tap the switch to turn your camera off or on.

To stop your Ring from recording:

  • Open your Ring app.
  • Tap the three lines on the top left.
  • Tap Devices.
  • Tap the device you want to adjust.
  • On the device screen, turn Record Motion off.
    • The off position will be white. 

You may also want to set your audio recording to on to capture sound with your videos. When it’s on, your Nest camera’s microphone picks up sound in the area around your camera. If you have a Google Nest Aware subscription, your camera’s audio is recorded in your video history as long as the microphone is on.

You can switch the microphone on or off. When the microphone is off, audio is not streamed or recorded; if you want to hear activity near your camera, turn the microphone on.

To turn on the audio on your Nest:

If you have more than one Nest camera, you can turn each camera’s microphone on and off independently.

  1. Select your camera on the Nest app home screen.
  2. Tap Settings.
  3. Select Microphone, then tap the switch to turn it on or off

To adjust the audio on your Ring:

Your Ring camera automatically records audio when it’s recording video, so you don’t have to do anything to adjust this setting. However, you can disable the Ring’s audio component. To do this:

  1. Open up your Ring app
  2. Tap the three lines on the top left
  3. Tap Devices
  4. Select the device you would like to adjust
  5. Tap Device Settings
  6. Tap Privacy Settings
  7. Tap the Audio Streaming and Recording toggle it off

2. Protect your Wi-Fi so hackers can’t break into your video doorbell

If your smart doorbell connects to your Wi-Fi, there’s an ongoing risk that hackers can breach it. If this happens, it will give the hacker access to your recordings and other information. It could also give hackers access to other smart devices and information in your home.

In fact, hackers have already found ways to control Ring devices with microphones and built-in cameras, including video doorbells. If access is gained to your video doorbell, hackers can use it to scare your family, access personal information or any number of other things.

Ring devices aren’t the only ones at risk of being hacked. Any smart video doorbell is — which means you need to take steps to protect it. The main way to do this is by securing your Wi-Fi. Tap or click here to lock down your Wi-Fi so others can’t access it.

3. Get two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is a useful tool to employ when you have sensitive information at risk. This method of logging in requires two different types of passwords to access your account. That could be a password and a PIN code, a password and facial recognition or any other combination of requirements.

To set up 2FA on your Ring doorbell:

  • Open your Ring app
  • Tap the three-lined icon on the upper-left corner of your screen to open the side menu
  • Tap Account
  • Tap Two-step verification under enhanced security
  • Tap Turn on Two-step
  • Enter your password
  • Enter the mobile phone number you wish to have the two-step authorization code sent to
  • Enter the six-digit code that was texted to your phone
  • Tap Continue

To set up 2FA on your Nest doorbell:

  1. Make sure you have the latest version of the Nest app
  2. On the Nest app home screen, tap Settings
  3. Select Account, then Manage Account
  4. Tap Account Security
  5. Select 2-step verification. Then tap the switch to toggle 2-step verification On
  6. Follow the prompts to enter your password, phone number and unique verification code sent to your phone

4. Stop sharing

Your Ring video doorbell comes with the Neighbors app, which lets you and neighbors share images, videos and information about suspicious activity or other safety matters. While this may be a helpful tool to keep your neighborhood safe, it’s also a privacy risk.

While Ring won’t share your address when you post to the Neighbors app, there are hidden geographic coordinates connected to every post. If those coordinates are uncovered, they could provide a map to your home.

Many police departments across the U.S. have also joined Ring to keep a closer eye on criminal activities via the Neighbors app. If you share any videos or photos with neighbors via the Neighbors app, they’re fair game for police to take possession of. Your videos can also be acquired if there’s a warrant in place for them. Tap or click to see if police are using Amazon’s Ring surveillance network in your neighborhood.

If you’re trying to secure your video doorbell, you may want to stop sharing photos and videos on apps like these. You can also opt out of police requests for videos from your Ring camera. These voluntary requests come when police are looking for evidence of crimes in your neighborhood.

The Neighbors app isn’t the only potential trouble spot, either. Amazon Sidewalk, which is basically a mesh network that extends your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection range by up to a mile, uses your Ring gadgets as a bridge device. This gives Wi-Fi-connected tech, like motion lights at the end of your driveway, a signal boost.

But it doesn’t just borrow from your Wi-Fi. It also borrows from your neighbor’s Wi-Fi, and other Wi-Fi signals within the area, to give these devices a signal boost.

Sidewalk turns your Echo speakers and Ring gadgets into bridge devices. That gives internet-connected tech far from your router, like lights at the edge of your driveway, a real boost. This could potentially cause security issues for your devices and home Wi-Fi.

You should probably opt out of Amazon Sidewalk to be safe. Tap or click here to find out how to do that.

5. Get notified when someone’s near

If you want to be notified when someone’s near your door, you can change your camera settings to ensure that happens. This is generally done by activating your motion alerts, which are notifications you receive when one of your devices senses motion in the general vicinity.

This can be helpful if you’ve had issues with porch pirates stealing packages or are worried about people snooping around your home at certain times of the day. It can also alert you to other issues — like people trying to enter your home while you’re on vacation.

Motion detection is a good tool to help keep you and your home safe. You should take the time to set it up on your doorbell camera.

To set up alerts from your Ring:

  1. First, make sure that both Ring Alerts and Motion Alerts are activated by setting each to the blue “On” position in your Ring app’s Device Settings.
  2. Then, test your device by pressing the button on the front of your Doorbell and/or walking in front of it to trigger a motion event.
  3. If everything’s working correctly, you should start receiving notifications.
  4. Note: Notification settings are specific to the device connected to Ring, not your actual Ring Doorbell or camera. For example, if you activate notifications on your phone, they will not be automatically activated on your tablet. Instead, you have to manually designate your notification settings for each device connected to Ring.

To set up alerts from your Nest:

  1. Open the Nest app
  2. Tap Settings
  3. Select Notifications
  4. Select the camera that you want to get Activity Zone alerts from
  5. Pick the zone that you want to get alerts for or select Motion outside of a zone to get alerts for motion that occurs outside of an Activity Zone
  6. Select People or All other motion or both to receive alerts

While video doorbells can be a great tool to keep your property safe, using these cameras can lead to some issues. If you take the time to change the settings above, you’ll be better off in the long run.

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