What Is the Best Affordable Home Security Camera System? If you live in a small apartment and want to keep tabs on things when you’re not home, a security camera can get the job done for a lot less money than a full security system. Nearly all standalone security cameras connect to your home’s Wi-Fi so you can see what’s going on from your phone or tablet. Most also have built-in sensors that can detect motion or sound and subsequently send you a notification of those events. You can usually tweak the camera’s motion sensitivity to prevent false alarms due to pet activity or passing cars if the camera is near a window, as well as create a schedule that turns the sensors on or off during certain hours of the day.
Some of the more expensive cameras feature humidity and temperature sensors, plus interact with other connected home devices such as thermostats and smart lighting systems. If you want to save some money, look for a camera with an SD card slot that allows you to record video when motion or sound events occur; just remember to save your recordings every so often before the camera overwrites them. Alternately, look for a camera that offers a cloud storage plan.
An outdoor camera is ideal for keeping an eye on what’s happening outside of your home. These devices are weatherproof and typically require a nearby ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet to supply power, although a handful of battery-powered models are also available. As with their indoor counterparts, outdoor cameras connect to your Wi-Fi network and allow you to view live video from your phone. They are fairly easy to install but, if you’re not familiar or comfortable with electrical wiring, you may want to hire a professional electrician for the setup.
Most outdoor cameras offer motion detection with push and email notifications; night vision; and cloud storage for event-triggered video. Some pull double duty as floodlights or porch lights. Other models can even tell the difference between a passing car, an animal, and a person. Look for an outdoor camera that integrates with other smart home devices such as garage door openers, external sirens, and smart switches.
What Is the Best Video Doorbell? Video doorbells offer an easy way to see who is on your front steps without having to open or even get close to the door. These devices connect to your Wi-Fi network and send an alert when someone approaches your doorway. They record video when someone presses the doorbell or when they detect motion, plus usually offer two-way audio communication so you can speak with the visitor remotely from your phone.
Most video doorbells use your existing doorbell wiring (two low-voltage wires) and are fairly easy to install, but battery-powered models install in minutes. Some work with other smart devices such as door locks and sirens, plus support IFTTT and Alexa voice commands.
Look for a model that offers a high resolution (1080p), a wide-angle lens (140 to 180 degrees), a night vision range up to 25 feet, and affordable cloud storage for recordings. Sometimes it’s helpful to be able to see what happened just before or after a visitor approaches your door. For that, you need a doorbell that uses pre-buffering to record the action that occurs before someone presses a doorbell or sets off the motion sensor.
Which Smart Lock Is Best? A smart lock is typically part of a robust smart home security setup, but you don’t have to invest in a full-blown system to use one. If you use a home automation hub to control things like lighting and thermostats, you can add a Z-Wave or Zigbee smart lock to the system without much effort. Alternately, if you don’t have a home automation hub, look for a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth lock that comes with a mobile app. Smart locks use standard pre-drilled holes and are fairly easy to install. Some models use your existing keyed cylinder and deadbolt hardware to attach to the inside of your door, whereas others require you to remove your existing interior and exterior escutcheons as well as replace the deadbolt and strike hardware.
You can open or close smart locks via a mobile app and most models can notify you when someone locks or unlocks a door. Many smart locks even allow you to create permanent and temporary access schedules for family members and friends based on specific hours of the day and days of the week. Features to look for include geofencing (uses your phone’s location services to lock and unlock the door), voice activation (via Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri); support for IFTTT; and the ability to integrate with other smart home devices.
Plenty of smart lock models are available, including keyless no-touch locks, touch-screen locks, combination keyed and touchpad locks, and locks you can open via a biometric fingerprint reader.
Can You Hack a Home Security System?
Like any product that connects to the internet and uses wireless technology, smart home security systems (particularly those that lack encryption) are vulnerable to hacking. Hackers can sit outside your home and use a laptop and software to intercept wireless signals coming from your system, thus allowing them to suppress alarms and disable sensors. Other devices allow hackers to generate radio noise that can jam communications between the sensors and the hub.
Additionally, devices that connect via Wi-Fi, such as security cameras and smart door locks, can be hacked to gain access to your home network. A skilled hacker can then use your Wi-Fi devices and other network resources to carry out Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against larger networks. Perhaps even more disturbing is the idea of some stranger monitoring video from your indoor and outdoor security cameras.
There are several steps you can take to make sure your home security system is safe from malicious cyber intruders. For instance, you can replace the system’s default password with a unique one that contains a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. If possible, change your password from time to time. Additionally, make sure your home network is secure. Check the security settings on your wireless router and consider models that add an extra layer of software protection.
Some security system vendors use frequency hopping tech to prevent signal jamming, whereas others use embedded encryption, but neither feature is standard; check with the manufacturer if you require an extra layer of security.
In addition, keep an eye on your camera access logs. If you notice camera activity at odd hours or at times when you know that nobody is at home, it may be an indication that your system has been compromised. Finally, make sure your system software and all of your connected devices are up to date. Firmware updates often address security issues and can help protect your system from infiltration.