GCHQ has urged Brits to consider turning off a feature in smart security cameras and baby monitors which lets them be accessed over the internet.
The spy agency’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has issued new advice to users of the cameras after a string of high profile hacks have led to hackers accessing some products and using them to spy on people.
“Though the risk is very low, live feeds or images from smart cameras have the potential to be accessed by unauthorised users,” the NCSC warned.
The NCSC encouraged anyone who has internet-connected cameras to turn off the feature which allows them to be watched over the internet if they don’t use it. “If you do not need the feature that lets you remotely view camera footage via the internet, we recommend you disable it,” the NCSC said on its website.
Turning this feature off helps to block hackers from gaining access to the cameras and viewing their footage.
However, it can also cause the cameras to stop functioning properly as internet services can’t use them to monitor movement in your home.
Secure passwords on all internet-connected cameras
The NCSC is also encouraging people to set their own secure passwords for any internet-connected cameras instead of using the default passwords which come with the advice.
Hackers often turn to online directories of default passwords in order to hack into people’s cameras.
Amazon-owned internet-connected doorbell business Ring announced last month that it would increase its security after hackers managed to gain access to some devices in order to spy on people and even speak to children through smart cameras.
Last year, a hacker gained access to a security camera in America and broadcast his voice to an eight-year-old girl and claimed he was Santa Claus.
Security experts at the NCSC suggested that people use unique passwords formed of three random words together, making them more difficult to hack.
The NCSC is also encouraging people to make sure that their cameras are kept up-to-date with the latest software and to turn on any option which allows cameras to be automatically updated.
New law for added security
The Government has proposed a new law which will force the makers of so-called “internet of things” to improve the security of the devices.
The new law would force companies to end the use of easy-to-hack default passwords. It would also require businesses to have public contact details so that they could be contacted about vulnerabilities, and would mean companies need to say how long devices will be kept updated for.
Dr Ian Levy, the technical director of the NCSC, said: “Smart technology such as cameras and baby monitors are fantastic innovations with real benefits for people, but without the right security measures in place they can be vulnerable to cyber attackers.
“We want people to continue using these devices safely, which is why we have produced new guidance setting out steps for people to take such as changing passwords.
These are practical measures which we can all take to help us get the most out of our home-based technology in a safe way.”