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New research reveals privacy risks of home security cameras

July 06, 2020

An international study has used data from a major home Internet Protocol (IP) security camera provider to evaluate potential privacy risks for users.

IP home security cameras are Internet-connected security cameras that can be installed in people's homes and remotely monitored via the web. These cameras are growing in popularity and the global market is expected to reach $1.3 billion by 2023.

For the study, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science and Queen Mary University of London tested if an attacker could infer privacy-compromising information about a camera's owner from simply tracking the uploaded data passively without inspecting any of the video content itself.

The findings, published at the IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications (6-9 July 2020), showed that the traffic generated by the cameras could be monitored by attackers and used to predict when a house is occupied or not.

The researchers even found that future activity in the house could be predicted based on past traffic generated by the camera, which could leave users more at risk of burglary by discovering when the house it unoccupied. They confirmed that attackers could detect when the camera was uploading motion, and even distinguish between certain types of motion, such as sitting or running. This was done without inspecting the video content itself but, instead, by looking at the rate at which cameras uploaded data via the Internet.

Dr Gareth Tyson, Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, said: "Once considered a luxury item, these cameras are now commonplace in homes worldwide. As they become more ubiquitous, it is important to continue to study their activities and potential privacy risks. Whilst numerous studies have looked at online video streaming, such as YouTube and Netflix, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first study which looks in detail at video streaming traffic generated by these cameras and quantifies the risks associated with them. By understanding these risks, we can now look to propose way to minimise the risks and protect user privacy."
-end-
Notes to editors

* Research publication: 'Your Privilege Gives Your Privacy Away: An Analysis of a Home Security Camera Service' Jinyang Li, Zhenyu Li, Gareth Tyson, Gaogang Xie. In 39th IEEE Joint Conference on Computer Communications (INFOCOM), Beijing, China (2020).

* For more information or a copy of the paper, please contact:

Sophie McLachlan
Faculty Communications Manager (Science & Engineering)
Queen Mary University of London
sophie.mclachlan@qmul.ac.uk
Tel: 020 7882 3787

About Queen Mary

Queen Mary University of London is a research-intensive university that connects minds worldwide. A member of the prestigious Russell Group, we work across the humanities and social sciences, medicine and dentistry, and science and engineering, with inspirational teaching directly informed by our world-leading research. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework we were ranked 5th in the country for the proportion of research outputs that were world-leading or internationally excellent. We have over 25,000 students and offer more than 240 degree programmes. Our reputation for excellent teaching was rewarded with silver in the most recent Teaching Excellence Framework. Queen Mary has a proud and distinctive history built on four historic institutions stretching back to 1785 and beyond. Common to each of these institutions - the London Hospital Medical College, St Bartholomew's Medical College, Westfield College and Queen Mary College - was the vision to provide hope and opportunity for the less privileged or otherwise under-represented. Today, Queen Mary University of London remains true to that belief in opening the doors of opportunity for anyone with the potential to succeed and helping to build a future we can all be proud of.

Queen Mary University of London

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