Home security cameras are used to ensure safety at homes, but as it turns out, would-be burglars could actually use these systems to tell whether we are at home or not based on a recently published study.
New Study Tackles Privacy Risks of Security Cameras
In a report by CNN, the study was carried out by a team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and was able to conclude that burglars could look at the camera's uploaded data to tell whether someone is in or not.
They wouldn't have to check the footage itself even to tell what people inside are doing.
The team gathered data from a big company in China that manufactures Internet Protocol (IP) security cameras that allow homeowners to check their homes remotely.
If you have a home security camera, it connects to the internet. It will send a live video feed of what's going on at home through the dedicated app on your smartphone. Still, researchers suggest that the traffic generated by these devices could reveal information that could compromise your privacy.
According to the researchers, this is the first study that tackles the security risks of video streaming traffic.
So, how could criminals tell whether someone is at home?
How Can Burglars Use the Data?
According to the study's lead author, Gareth Tyson, from QMUL, there is an increase in the data upload of the unencrypted data when the security camera is recording something that is moving, so would-be burglars could tell whether someone is home by it.
The data could even change when someone is sitting or running.
Nevertheless, Tyson said that it would take someone with some technical know-how to read the data, but it's impossible for someone to create a program that could easily do it and sell it online for these criminals.
Tyson also said that he had not seen any direct evidence of this kind of attack in homes, but it could potentially happen.
"They monitor the camera traffic over an extended period of time, and by looking at the patterns that are generated by those cameras over maybe a week, they then start predicting the following week when you're most likely to be in the house," the researcher told the news outlet.
Could it be Prevented?
Manufacturers can inject random data on their systems to avoid these kinds of attacks, so criminals would find it hard to find a pattern.
The researchers did not analyze data from Nest and Xiaomi, which are owned by Google and among the most common security cameras, but Tyson said these security cameras present the same privacy risks.
CNN tried to reach out to both brands but has not offered any comments as of writing.
Tyson and his team are planning on expanding their research to find a way to increase the security camera's performance and ultimately create a more intelligent system and reduce the privacy risks that come with it.