How to Choose the Right Webcam Surveillance Software?

Many people want to have some kind of spy equipment for better home security. However, besides wireless spy cameras, VCR or DVR systems, there is also special software used to control those surveillance gadgets.

Large companies use professional security systems along with already built in (embedded digital video recorder or PC based DVR soft) spy camera control software. But what about smaller guys? Do you also have to spend thousands of dollars for professional spy security system and software to feel safe and secure in your house? And the answer is not necessarily.

Webcam for Spying Purposes

You have the ability to use your webcam (connected to your PC) as a surveillance tool. And to control it, all you need is inexpensive webcam surveillance software. As a matter of fact, such software allows you to connect more than one camera. It can display as much as 16 webcam views on your computer screen.

Moreover, webcam surveillance software even allows you to detect motion and start capturing an event within milliseconds. This means that you don’t have to keep your webcam surveillance software turned on all the time in order to secure the area. By using motion detection webcams, you can also save your computer’s HDD (hard drive) space.

You know, video takes a lot of hard drive space. Non stop recording for 24 hours can cost you 1GB of HDD space a day. Well, it depends on the chosen image quality. Lower quality images will require less bandwidth. Also, if you set lower FPS (frames per second), then you’ll save even more HDD space.

But if you have a large HDD (like 160GB or more), then there’s nothing to worry about.

What to Look for in Webcam Surveillance Software?

Before you decide to order webcam surveillance software, there are a couple of things to consider. Let’s take a look at some of the features of webcam software that you should seriously consider, ok.

  • Audio Capturing – Does your webcam surveillance software have audio capturing option? If not, then you should consider that carefully. If you want to record a conversation, it’s crucial.
  • Compressed Files – Does your webcam software compress video files? If not, then the space of your HDD might fill up quickly. Try to search for software that compresses the video without losing its quality.
  • Remote Access – This is very important. If you leave your webcam to record the area, you should have the ability to access your webcam’s view via internet connection. This is very neat function that is absolutely must in webcam software.
  • Motion Detection – We’ve already mentioned that. Motion detection is also extremely important. You don’t want to record the area when nothing’s going on, right. So make sure that motion sensing is enabled in your software.
  • Alert Options – Does the webcam surveillance software have an alert option? Some webcam software alert when they detect something. They can alert via email or even dial a phone number. You should seek for this feature, because it’s very neat.
  • Multiple Webcams – Can your surveillance software record a live view from multiple web cameras? 2, 4 or 16? If you want to connect more than one camera to your PC, then multiple webcam support is absolutely must in the software you choose.
  • Stealth Mode – Does the webcam software run in stealth mode? Stealth mode means that nobody can see if the software is running or not. Not even if they Press “Ctr+Alt+Del” and look at Windows Task Manager!

Look for webcam surveillance software that allows you to do all or at least most of the functions mentioned above. If your software isn’t capable of detecting motion, doesn’t have alert option, doesn’t have audio recording options, then search for a better solution.

In Conclusion

Webcam software (for spying or home protection purposes) combined with a few inexpensive webcams, can definitely serve as a basic home security system. You can put your webcams in the most important places and have your PC to record each camera’s view. And if motion sensors detect something unusual, they can alert you via email or phone.

However, if you’re really looking for quality and all-in-one solution for professional home protection, then a more powerful DVR security system with multiple spy cameras could be your best shot. Such systems cost over thousand dollars, but they’re ideal for quality home or office protection.

Webcam Users Under Serious Threat: The Internet Panopticon

So you own a webcam? Good! Welcome to being watched then.

Cyber crime is a fascinating field: constantly evolving, and always innovating. Meet its most latest brain child: hacking webcams without even the owner knowing!

The idea is simple: they turn on your webcam and watch you. Oh no, you will not be asked to pose or say cheese. They simply capture away pictures and videos of yours or anything in the webcam’s field, when you go about doing stuff, blissfully unaware.

Switching off your cam is not going to help either. The webcam hacking spyware works with a Trojan backdoor software that will turn on the web cam on its own. This can be installed in your system when you download innocent-looking picture or video or music files.

Still skeptical? Okay, let us get you some more details. If your system has a webcam, then it also requires a software to control it. Even if your webcam is connected, it need not be on. That requires the software we are talking about. Ideal case is when there is just a single software that can access the cam, and you are its sole controller.

Having said that, there are apps that access the webcam other than the ones we are talking about. Examples are Yahoo! Messenger and the like. No cause to worry because these apps require you to ‘allow’ access.

BUT…

There are other softwares that can be installed in your system, softwares that can access your webcam without your permission. You don’t have to be using the webcam or turning it on, consider it a job done by the software. The malicious code can be installed when you download something. Once installed, it can access your web cam, turn it on and click away! Shutter bug, did I say?

And hey, this ain’t elaborate conjectures on possible threats in the future. What we are talking about has already been done.

Some news reports: in Cyprus, a 45-year-old man was arrested in connection with hacking a teenage girl’s webcam, in order to take illicit pictures of the young woman in her bedroom. In Spain, police have arrested a man suspected of stealing online bank passwords and of writing a virus that is capable of spying on people through their webcams. More disturbing is the fact that the police found information from thousands of computers worldwide in his system. The Blake J Robbins v Lower Merion School District (PA) is legendary already, and the school used student laptop webcams to spy on them at school and home. Stories do not end here. Some of them can make Little Brother look tame.

So what do you do? Apart from panicking and biting nails, that is.

For starters, unplug your web cam cable whenever it is not in use. No software can plug your cable back and use your web cam. If you cannot unplug the webcam, like in a laptop, cover it using tape. If you do not want the tape residue on the lens, then at least cover it with an old sock.

Same goes for your internet connection too. Disable it when it is not in use. Not having a device connected to any network would be the only way to prevent broadcasting data from your system.

Stop downloading files from unknown sources like insecure websites or simply, strangers in chats. Those files are the surest way of being a victim of all sorts of hack attempts.

And if possible, get a webcam that turns on a small light, or gives a physical indication of some sort when in use. So if you ever see the web cam light go on, and if you have not executed the webcam software, you know you are being spied on. If you know your stuff well, you can insert a webcam light by simple hardware modification: check the chip’s pins with a scope, find which signals correspond with activity, and connect the suitable ones to LEDs.

If you want to be fully sure, take your laptop apart, locate the cam, and insert a physical switch.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, ensure the security of your system. Update and tighten it like mad! Better antiviruses, better firewalls and better operating systems can help tonnes. Linux tends to be more secure, especially if you know what you are doing. In any case, a decent firewall should protect your system from outsiders accessing it in the first place.

The issue of webcams being hacked is creepy at the first glance, and the implications are scary in a blood-curdling way. Think about the degree of intrusion into privacy that this can facilitate. Your credit card numbers, sensitive financial information can all be hacked; even visuals of places used to store the information can be obtained easily.

Hacking surveillance cameras in public places can yield gigantic amounts of images. One may argue that this might not be personally sensitive material, but what if the surveillance cameras within an organization are hacked? That can be a veritable Mecca of privileged information.

And in a world where terrorists are more clean-shaved tech jargon-speaking geeks than gun-branding wild-looking cavemen, the possibilities take on an entirely new level of threat. Horrible, but inevitable.

Make people aware. It is a clich├ęd line, but the principle still works best. Technology may be your best friend, but it is also your worst enemy. Looking over your shoulders constantly is not paranoia anymore, it is actually commendable caution. Like Mad eye Moody says, be in “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!!”.

Of course, there are still people who tout the line “I don’t have anything to hide, so I’m not concerned about privacy protection”.

To them: know the laptop sitting in your 14 year old daughter’s bedroom? A hacker who thinks it is worth the effort can hack into her webcam and watch her while she is changing. Nothing to hide, you say?

Webcam Basics

Instead of just communicating over the internet with text and emoticons, people are beginning to realize just how easy and fun it is to send video clips through cyberspace. Webcam setups range from simple to complex, and increasing the complexity is only a matter of adding functionality through software, custom code and/or equipment connections.

A simple Webcam setup consists of a Digital Camera attached to your computer, usually through the USB port. The camera part of the Webcam setup is just a digital camera — nothing out of the ordinary so far. The “Webcam” nature of the camera derives from the software. Webcam software takes a frame from the digital camera at a preset interval (for example, the software might grab a still image from the camera once every 30 seconds) and transfers it to another location for viewing.

If you’re interested in using your Webcam for streaming video, you’ll want a Webcam system with a high frame rate. The frame rate indicates the number of pictures the software can grab and transfer in one second. For streaming video, you need a minimum rate of at least 15 frames per second (fps), and 30 fps is optimal. To achieve high frame rates, you must necessarily have a high-speed internet connection.

Once it captures a frame, the software broadcasts the image over your Internet connection. There are several broadcast methods. Using the most common method, the software turns that image into a JPEG (compressed) file and uploads it to a web server using File Transfer Protocol (FTP). You can easily place a JPEG image onto any web page in this manner and post your webcam images on the internet.

If you don’t have your own Web server or web site, you can also use your web cam to send a video email. First, launch the software that comes with the camera. Depending on the model, the process of e-mailing and recording your video messages may vary. Press Start or Record to begin the video message. Click Stop and then preview the video. You can then click E-mail or Send, which automatically opens your default e-mail program.

When sending a video e-mail, the longer the video message recorded, the bigger the attachment will be, so make sure the recipient’s computer can handle the size. The recipient of the e-mail does not need special software to see your video message; they simply choose to open the attachment and the mini movie will play.

Another increasingly popular way to use your web cam is a chat session with webcams in “real time” with instant messaging (IM) programs. During an IM chat, there will be an option to start the webcam right on the screen, or under the Options or Tools menu. In Windows Messenger, for example, the words Start Camera are on the right-hand side of the screen. It is also possible to adjust the volume, window size, and video resolution with IM options. The person on the other end also needs a webcam to visually chat.

Adjust your camera’s focus, point it toward your face, and most importantly, look right into the “eye” of the webcam so your friends on the other end see more than just your forehead. Keep in mind that some webcams require an additional microphone to record audio.

Don’t expect terrific video quality. It’s often possible to adjust the video resolution by toying with the webcam’s software settings, but the higher the quality, the choppier the video frame rates will be. Webcams can also be used for remote security monitoring, but beware of hackers who could intercept your video feed and then spy on YOU. Make full use of passwords and encryption.