Wireless Camera Hacks
By A.J. Andrews
Hacking can modify the functions of a wireless camera to display computer-screen content on an external viewing device. Such modifications, while simple, will void the manufacturer's warranty and often require additional equipment, such as a wireless receiver and patch cables. Some camera-related hacks, like breaking into a transit system’s closed-circuit TV network or spying on a neighbor’s activity, aren't necessarily legal or advisable.
Wireless cameras are essentially radio frequency transmitters that capture video data with a lens and relay it to a receiver. Televisions, dedicated security monitors and computer displays, which serve as input devices for the data, are often backed up with a VCR or digital video recorder, or DVR. You can hack most wireless cameras with software or minor physical modifications.
Types of Hacks
Typical wireless security camera hacks include physically altering your camera to display onscreen computer content on your TV, and adding software that allows your camera to act as a security device that sends you an email when it detects activity. Some other hacks potentially violate privacy laws, such as hacking into an unsecured wireless network and using software to remotely control the attributes of someone else’s wireless camera, or hacking a local area network near your computer’s location and acquiring a third-party’s captured data.
Non-malicious hacks expand on your camera’s capabilities and increase its functionality. For example, hacking your wireless webcam to function as a motion-activated CCTV camera allows you to covertly record and monitor sensitive areas of your home or business for protection against break-ins, theft and other illegal activity.
Minor modifications to your wireless camera’s printed circuit board allow you to use the camera to transfer onscreen computer content without use of a high-definition multimedia interface or video graphics array cables. Older TVs often lack these inputs and rely on RCA patch cables for audio and visual connections, which limit their use as an external viewing device. These hacks are best suited for media applications, such as viewing video games or streaming movies on a bigger screen.
Using your wireless camera as a means of viewing computer content on a TV involves disassembling the camera and removing its printed circuit board. You must reflow, or melt, the wire leads from the lens that connect to the circuit board, as this hack only uses the camera’s radio frequency transmitting function. After soldering a cable compatible with your TV’s input ports to a wireless receiver and adjusting your computer settings to send the display to the PCB, your content will display on the TV screen.
Hacking your wireless camera to serve as a CCTV security camera doesn’t requires physical modifications, but instead relies on software that allows your camera to begin recording when it detects activity. Programs such as Yawcam, Active WebCam and Ugolog employ your existing wireless camera hardware to distribute captured data over an LAN or, if using a wireless IP camera, over the Internet, so you can log in remotely and view its activity. Other software functions include a “growl” function, an informal term describing the option to send you an email or text message when activity on-camera is detected.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.