The modern world is full of threats, both online and offline. It is hardly surprising that there is a thriving market for security solutions that make us, our property, and our data safer and more secure.
Unfortunately, we can’t always rely on these solutions to improve our security. In some cases, implementing security solutions in the wrong way can be detrimental to your security instead of improving it. Some security solutions come with undisclosed side effects that can create their own security issues.
Before you implement any kind of security system, it is essential that you research it, so you know exactly what you are getting into. No security system is perfect. Nothing is going to make you and your data 100% safe. But some security systems aren’t just imperfect; they are counter-productive.
Protecting Your Privacy
Online privacy used to be a niche issue that didn’t get much attention outside of cybersecurity circles. But today, all of us are aware of the importance of maintaining online privacy and the many ways that people are trying to undermine it at every opportunity. Getting into good habits will help to protect your privacy to some extent. This includes being more careful about what personal data you hand over and varying your passwords between services.
But the lengths that some entities are going to collect our data and invade our privacy are extraordinary. It isn’t enough to simply withhold information or rely on the privacy settings of the services you use. If you want to maintain your privacy online, you have to actively counter attempts to harvest your data.
Proxies and VPNs
Privacy experts often recommend two tools to users who want to take their privacy more seriously: proxies and VPNs. While different, both of these tools work according to the same principles. They enable you to connect to an intermediary server before connecting to the wider internet. In doing so, you can disguise the IP address and other information about your device.
When you connect to the internet via an intermediary server, the websites and online services you visit will see the intermediary’s IP address and location, not your device. A VPN creates an encrypted communications tunnel between your device and the VPN server, meaning that any data you exchange with the server is encrypted. Even if someone intercepts your traffic, they won’t be able to read it.
A proxy is not encrypted by default, though you can configure a proxy so that all the data you exchange is encrypted. You can also customize a proxy, especially if you control the proxy server. For people who are the most serious about protecting their privacy, a custom proxy setup is one of the best weapons to choose.
VPN providers house their servers in data centers around the world. Consequently, websites and online services can identify when a connection is coming from a VPN provider. Some providers will block VPNs, forcing you to use a naked connection to access their website.
Residential proxy services will route your connection through a regular person’s internet connection, using devices in their homes as proxy servers. Connecting to the internet through a residential proxy service like this will make your connection indistinguishable from anyone else’s.
Who Is Watching You?
Smart security cameras have really taken off in recent years. For new parents, professionals housing expensive equipment, and anyone else who wants an extra set of eyes to watch over their properties, products like Amazon’s Ring seem like an ideal solution. But these aren’t the same as conventional security cameras. Smart cameras connect to the internet.
This internet connectivity lets the owner check their camera remotely and adjust the settings if they need to. But connecting any device to the internet introduces potential security risks, especially if the device developers are lazy. Significant oversights in the Ring’s design and a lack of customer awareness have meant that these smart cameras can harm home security rather than helping it.
The Ring Cycle
The case of Ashley LeMay and Dylan Blakerley, Mississippi parents who bought a Ring security camera for their young daughter’s bedroom, highlights the issue perfectly. Within a week of installing the camera in their daughter’s room, a hacker had gained access to the device. The attacker played music through the camera’s microphone. When the daughter came to investigate the music, a man’s voice began hurling racial slurs and vulgar comments at her.
Cases like the one above are disconcertingly common. There have been similar incidents reported across the United States and beyond. Any device that connects to the internet is potentially vulnerable to hacking. But given that these devices’ primary function is to keep people and property safe, most people assume that their Ring has more robust security than it actually does.
For its part, Ring continues to insist that customers are at fault, not the devices. The company asserts that attackers can only gain access to devices when the owners have reused their login credentials from elsewhere.
Reusing passwords makes it possible for the attackers to execute a credential stuffing attack. They simply try e-mail and password combinations that have leaked from other websites. If users are reusing their login credentials, the attackers can access their accounts.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you had an unhackable smart security camera at home. In other words, no one could possibly access the camera other than you. Such perfect security doesn’t exist in the real world, of course.
Even with a completely unhackable smart camera, a potential burglar or attack can still use the device to undermine your home’s security. Researchers from Queen Mary University of London analyzed the data from a large pool of smart security cameras. Their investigation revealed that the overwhelming majority of smart cameras transmitted data unencrypted, making it easy to intercept and read.
But without reading the data, researchers were still able to use it to learn about the cameras’ owners. To save energy, smart cameras are usually motion-triggered. When the camera detects movement, it starts recording and begins uploading data. By watching for these data spikes, researchers were able to establish homeowners’ routines.
The researchers suggested that smart camera manufacturers should consider injecting bursts of random junk data. These data bursts would create the same spikes seen when the camera is activated, making a potential intruder think there is someone home when there isn’t.
You can’t be too careful when it comes to your security. There have never been so many people trying to get their hands on our private information in both the online and offline worlds. If you want to maintain any semblance of privacy, let alone protecting your physical security, you need to take steps to counter these threats. There is a wide range of security products and services out there; not all are as effective as we would like to believe.
When it comes to home security, sometimes less really is more. If you install an insecure security camera in your home, you could be aiding burglars rather than deterring them. Make sure to do your research before you place your faith in any kind of digital security solution.