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NCSC issues smart camera security guidance to protect consumers from unauthorised snoops

Government’s latest push to safeguard users of in-home connected devices sees National Cyber Security Centre issue guidance to help consumers tighten up security of smart cameras and baby monitors

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is issuing guidance to protect consumers from having their smart cameras and baby monitors accessed by unauthorised users who may use the devices to covertly spy on people in their homes.

While the NCSC has moved to assure consumers that the risk of someone remotely gaining access to their smart devices for such reasons is very low, its guidance details three steps that users should take to ensure their devices and privacy are protected.

These are: change the default password that devices come equipped with, ensure smart products are regularly subjected to security software updates and, if not being used, ensure any features that enable remote access to devices are disabled.

Dr Ian Levy, technical director at the NCSC, said the organisation wants people to continue using smart devices, but in a safe and secure way.

“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,” said Levy.

“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 that we can all take to help us get the most out of our home-based technology in a safe way.”

Tightening up the security of connected devices is a digital priority for the UK government, with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) setting out plans in late January 2020 to push through legislation to safeguard the privacy of millions of internet of things (IoT) devices.

The legislation will seek to ensure that all consumer IoT devices must feature unique passwords that cannot be reset to factory defaults; that device manufacturers must provide a public point of contact for users to report any device vulnerabilities; and must explicitly state a minimum length of time they will provide security patches for any devices they sell.

Digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman, who announced the DCMS legislative push in January, said today’s guidance is similarly geared towards making the UK “the safest place to be online”, and ensuring people feel confident in the security of their connected devices.

“I urge everyone who owns a smart product to follow the NCSC guidance to make sure their device is secure,” he added.

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The guidance is being endorsed by the consumer group Which?, which has previously published research showing that more than 50,000 internet-connected cameras being sold online could have privacy-endangering critical security flaws.

Caroline Normand, director advocacy at Which?, said that until legislation is in place to protect consumers from the privacy risks posed by internet-connected devices, it is essential that people do all they can to protect themselves.

“Which? has repeatedly exposed serious security flaws with devices including wireless cameras and children’s toys, so mandatory security requirements and strong enforcement that ensures manufacturers, retailers and online marketplaces are held accountable for selling unsecure products is essential,” said Normand.

“Until new laws are in place, it is vital that consumers research smart device purchases carefully, and follow guidance to ensure their devices are protected by strong passwords and receiving regular security updates to reduce the risk of hackers exploiting vulnerabilities.”

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