Tag Archives: security

Using an iPhone as a CCTV Security Camera

Most Mac users have an old iPhone or two lying unused in a drawer. One great way to repurpose these devices is to turn them into security cameras – all you need is an app that does a good job of capturing and streaming video from the iPhone’s camera. In this blog post we review a few such apps, which work with our Mac NVR software SecuritySpy. To turn an iPhone into an effective CCTV surveillance camera it should be permanently connected to a power supply, and have access to a good WiFi signal for reliable transmission.


wireless-camera-small1. Wireless Camera

This is a well-designed app that has some nice features, such as control over the camera’s flash LED, a range of resolution options, and the ability to switch between front-facing and rear-facing cameras. It’s very easy to configure and provides good video quality – from 640×480 at 10fps to 1920×1080 at 5fps.

Pros

  • Inexpensive ($1.99)
  • High resolution
  • Reasonably good performance

Cons

  • JPEG only (no H.264 encoding)
  • No audio

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Home Video Surveillance Setup

A frequent request we receive from our users is for a quick and easy overview of what is required to set up a home video security system. Our SecuritySpy Installation Manual is a great place to start, as it provides information on all the topics involved, however for many users the selection of available IP cameras can be bewildering, and the setup can be daunting. Therefore, we have created this guide to provide clear and easy-to-follow advice that can be used by anyone – technical or not – to create a highly effective video surveillance system for their home.

What you will need:

  • A Mac, such as a Mac mini or iMac.
  • An ethernet switch or router
  • Ethernet cables (if using wired setup)
  • SecuritySpy – our Mac software that lies at the heart of your CCTV system, recording video and triggering events upon motion detection.
  • 4 IP cameras.

Cost:

  • If you already have a Mac: approximately $700
  • If you need to buy a Mac mini: approximately $1300

1. The Mac

Most users already have a Mac in use at their home, and if you just need a few cameras you can simply run SecuritySpy on your existing Mac without significantly affecting its performance. For this purpose a Mac mini, iMac or Mac Pro is perfect (you can also use a MacBook, however due to the fact that recording will only take place when the Mac is awake and at home, a laptop is less suitable than a desktop for this purpose).

For more than 4 cameras or so (at 1 MP resolution each), the processing power becomes significant and you will probably want to use a dedicated Mac for your home video security system. For this purpose a Mac mini is perfect: small, inexpensive and powerful, a basic dual-core Mac mini is capable of recording up to 8 cameras (the previous-generation quad-core models are about twice as powerful, so consider obtaining one second hand if you need between 8 and 16 cameras).

2. The Network

Your Mac will be connecting to the cameras over a wired (ethernet) or wireless (WiFi) network. Wired ethernet offers much greater reliability and performance than WiFi, so we recommend using it wherever possible. If this is not possible, then WiFi will provide an adequate solution provided that the devices aren’t too far from the wireless access point.

If connecting the cameras using ethernet, use a high-quality switch (for example a Netgear GS105 or GS108), and connect the Mac, cameras and internet router all to this switch using ethernet cables.

3. The Cameras

Go for trusty manufacturers such as Axis, Canon, Samsung and Vivotek. If you are confident with network setup, also consider Dahua Technology or Hikvision. Beyond our 10 Recommended IP Cameras 2015 blog post, here are a few suggestions for network cameras that are easy to set up and will work well in a home setting:

axis-m1054

 

Axis M1034-W or M1054: these compact low-cost cameras sport good features sets, including night-vision, audio, and a 1 MP resolution. The M1034-W has WiFi capabilities while the M1054 is wired only.

 

 

 

samsung-snhp6410bn

 

Samsung SNH-P6410BN: this is a small low-cost camera with high image quality and a great feature set including WiFi, night-vision, audio, and a maximum resolution of 2.1 MP. [UPDATE MARCH 2016: Samsung’s latest firmware update removes web server access to the camera, making it much more difficult to set up and use the camera with third party software such as SecuritySpy, therefore we don’t recommend our users purchase this camera. Good alternatives are the Hikvision DS-2CD2412F-IW, the Zavio F3115 or the Vivotek FD8168.]

 

 

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Setting Up SecuritySpy Over SSL

UPDATE 4 JUNE 2014: SecuritySpy now has built-in support for HTTPS, so the setup described below is no longer needed for setting up SecuritySpy over SSL (although it may still be useful for generating SSL keys, certificates and certificate signing requests for other purposes). See the Web Server Settings section in the SecuritySpy user manual for information about the built-in HTTPS feature.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a cryptographic protocol that provides secure communications on the internet. It uses two keys to encrypt data: a public key and a private key. URLs that require an SSL connection start with https:// insead of http:// and operate on port 443 instead of 80 by default. SSL increases security as it makes it impossible for someone intercepting the stream of data to decode any information from it.

SecuritySpy does not have built-in support for SSL, however Mac OS X comes with Apache, a fully-featured and powerful web server, that can be used to set up the secure communication between the internet and SecuritySpy. In this way, Apache will be acting as a secure “reverse proxy” web server for SecuritySpy. This post describes how to set this up.

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