How do internet-based cameras work

Wireless cameras, it's so easy to get pictures

The insecurity of wireless cameras

The video surveillance with Radio cameras are especially attractive for beginners. Connect the power, connect to the WLAN and you have the images from the surveillance camera on your computer or smartphone. The downsides wireless transmission are unfortunately often overlooked: any wireless connection is less secure than a wired solution, and some wireless transmissions are even completely insecure. In the worst case, complete strangers gain access to the most intimate areas of the user's life or confidential company data.

Two types of security

When it comes to video surveillance, it makes sense to distinguish between two types of security.

  • Firstly, it must be ensured that the data transfer takes place without interference and uninterrupted. This aspect is perhaps less important for pure fun applications and observations where a temporary failure does not interfere. But no serious monitoring can afford outages, be it private or business.
  • Second, no one who is not authorized to view the images of the Security Camera view or record. Of course, there is nothing against making streams accessible to the public - but only those that are intended for this. Security-critical areas of company premises, the entrances to private apartments or children's rooms are certainly not among the places that anybody should be watching.

In both security requirements, both the stability and the privacy of the data transmission, are wired surveillance cameras superior to their wireless counterparts. Because in order to disrupt or eavesdrop on a cable connection, an attacker must gain access to the transmitting cable. In the case of radio links, on the other hand, interference is very easy to implement and espionage - depending on the technology used - is sometimes much less expensive than the layman thinks. Nobody who has worked with radio until now has to panic. However, a precise examination of the system and, if necessary, a changeover are appropriate.

Unlimited communication

Wireless cameras send their radio waves with a limited power and omnidirectional through the air. Even without an attack, the stability of such a connection is subject to fluctuations: The weather, other wireless networks in the vicinity and too high a number of network clients can lead to bandwidth losses and transmission interruptions. Create a remedy in individual cases Repeater and changing the radio channel, but you can never completely rule out a loss of connection during radio transmissions.

This is especially true when there is a hacker on a single video surveillance system that is using WIRELESS INTERNET ACCESS works apart. One possible avenue of attack is to overwhelm the access point, which is also used by wireless cameras, with inquiries. Similar to how you can paralyze a website by producing countless simultaneous calls, you can also let the access points to the WLAN collapse. Alternatively, an attacker can disconnect connected clients, including a wireless camera, from the WLAN. On the other hand, there is no cure, because radio waves do not stop at property boundaries. Such an attack is over with well-equipped antennas 100 meters away and more possible. The basic technical problem is that a certain proportion of the data is always transmitted unencrypted. While this is not the actual video content, it is data like that SSID and the encryption technology used. That is enough to make the radio network unstable and thus the monitoring system unreliable.

Private individuals might think that such attack scenarios are irrelevant for their purposes, and that may actually be true. However, you never know who in the immediate vicinity might have the technical knowledge and the drive to cause trouble, and Radio attacks are only once invisible. Private individuals should also be careful. Security-conscious companies that have to fear of falling victim to sabotage or espionage do without radio cameras anyway.

Grab video images? No panic

In order to be able to tap the actual video images, a relatively large amount of effort has to be made - if the Wireless camera is set up accordingly. Sloppy configurations are cracked within seconds or minutes. It depends on the details: The only thing that counts as encryption is WPA2 as relatively secure, and only if a good password is used.

Unencrypted transmissions or those with WEP or WPA work are no longer considered safe today. If attackers catch a certain amount of traffic, it is possible for them to decipher the data within a reasonable time. This gives you access to the Video images, to the Access point and to everyone else Clients in the network, possibly also to connected PCs and network recorders. The fatal thing: those affected do not even notice anything. An intruder can even manipulate the camera's alarm functions. A compromised system is gruesome because one fears that tensioners will look into the apartment, but above all, security is no longer guaranteed. A burglar can use the video data to plan his raid perfectly.

For WPA2 the actual encryption has not (yet) been broken. But you still have to be careful: Attacks that are not aimed at the cryptology but simply at the passphrase are successful again and again. The difference: if someone guesses the password, they don't have to crack the encryption, but can participate in the encrypted communication themselves. This always works very well when standard passwords or weak self-created variants are used.

There are huge lists on the Internet for guessing passphrases that programs work through at lightning speed in order to penetrate a wireless network. You can only protect yourself with strong, one-time passwords with which both the user interface of the camera and the wireless network should be secured. A password is strong if it is very long and consists of lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers and special characters and is not in any dictionary in the world. The length and variety of possible characters result in an extremely large number of possibilities for a password. This protects against so-called Brute force attacks, where you can simply try arbitrary strings. Dictionary attacks are more intelligent: All words in the world and combinations thereof are tried out as a password. The only way to counter this is to use a passphrase that is guaranteed not to be in any dictionary.

Better safe than sorry

WPA2 with strong passwords protects relatively securely against hacks that intercept the video stream. But such networks are also susceptible to disruptions, be they deliberately created by attackers or otherwise. Therefore, they continue to offer the greatest security wired cameras like IP cameras or HD TVI cameras.