New Research Finds Potential Security Risk in Internet Based Home Monitoring Cameras

A new study found that some popular home security cameras could alert a tech savvy burglar whether you are home or not. The researchers claim they could tell not only if someone was home but perhaps even what they are doing by looking just at the data uploaded by the camera and not even the actual footage.

The study was conducted by Queen Mary University of London and the Chinese Academy of Science. They used data provided by a large Chinese manufacturer of IP security cameras. Consumers use the cameras to remotely monitor their homes via a video feed over the internet.

The study found that the unencrypted data upload increased when a camera was recording movement. And that they could even tell by the data—and not the video feed itself—if someone was sitting or running for example.

While researchers were quick to note it would take a fairly technically savvy criminal to passively monitor this data it isn’t out of the question that someone could create and sell a software program that takes away the need for technical know-how.

The researchers also noted that they found no evidence that this was happening regularly or at all but it is a potential loop-hole in internet based home monitoring cameras. Someone could potentially collect and compare data to decide when someone is least likely to be home. Researchers suggested companies might want to inject random data into the stream to make it more difficult to make the data useful to criminals.

As of know these cameras aren’t very “smart” (to keep costs down) and record everything. In the future cameras might be able to decide when to record or when not to. For example, pet owners would probably want to set their cameras to ignore their pets’ movements.

Digital Cameras

You’ve heard the term megapixel many times especially with regards to digital cameras. But what does the term actually mean and is bigger better? That’s what the Victor crew wants to know. Here is what we found out.

Early digital cameras had a poor resolution and didn’t compare to regular film cameras when they first came out. Some were only about one-third to half a megapixel. So a single megapixel is one million pixels. If you are using a one megapixel camera, you will have one million pixels in the image. So what is a good size? It depends on what you are going to do with the photos. If you are only going to view them online, one to three megapixels is fine. If you want 6×4 prints, you will need at least 2 megapixels. For larger 10×8 prints you would need to go to five megapixels and even larger 14×11 prints you will need to bump that up to seven megapixels.

How do you get away with a smaller size on a computer? Most monitors aren’t usually more than 2000×1000 pixels so that is only two megapixels. If you have a 4K monitor, that is eight megapixels. So you can get away with about a 6 megapixel camera in most cases. More pixels, however will give you cropping room. You do not have to turn in your camera for more pixels.


Smartphone Myths

The Victor crew found an article called “7 of the Biggest Smartphone Myths That Just won’t Die.” We were curious to see what they were. They started out by saying smartphones have only been in the mainstream less than a decade (hard to believe!) Over this time, some myths have developed and keep getting repeated over and over. Let’s see what they are:

1. Closing apps will speed up your iPhone. Hmm – we know you can remove them from the task list to “refresh” them but does closing them all the time help? The truth is, they aren’t running in the background, however, they are still in RAM. Apple limits what apps can do in the background, and what’s more, they automatically will close apps not in use if it needs more RAM. By continually closing them, you will actually make them run slower since the RAM has to load all over again.

2. Using a task killer will speed up your Android phone. You shouldn’t have to close an app on Android unless it starts giving you trouble and has issues. The same as above for iPhone, the apps are using RAM with limited background usage.

3. You should drain your battery fully before recharging it. Most people don’t let their phones drain completely but what about “topping it off?” Modern Lithium-ion batteries can be plugged in and charged whenever you want, as much as you want.

4. You should only use the charger that comes with your device. Most devices and smartphones use a USB charger. As long as it can be plugged into a USB port, you should be able to use it. If you use a more powerful charger, your phone will still only pull what it needs. It may even charge faster. Likewise, a less powerful charger will charge slower or maybe not at all.

5. You should buy a screen protector to protect against scratches. This is that thin piece of film they sell you or charge to install for you to “prevent” scratches. Most modern phones are using Gorilla Glass, scratch resistant glass, or similar technology. If you aren’t too rough you should be fine. There are also some things that would scratch a screen protector that won’t harm the glass.

6. More megapixels mean a better camera. This is a myth for any digital device, cameras included. A high number that may look good on a spec sheet doesn’t really translate to better. It’s just squishing more megapixels in the same space. A megapixel is one million pixels. So if you have an 8-megapixel camera, it will have 8 million pixels. The 8 compared to the 16-megapixels will allow more light since they are bigger pixels. Take into consideration the sensor and image-processor as well.

7. Android phones often get viruses and malware. Technically a virus is self-replicating software. Phones do not get them and even if you get infected by malware, it won’t infect other people’s phones. Malware does exist but it tends to come from downloads outside of Google Play. If you download pirated apps, you could very easily be picking up malware. Just don’t add apps from unknown sources.