Smart cameras can add an extra layer of security to installed alarms or other security systems. As an internet of things (IoT) device, its basic function is to notify a user of activities occurring in areas it’s placed like on the property border or at the front door. They are also popular options for working parents who want to watch their kids remotely. The thing that can be a security risk is that the camera feed can be accessed from anywhere in the world.

The question is, can it go rogue? Can smart cameras or any other IoT device be hacked or compromised, causing them to “spy” on you? Well, like most other smart devices, they definitely can. Considering IoT firmware security, many users are at risk when they install smart devices. Find out in this article why this matters.



What is Firmware?

The first step to understanding why IoT devices pose big risks and challenges to end-users is knowing what firmware is. With most computers, people interact with the hardware & software. This setup makes it easy to feel that’s all there is.

However, another layer lies between the software and the hardware. This layer is referred to as the firmware. So what’s the deal with IoT firmware? Well, research by security experts has shown that most IoT devices lack firmware validation. This leads to vulnerabilities that can be exploited to cause large-scale damage.

Firmware updates are important in fixing security vulnerabilities and are the templates on which IoT devices are built. So, considering that IoT devices can be operated remotely, firmware updates must be installed to help prevent IoT hacks.

Even with firmware updates, attackers can still intrude on the network, compromise a user’s data and take over the device. This is especially possible if the firmware is an unsecured one. Cybercriminals are always ready to exploit a device’s weakness to tap into a victim’s data, devices, and networks.

From there, other malicious attacks can then be launched. This could range from DDoS attacks to malware distribution or data breaches. What makes IoT devices extremely vulnerable to being attacked is that manufacturers haven’t been paying attention to the security flaws.



What are the Security Concerns of IoT Software Firmware Updates?

To mitigate security vulnerabilities, manufacturers must ensure that IoT devices can be updated through OTA updates. This has to be done as regularly and securely as possible. However, certain factors may overturn the security of IoT firmware updates. This include:


Insecure Coding

Buffer overflows are common situations that arise from the insecure programming of the device. Hackers seek out flaws to set up crashes resulting in security breaches. Buffer overflows enable criminals to access devices remotely by overflowing the memory space. This way, it’s easy for DDoS attacks or malware-injection attacks to be created. 


The Software Supply Chain is Insecure.

To build IoT devices, a manufacturer will have to rely on software supply chains, which are other vendors providing components for a product. Lack of feasible methods to secure the supply chain leads to using insecure open-source elements. 

These elements have vulnerabilities embedded in them and are attraction points for attackers. These “elements” can be malicious backdoors, trojans, or attachments with embedded malware.


Non-Standard Testing in Production Services

During the design of IoT devices, engineers with debugging services shouldn’t hurry to move to final production. Rushed procedures like this potentially provide smooth access to attackers once the device is mass distributed and used.



What Are the Security Flaws in IoT Devices?

Now that you’ve realized your smart camera can be compromised let’s talk about common vulnerabilities in IoT devices. 

Lack of Encryption

One of the biggest threats to the security of IoT devices is the lack of encrypted network traffic. Many IoT devices fail to encrypt the data they send. This means that if someone sniffs the network, they can intercept transmitted credentials from the device.


Weak Authentication 

Passwords are part of the first line of defense against hacking schemes. But if your password is weak, your device and ultimately your network, are weak too. Most default passwords that come with these smart devices are relatively weak. This is because they’re meant to be changed; hence, they’re sometimes saved in the application’s source code. 

This is extremely risky as it’s an avenue for hackers to exploit it. Many IoT devices have little or no authentication. Even if there is no exploitable code stored on the device itself, a weak set of user credentials is a gateway to hackers. 

So your smart devices can all be connected, like your smart camera, refrigerator, and TV. However, using weak passwords to operate them remotely is as risky as not having a password at all. It is highly encouraged to immediately change the default username/password before using your smart camera or other IoT device.


Insecure Application Interfaces

Application program interface (APIs) are software intermediaries that enable two applications to communicate. By linking two servers, APIs can provide easy access to hackers. When this happens, businesses’ IoT devices and routers can be breached. Therefore, it’s highly important to understand the security policies of each device before connecting them.



How Do I Secure My Smart Camera and other connected Smart Devices?

IoT attacks are dangerous because a hacker invading one device gives him leverage to attack other connected devices. To prevent this from happening, certain severity measures are imperative to implement.

  • Enable 2FA: Strong passwords can be formidable against breaches. However, you can take an extra step by enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) on devices/accounts supported by it. This will require your passwords and an extra step to verify your identity. Even if a hacker knows your password, they have a harder time accessing your device.
  • Use a VPN: A VPN prevents data from being captured and decrypted in transit. One way an IoT’s attack surface exists is because it is connected to the public internet. This leaves users’ data open to being stolen or modified by viruses or malicious programs. What a VPN does is encrypt the network traffic to and from that IoT device. 

Many smart devices such as TVs, cameras, and cash registers aren’t compatible with VPNs. This means native apps can’t be installed on them. The simple way around this is to use a VPN router. This way, all devices connected to the router will be protected by the VPN.


Fortunately, most VPN providers have made setting up a VPN on a router easy. Some even offer routers that come preconfigured to a VPN.

  • Manage Account Passwords: Securing Wifi is one thing; protecting the individual devices connected to it is another thing. Many IoT devices are operated via a connected mobile app. You’ll need to set up an account for each one for it to work. 

Using a generic password for all of them is convenient. However, it is a dangerous security practice. If one account is breached with the password, this automatically leaves the rest of the devices exposed. Hence, it’s highly recommended you use a random password generator to produce complex passwords and ensure each user has their own account.



Conclusion 

An IoT device like a smart camera is just as vulnerable to being hacked like any other smart device. All a hacker needs to do is discover vulnerabilities on that device and research the target This could be via weak passwords or simply exploiting the vulnerabilities in the IoT’s firmware. This post provides all relevant information about common vulnerabilities in IoT devices and mitigates them.

If you follow the recommended tips to keep yourself safe when using IoT or smart devices like cameras, you will be less at risk of intrusion. Keep in mind, you won’t be completely safe but you will be better off than someone with no protections in place.