One of the devices that have exploded in popularity is a doorbell camera. There were over 400,000 Ring doorbell devices sold in December of 2020 by Amazon, and statistics show that the market for smart doorbell cams is expected to increase by 27% this year.
The popularity of outdoor security cameras has grown for a few different reasons. One is that a home security system offers a way to keep an eye out for intruders or just see who is at the door before answering. Another is that these devices have come down considerably in price, making home security systems more affordable than in decades past.
As smart home systems continue to populate homes, security cameras and doorbell cams offer convenience and peace of mind through helpful surveillance that can be accessed via a smartphone or PC from anywhere.
But… these devices are not impervious to jamming by criminals that want to conduct crimes without being caught on camera.
In the case of a recent shocking murder in an upstate South Carolina neighborhood, the police immediately began knocking on neighbors’ doors for clues. They asked residents if any had security cameras pointed toward the street. Many did and handed over helpful footage.
Criminals are well aware of the rise of doorbell and other outside Wi-Fi cameras and the fact that any illicit activity from “porch pirating” to car theft could be caught on camera and used by the police against them.
Here in New Jersey, we have had a rash of car thefts, and homeowners are claiming that their Ring and Nest cameras, along with Wi-Fi in general, have “dropped” at or around the time of the crime.
Could this just be a coincidence? Or have criminals found a way to keep their illegal activities from being caught on camera?
It’s not a coincidence.
Criminals Can and Do Jam Wi-Fi Cameras
Jamming signals and taking out security cameras is not just something used as a plot device in crime shows.
An incident reported in the Chicago news found that hooded thieves trying to break into cars in a suburban neighborhood used a high-tech device to try to jam security cameras.
One particular homeowner had both a wireless Ring doorbell camera and a wired outdoor security camera. During the time of the car break-ins, her wired camera captured the criminals, however, her Wi-Fi doorbell camera recorded a black screen. It was determined that the device was jammed.
Crooks use wireless jamming devices that they can find online on the black market to interfere with the recording activities of all Wi-Fi cameras within a certain range.
What Does “Jam” Mean?
Jamming a security camera means disrupting the system so it won’t work properly. Because these systems use wireless methods to operate, it makes them susceptible to that wireless feed being interrupted.
Criminals use a device that works on the same frequency as Wi-Fi (widely known to use 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands). The jamming device’s signal is stronger and it overpowers the other.
The jammer can prevent both incoming and outgoing communication, rendering the cameras within a certain range unable to operate correctly.
Is Jamming Illegal?
Jamming of this type is illegal in the United States. It’s unlawful to sell, advertise or use a signal jammer. Any type of transmitter that has the ability to interfere with wireless communications is against the law.
The reason is that jammers can interfere with vital communications such as a 911 call or other emergency services that require an internet connection or cell signal to operate properly.
This is important to know so someone you know doesn’t think it’s okay to play around with a jammer as a prank. This could land them in legal trouble. Fines get as high as $112,500 for just one incident.
Can Wired Cameras Be Jammed?
Wired security cameras can be disabled in other ways, such as a criminal cutting the wire, however, they can’t be jammed with a signal jammer as Wi-Fi cameras can.
But one cut wire can result in a costly repair bill and the camera being out for days or weeks. The signal jammer is temporary. As soon as the criminal moves out of range or turns off the device, the Wi-Fi camera regains its connection.
How Can You Tell If Your Camera Is Jammed?
A telltale sign that a Wi-Fi security cam is jammed is if it loses internet connection or stops recording. The appearance of a black screen on the recording preceded and followed by normal recording is also an indicator of being jammed.
Of course, not every dropped internet connection means jamming is occurring. Most people are used to slight interruptions in internet service from time to time.
It’s difficult to detect jamming another way unless you have equipment such as a decibel meter that can gauge noise level. Signal jammers are typically indicated by noise levels close to 0.
Improve the Security of Your Wi-Fi Smart Devices
Home security cameras can be hacked as well as jammed. Two River Computer can help your Fair Haven home or business with Wi-Fi security to prevent your devices from being breached.