Maintenance and Operations, Security

How Can CCTV Cameras Be Hacked?

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance is one of many investments that more businesses are prioritizing when protecting their facilities. While it can prove invaluable at securing your premises and preventing unwanted intrusion or trespassing, one—often invisible—threat can hoodwink even the most experienced operatives in the game. It’s ironic considering video surveillance is meant to prevent unwanted access.

While considerable advances have been made in the world of digital transformation, highly sophisticated technology like CCTV camera equipment is worryingly vulnerable to hacks. Cybercriminals and malicious actors have found new techniques to surpass strict security protocols and gain remote access to a business’s video surveillance systems. 

As these systems often keep a proverbial “watchful eye” on valuable assets or entry and exit points of businesses, it’s crucial to ensure that these modern and innovative camera systems don’t present themselves as easy bait for cybercriminals. 

While some malicious actors may use a simple exploitation method, many of their tactics are intricate and complex, making it increasingly hard for cybersecurity professionals to detect, much less contain. Once a surveillance network is compromised, a hacker can monitor your estate or take control of it. Many organizations are concerningly behind when it comes to safeguarding their camera equipment, wrongly believing that this technology is inherently fool-proof and cannot possibly fall into the wrong hands. Sadly, the opposite is very much true.

Let’s look at some of the common vulnerabilities that exist within a business’s CCTV camera setup, and how you can mitigate these risks with increased security. 

How CCTV Systems Can Be Hacked

Remote Hacks

If an IoT (Internet of Things) camera transmits video feeds via the internet, hackers may find their way into the system through the online IP address after obtaining the signature information and default password, which many businesses do not change (more on this later) and which are often not supported by two-factor authentication (TFA). 

Local Hacks

CCTV cameras are often hooked into a network wireless router with a built-in modem, and organizations do not always update the default network name and password. If a hacker cannot gain access to the cameras themselves, they can access the network and weave their way into the cameras that are connected to it. They will often spoof the wireless network into thinking they are registering an authentic device, or try and overload the network by denial-of-service. 

Backdoor Attacks

Backdoors provide unauthorized access to a computer system or encrypted data that bypasses the infrastructure’s primary security controls. Backdoors may often be created for the purposes of legitimate troubleshooting or remote access in the event of a fault. However, threat actors can locate these backdoors, often as a result of unpatched or outdated security software, firewalls, and firmware. Hackers can usually spot these vulnerabilities with ease.

Brute Force

These types of attacks occur when hackers try to guess an administrator’s login credentials manually, often with the assistance of algorithms that can make numerous guesses within seconds. Whether the username is used alongside passwords or PIN combinations, many organizations fail to adopt a strong password policy for all of their users’ shared equipment, meaning that default passwords like “1234,” “password,” “0000,” or “administrator” are very easy to exploit. 

How to Prevent CCTV Cameras from Being Compromised

  • Invest in 24/7 managed detection for your estate(s): As businesses grow and scale, their premises become more difficult to manage, particularly when they acquire more space and need to safeguard more systems and assets. One of the most effective solutions is to set up managed, end-to-end breach response controls, where any and all threats can be contained quickly, and any false positives accounted for.
  • Set up multi-factor authentication (MFA): Many CCTV systems support MFA as a way to add an additional layer to a business’s security. Whenever you log in to your account, you can request prompts—such as OTPs (one-time passwords), text messages, emails, or biometric fingerprints or facial recognition prompts—to authenticate the request. This will verify your (and other users’) identities to ensure that unauthorized access is not mistakenly granted.
  • Secure your networks: Preventing IoT CCTV cameras from being hacked requires a highly secure connection. Ensure that guest networking and public access are switched off for your Wi-Fi, only granting authorized devices access to the network. You should also ensure that your antivirus and firewall solution comes with adequate internet security features. 
  • Install enterprise-grade security equipment (and update it): Always purchase CCTV cameras from reputable, trusted sources and ensure that you have them professionally installed by an experienced and certified professional. Investing in low-budget security cameras will only offer you a certain level of protection and be prone to vulnerabilities; professional equipment is worth the additional upfront cost.
  • Implement a complex password policy and change defaults: Make sure that you use strong passwords and change your system’s default one, as well as its username. This will immediately provide a solid line of defense against a malicious actor. To ensure optimum protection, your password should also contain a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers and be a minimum character length. It’s also important to ensure that these passwords do not contain any information that identifies a user, which, for instance, a hacker may be able to obtain off of a social media profile. Also, make sure ‌passwords are updated regularly and access is only granted once a user passes two-factor authentication.
  • Patch and update your firmware: CCTV camera manufacturers will usually send out security updates that include software bug fixes and vulnerability patching, or they will be automatically rolled out. These updates are vital to protect the cameras and ensure greater security across your business infrastructure and networks. As is the case with your computer or mobile device, keeping your equipment up to date will ensure it is less likely to be accessed by someone with malicious intent. 

Maintaining optimum security across your organization is not an easy feat to master, and remaining constantly vigilant is also challenging. However, by bolstering vital security components like passwords, user access, and software, you are already making a big difference to your overall security posture. 

Prioritizing security will pay off in a big way, and you will ultimately be less likely to suffer a devastating breach that affects your reputation and bottom line. You’ll get complete peace of mind knowing that your CCTV cameras are as secure as possible and protected against the evolving and growing numbers of complex cyberattacks.

Chester Avey has over a decade of experience in business growth management and cybersecurity. He enjoys sharing his knowledge with other like-minded professionals through his writing. You can connect with Chester by following him on Twitter @ChesterAvey

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