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Fault finding your broken CCTV system

Fault finding your broken CCTV system

Fault Finding a CCTV System

Have you got a CCTV system that doesn’t work any more, or maybe a couple of cameras are out or even the remote view doesn’t work?

Systems can fail when the power is not pure and has spiked, your system gets too hot, your system builds up dust, you have a faulty component, you get oxidisation on lead contacts, you accidentally change a setting without realising, you change your modem or other network device, your system is a cheap quality or it’s just too old, so we will go through some basic steps to help you get it going again (if possible).

No image on screen

If you can see the lights on your recorder (NVR, DVR or XVR) but there is no image on the screen there could be a few things that have happened which could cause this.

The first step is the check your screen input, many computer monitors can easily switch by touching the front without even realising, if that fails, check your cables, it may be a HDMI or a VGA cable depending on your set-up, however both deliver similar results, except we generally find less issues with VGA cable. If you are using a HDMI cable, try another one, and make sure it is a 4K compatible lead as lower in quality may not be reliable. Once you are sure your lead is ok, but you still don’t have a picture, your recorder output may have been set to a resolution your TV/Monitor does not support, if this is the case, grab a different monitor that is more modern from your PC or borrow one, plug it in and see if that monitor can pick up the image.

If the image is still not there, try a different type of lead, so if you are currently using HDMI, try a VGA lead or vice versa. There is no particular order for the above, and in most cases you will resolve your issue, but make sure if it was an output resolution, go to your recorder display output setting and reduce the output and test on your original monitor, keeping in mind this will reduce the quality of the images you see.

Key points:

Double check your screen is set on correct input
HDMI lead that is 4K and good quality
Try changing from HDMI to VGA lead or vice versa
Try a different monitor and If you get in, try reducing your display output so your existing screen will work again

System won’t boot up (start)

If your entire system won’t boot up, this is normally a power issue or a cable issue and is easy to identify. First check your power supply and make sure it is plugged it, most have a light that is on when they are plugged in, check for that. You will also notice it is warm (sometimes hot), this is normal and shows the unit is powered, if it is stone cold with no light, it could have failed. If it is warm, follow the cable that goes to the recorder and make sure all plugs are securely pushed in, you can also pull them out and push back in to re-seat them.

If the same power supply uses a splitter cable and powers each camera, unplug each camera one by one waiting 5 seconds between and see if the system starts booting up, this is to test if you have a failed camera that is causing the system not to start.

Next you will need a multi-meter and ensure the power supply is putting out the correct voltage, check what is written on the power supply and ensure the multi-meter reads the same voltage within about 1volt difference.

If your power supply is faulty, DO NOT swap with a unit you have at home, CCTV power supplies are specific and have very strict parameters, even though another power supply may read the same, it could kill your entire system including every camera, purchase a CCTV rated power supply with exactly the same voltage, current and brand if possible. We strongly recommend you contact your place of purchase or another CCTV specialty store for a replacement.

The last thing to check is whether the HDD (Hard Drive) has failed and causing a short, this is a rare event, but does happen. To check that you will need to unplug the recorder, open it up, then unplug the HDD inside (you do not need to remove it, just unplug the leads). Once that is done, power it back up and see if the recorder starts, if it does, you need a new HDD.

Key points:

Check power supply, make sure it is correct voltage and working
Check splitter cable or other connectors and re-seat them
Check cameras for short circuit
Check HDD for short circuit

Camera(s) not working

Here it gets a little more complicated as there are many areas, particularly with IP systems, however the basics are as follows.

For Analogue (CVBS), TVI, CVI, HD-SDI, AHD the problems are almost always power, cable, faulty camera, faulty recorder so we will go over each.

The easiest area to check is behind the recorder, check your power supply for the cameras using the same methods as above and unplug then plug back in the connectors to re-seat them, many times your camera(s) will start and away you go. If the cameras do not start and you have some that work and some that don’t, swap the positions where the cameras are plugged into the recorder and see what happens. This will show you whether the input channel is damaged on the recorder or the fault is outside the recorder. If the fault stays on the same channel, regardless of a whether a working camera is plugged in, it’s probably a faulty recorder and needs replacing, if the fault follows the camera, it will be the camera, cable connectors or power supply.

Sometimes you may get rats or mice in your ceiling and surprisingly, they love to eat some brands of cable and this is a more common issue that you would expect, you also get dampness in your eaves so your connectors at the camera end may have started to rust or oxidise causing connector issues. This is hard to fully check, however you can get an idea by looking at your camera at night and checking for the IR red glow, or placing your hand on the camera and feeling if it is warm. If the camera is warm or you can see the glow, at least you know the camera is getting power.

After completing the above you should now know where the fault is re camera vs recorder. To check the actual cable is difficult without testing equipment, however if your cameras are easy to reach, and you are sure the power is getting to the camera (by checking warmth/glow), swap a working camera with a non-working camera and see where the fault goes, if the fault stays on the same channel, you probably have damaged cable or connectors in your ceiling, if the fault stays with the camera, you have a faulty camera that needs replacing.

Key points:

Check connectors and power supply behind recorder
Check power to camera
Swap channels on recorder to see where fault goes
Swap cameras to see where fault goes


For IP cameras it gets a little more tricky as it may be an IP conflict or you have changed your modem and now have a new IP range, if these are the causes, unless you know what these terms mean, you may need an IT/Networking person to assist.

To see if it is the above, try unplugging the network cable that goes between your recorder and modem, this will isolate your system from the rest of the network, restart the NVR recorder and see what happens, if things change and get better, it’s probably network related, if they do not, then try the following.

To see if it is a burnt out channel/port on the NVR, unplug the camera and swap it with a working cameras socket, if the problem stays with the camera it is probably the camera or the cable/connectors, if the problem changes to the other camera, it is probably  a burnt out channel/port on the recorder and your recorder needs replacing.

NVRs use Cat5/6 and RJ45 connectors which like all connectors can oxidise over time and lose connectivity, they are also loved by mice and rats in your ceiling as well as dampness near the camera. The easiest way for an IP system to see if your internal cables are damage is to remove the camera, and plug it into the back of the NVR with a small cable. If the image appears and the camera boots up, you have a cabling issue and your cables in the ceiling may need replacing or at the very least new connectors added. If the camera won’t boot up when plugged into the back of the NVR, you have a faulty camera (unless it’s the above mentioned network issues).

Key points:

Isolate system from network and reboot
Swap connectors on back of recorder to see if it’s the camera or recorder
Remove the camera and plug it into back of recorder using small network cable

Remote view

This is possibly the most common complaint with CCTV and really boils down to a few things that could be causing it. If your recorder is only a couple of years old, you will have P2P remote, which is the superior method, for older systems you would use the riskier method of port forwarding. OzSpy does not perform port forwarding due to the risks associated with it and we strongly recommend you replace your recorder with the new P2P technology.

For P2P systems firstly you may have changed modem or internet provider, which may have changed your network, for a non IP system like Analogue (CVBS), TVI, CVI, HD-SDI, AHD, go into your network settings and click DHCP then reboot your recorder, this should fix your issues and away you go.

For IP systems it may be more complicated and you may be better off setting your gateway of the new modem back to the old gateway address, changing the NVR to DHCP may open up a can of worms for you. We recommend you get professional assistance when IP systems are affected by a new modem.

Sometimes you may also lose remote access because your phone did an update, if this is the case, go to the app developers page and update the app, this will normally fix it. If they do not have an update, wait a few days and check again, most developers stay on top of this.

Lastly if your remote stops for none of the above, you just may be in a bad data area or these is a temporary data issues where the recorder is, this will normally resolve itself within a day or two, or after you are in a better data coverage area.

Key points:

If you changed your modem and your system is not IP activate DHCP in the recorders network settings
If your recorder does not support P2P it’s time to upgrade
Keep your apps up to date
Try later when you are in a better area
Try later, there may be a temporary data throttle

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What the police want in a CCTV system to use as evidence in Australia

What the police want in a CCTV system to use as evidence in Australia

Introduction

Many people are not aware that there are specific rules and guidelines on exactly what the Police require when it comes to CCTV installations and the quality of recording.

This was written for businesses, however the same principles apply for home security.

Face vs crowd

When considering your system, you will need cameras that capture the overview or the crowd, and cameras that capture the face. Generally these are not the same camera as the wide angle cameras are great for capturing the event or crowd, whereas narrower cameras with a greater zoom (aimed at entrances) will capture the face.

The image above from the Police document showing what happens to faces when the image is zoomed and what the police require. You will see that wide angle shots are almost useless when you zoom into the face, and zoomed images are useless when seeing the overall event.

Some of the key Police recommendations

Apart from the most important area discussed above which is a. getting the culprits identification and b. seeing the overall actions, there are quite a few other areas discussed in the downloadable report below.

Here are what we consider to be the key areas.

  1. Ensure your system holds 31 days or more
  2. Ensure you do not reduce quality or frame rates to a point it affects quality
  3. Ensure your compression algorithm does not deteriorate the image quality
  4. Ensure your system restarts into recording mode after power cut
  5. Overlap cameras to avoid gaps
  6. Ensure a high enough frame rate to avoid missing sections
  7. Have some eye level cameras
  8. Avoid back lit areas
  9. Have cameras zoomed to entries and exits for facial shots
  10. Have car park cameras zoomed to entries and exits for number plates
  11. Have both wide shots and identification shots
  12. Keep your system secure
  13. Avoid weather affected camera locations
  14. Regular testing and maintenance

You can download the full report here.

http://www.anzpaa.org.au/about/general-publications/police-recommendations-for-cctv-systems
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Why should you and how do you keep your CCTV system maintained

Why should you and how do you keep your CCTV system maintained

Introduction

There are many factors that will contribute towards the ultimate demise of your CCTV system and although they are very simple to avoid, most people will simply forget to include their security system into their regular maintenance routine.

So here we are to offer some help, and hopefully keep you a little safer.

Reminders

The first step to a healthy CCTV system is, set a reminder, at least every three months to follow the below maintenance routine and keep you system working. You can set it on your phone, your calendar, or you can use our free service where we send you an email every three months with a gentle reminder and some tips on keeping your system perfect.

Our system is automated and you don’t even need to have one our our systems, just add yourself to the system below and leave whenever you wish.

Join our free maintenance list

Cobwebs

Spiders love the warmth of your cameras and it can be very annoying as they appear regularly and despite removing them, they keep coming back. The problem with cobwebs it that they may affect the focus of your camera, but more annoyingly they will set off motion detection as they blow in the breeze.

Although there is not much you can do, there are a few little tricks.

  1. spray surface spray around the camera, but not on it as it could damage the weather seals
  2. ensure there are no bushes or branches nearby
  3. keep in the habit of brooming them off

Never hose off your cobwebs as cameras are not designed for water pressure and you may ruin or at least damage your camera.

Grime

As cameras are electronic, they do attract dust and road grime, this is a slow process taking months, but eventually your cameras will look terrible, blurry and dull.

The way to clean them is with a damp (not wet) microfiber cloth and you will need to do this every few months. This is worth considering when placing your cameras.

We regulary get warranty calls for defective cameras that just need a wipe.

Please do not wash with water or hose as this may ruin or damage your cameras.

Memory leakage

Whilst many people don’t know why, we all know that when your PC, or mobile gets laggy, a restart is required. Often but not always  this is caused by memory leakage where the memory starts filling up with leftover fragments, eventually chocking the device.

XVRs, DVRs and NVRs can also get this and most are already set to restart in the middle of the night at least once per week. Check your recorder in the maintenance section and make sure it does, this will stop it eventually crashing without your knowledge and you may miss the evidence you need.

If you have a PTZ or your cameras are powered separately from you recorder, you should get in the habit of restarting them manually or adding a timer to the power point with at least weekly reboots.

Many times this is not needed, but sometimes it is and if you live in an area with dirty power, a nightly restart of your system may help.

Hard drive failure

Even the best quality HDDs can fail, particularly in a CCTV system where they are recording 24/7. The easiest way to check this is simply to play back some recordings every now and then, if your drive has failed you won’t be able to.

At OzSpy all our installed CCTV systems come with a surveillance grade HDD which are considerably more expensive and reliable, however almost all DIY systems or cheaper system have a standard HDD which will probably fail within the first two years, and sometimes even sooner depending on the quality of the system.

Once the HDD fails, your system stops dead in its tracks, so keep your eye on it.

Keep your manual handy

One of the easiest things to do to get the most of your system is to keep your manual handy, even if you get to know it well at the start, six months later when something happens, you may need the manual quickly. We recommend keeping it with the recorder at all times.

We  hope this has helped you get the most out of your CCTV system.

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Has your cctv system been hacked

Has your cctv system been hacked

Has your cctv system been hacked?

There are two primary methods of hacking a CCTV system (apart from someone knowing your password and logging in to see what you are doing).

There are also different areas that can be hacked, for example in a coax based system, it will be primarily the recorder that gets hacked, however IP systems can have each camera hacked as well as the recorder.

This is what you may see after a hack, or you may not see anything if the hacker is using your cameras to put you under surveillance.

Brute force attack

What is a brute force attack you may ask?

A brute force attack is a trial-and-error method used to obtain information such as a user password or personal identification number (PIN). In a brute force attack, automated software is used to generate many consecutive guesses of the password until it gets it right.

What this means is that once the hacker has found your password protected CCTV system, they run a small program that simply continues to guess and submit passwords until it finds the right one.

Brute force attacks are old school hacking and have been around since the start of the computer industry and are well and truly dealt with by all the PC manufacturers now by freezing the account after a few incorrect passwords are submitted.

Your CCTV system however is unlikely to have that simple method to protect itself, so the brute force attack can simply run forever until it finds the correct password, and if you have a simple one like 0000 or 1234 or similar, it will only take a few mins to hack your system.

If you have a very complex password like Xt56!!VV568qw34 it would take the brute force attack up to 100 years to guess your password, making it immeasurably safer.

Default or no password

The next method of hacking is even scarier and again, is caused by the owner of the CCTV system, and that there is no password at all, or using the default password.

Almost all CCTV manufacturers use a set of default passwords, these may be 888888 or 111111, or 12345, or admin, or password, etc., these are there so you can access the system when installing it BEFORE YOU CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD.

To find the default password for a particular brand, you just have to search Google for default password for [your brand DVR] and there it is, in fact many sites list all default passwords as a service.

To avoid this and to protect yourself, add a password and write it down. Make sure it is a complex password so you can avoid the brute force attacks as well.

Remember though, when you change your password, you need to record it somewhere as sometimes if you forget, we may not be able to recover it for you, rendering your device inaccessible.

What to do if you have been hacked.

1. Reset the recorder back to factory defaults.

2. Install latest firmware for the particular model if available.

3. Make sure passwords are changed from factory defaults for both admin and any other account on the device.

4. If any cameras were connected but still black after doing this you need to adjust the brightness setting on the camera as it may be on zero level.

Also, ensure you do not use port forwarding on your modem and only use P2P remote access to view your cameras.

If your DVR/NVR is not capable of P2P, then we recommend you upgrade your recorder immediately.

Here is a video from an IT security company that discusses these issues, it is well worth the time to watch it.

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How to Burglar Proof Your Home

How to Burglar Proof Your Home… with 29 tips to prevent being a target

You don’t need a security alarm or security cameras to take steps to burglar proof your home, but they sure do help.

Check out out easy to folluw steps on how to burglar proof your home.

Make your home look occupied when you’re away

A house that looks like the occupants are away is a prime target for a burglar, in fact it is the first thing a burglar looks for when choosing a house for a break-in. If you make your house look occupied when you’re away, many burglars will move on to one that seems like an easier target. Here are the top tips.

  1. Use Light timers: Consider using automatic light timers that can turn on and off in a way that closely replicates your usual patterns. Timers with a battery backup are recommended so they can continue to operate in case of a power failure. Use multiple timers to create the effect of movement from room to room.
  2. Connect television and stereo equipment to timers or smart systems like Google home so they can be turned on and off.
  3. Either divert your phone calls or make sure the ringing volume is turned down low so it can’t be heard ringing out from outside.
  4. If your grass is likely to grow unusually long while you are away you should arrange beforehand to have someone mow it in your absence.
  5. Don’t allow uncollected mail and newspapers to build up. To maintain the appearance of someone being home, it’s best not to cancel these deliveries and instead ask a neighbour to pick them up and hold them for you.
  6. Ask a neighbour to use your rubbish bin from time to time and to put it out and bring it back on bin collection day.

Make getting access as hard as possible

If your house looks easy to get into, it’s almost the same as putting out a welcome mat for a burglar. The easier they think they can get access the more likely they are to try, but the harder you can make it for them to get in, the more likely they will look for an easier target.

  1. Don’t leave any doors or windows unlocked no matter how safe you think the neighbourhood is. 
  2. Don’t hide a key to your house outside where it can be easily found.
  3. Secure all external doors with quality deadbolt locks. Wherever possible use deadbolt locks with a horizontal bolt at least 2½ centimetres long. This will make it difficult for them to spread the door frame and open the door.
  4. Use door locks with hardened steel and bevelled outside casing. This will make the lock more impact resistant and difficult to twist off with a wrench.
  5. Use four-screw high security metal strike plates on external doors using 8 centimetre long screws. This will help prevent against a burglar kicking at the plate to kick open the door.
  6. Consider replacing at least one screw in each door hinge with a long screw to help prevent forced entry of your external doors.
  7. An attached garage that has a door between the garage and the house can make gaining access to the house relatively easy. Treat the connecting door like an external door and use the same type of locks that you use on the front and back door.
  8. Attach a clear security window film to any window or glass panel in an exterior door where the glass is closer than 100 centimetres to the lock. A shatter resistant film will prevent an intruder breaking the glass to access the lock and unlock the door.
  9. Ensure all external windows are connected to a security alarm system.
  10. You can also use shatter resistant security film on external windows for extra protection..
  11. Use patio bolts, security braces or long track rods for sliding glass patio doors.
  12. Remove any outside ladders that can be used to access the roof or a second storey window and don’t store them in an unlocked garage or shed.
  13. Trim or remove any tree limbs that hang over the roof, and remove lower branches from trees next to the home that can be climbed to access a roof or window.

Don’t provide easy cover

A burglar will prefer a house where there is less chance of being seen. Eliminating places where they can hide is another way to make them look for an alternative house to target.

  1. If you choose to have trees and shrubs next to the house, make them difficult to hide behind. Consider using roses or other thorny plants like bougainvillea. Also trim back or remove any unnecessary shrubbery next to doors or windows.
  2. Illuminate each access door with security lighting. Use a light at the front entrance that has more than one lamp structure or more than one bulb so it is effective even with one blown bulb.
  3. Ensure outside security lights are motion detector activated.
  4. Avoid having tall privacy fences around the house perimeter. Once someone climbs over them the tall fence can stop them from being seen from the street or by neighbours.
  5. Install a Home Security System. Home security alarm or security camera systems are not a guarantee that burglars will not enter your home. But they make a great deterrent by increasing the risk that the burglar will be seen and caught. If it’s obvious your house has an electronic security system the burglar may look for an easier target.
  6. Be sure to display warning signs that say your house is protected by a security system.
  7. Regularly check to make sure the signs are visible and have not been covered, damaged or removed.
  8. Disguise your security code or password if it is written down anywhere and never keep it next to, or on the home security alarm key pad.
  9. Sometimes the best home security can be neighbours who look out for one another. Make it a point to know your neighbours so that you can ask them to keep an eye on things while you’re away.
  10. And if your neighbourhood doesn’t have a Neighbourhood Watch program, consider organising one. A good Neighbourhood Watch program can assist the whole neighbourhood to be more security aware and help protect your possessions and your family.

And finally, get to know your neighbours, as they are one of the best tools you will have to keep your home safe and secure.