The Most Important Thing You Need To Do With Your Doorbell Camera

The age of smart homes and smart devices is well underway. In addition to our cell phones, cars, thermostats, and refrigerators, even our doorbells have become smart, meaning they're hooked into the World Wide Web. We're now able to see, hear, and give commands through a doorbell app on our devices, and because all video doorbells come with the same default username and password, the most important action you can take after purchasing one is to change those security settings immediately. 

Here's why security is so important for a video doorbell: We've all read about hackers — folks using their considerable creativity and intelligence in (mostly) unlawful ways to break into computer systems — and now that includes your smart doorbell too. There are some horror stories out there that make thorough navigation and education of all your settings worth the few extra minutes. It's your turn to outsmart the hackers, and it's doable.

What you need to do

The FBI has come up with the term "Ring swatting" to describe the act of video doorbell hacking. Hackers have used the system's audio component to try to break into homes by masquerading as a friend, while others have sent false incident reports to the police, drawing an armed response from law enforcement that the hackers then live-streamed. Avoid this level of drama with a username and passcode change. As with any good password advice, choose one you haven't used anywhere else, and, if you can, make it at least 16 characters long. 

Although installing the doorbell camera is relatively easy, there are steps beyond changing the password to get every aspect of the security on point. Cyrus Walker from Chicago-based Data Defenders LLC shared with NBC 5 Chicago that the internet network itself also needs to be secured. He said, "The one thing I recommend is that users make sure their wireless networks are as secure as they can be." That means your router needs an unguessable, strong password. Separate out private and guest networks and put your sensitive items on the private network, as set the encryption level as high as you can. Since routers differ from home to home, we recommend you look up the specs from the manufacturer about how to do so for your specific router model. 

Some tips for best practices

There are a few other best practices to keep top of mind. As with any connected device, it's only as good as its security settings and encryption, and nowhere is that more needed than with a device designed to enhance personal safety. Therefore, you can and should use two-factor authentication while setting up your video doorbell app so that if there's ever a problem, customer support or even law enforcement will know it's really you requesting help and not a hacker.

This reminder comes directly from the Ring blog: Don't share any passwords with anyone. No one who works for the company in customer support or any other department will ever ask you for it, so if someone does, consider that a red flag. If there are other users on your account, instead of sharing your password with family members, add "shared users" and ask them to generate their own unique passwords.