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Is Someone Shining Bright Lights Into Your Doorbell Or Camera?

In this day and age, most of us have at least one smart home camera and/or video doorbell to monitor and protect our homes. Especially when it comes to outdoor cameras, the potential to have something happen to one of them is unfortunately always there. 

One new trend involves people flashing lights at smart cameras. This has become more common as of late, and is starting to cause some real issues. So what exactly is the purpose of people doing this, and can you stop them?

Key Points

  • Smart cameras and doorbells contain a lens, which is sensitive to light.
  • Some criminals use powerful lasers to damage this lens.
  • Other people (such as delivery drivers) might use a flashlight which can ‘blind’ the lens by mistake.
  • There are some mitigations available to prevent against this lens damage.

The World of Smart Cameras and Video Doorbells

One of the most popular forms of home security nowadays are smart cameras and video doorbells. These small, convenient devices give you the ability to keep an eye on the inside and outside of your home, even when you’re not there. 

There are an almost infinite array of brands to choose from when it comes to these smart devices. One of the biggest contenders in the smart home market is Ring, followed by Wyze, Arlo, Google Nest, and Eufy – just to name a few!

A Eufy Indoor Camera sitting on a living room table
A Eufy Indoor Camera sitting on a living room table

Several lesser-known brands are available too on sites such as Amazon. Smart cameras come in both indoor and outdoor varieties, each specifically equipped for its environment. Most indoor cameras have to be plugged in, although some support a battery back-up in the event of a power outage.

Outdoor camera choices are even more plentiful. These are typically weather-resistant – as they’d need to be to withstand the elements! Some come in battery-powered versions, while others have to be hardwired into a standard junction box – or plugged into a electrical outlet.

A range of smart cameras including from EZVIV Neos and Ring
A range of smart cameras including from EZVIV, Neos and Ring

In addition to catching footage, some cameras have extra capabilities, like swiveling to follow the source of motion, such as the Wyze Cam Pan.

Marketing image showing the Wyze Cam Pan facing leftwards.
The Wyze Cam Pan facing leftwards.

Each camera works using its respective app. These apps are where you set up your cameras, configure their settings to your liking, and view any recorded footage that your camera’s sensors have picked up.

One type of footage that people are starting to find on their cameras, is people shining lights into their cameras. Why is this happening?

Shining Light Into Cameras – Why?

Me shining a phone torch light into a Ring Indoor Cam
Me shining a phone torch light into a Ring Indoor Cam

Especially when it comes to outdoor cameras, there’s always the potential for something to happen to them. Being that they’re weatherproof, weather-related issues are rarely a concern – unless you’re having hurricane weather! But what about tampering or vandalism? 

Smart home camera users are beginning to see a trend of people shining a light at their outdoor cameras. This is odd, to say the least, so why are people doing this?

Blinding Lights

Some smart camera owners are noticing that some of the lights being shined at their cameras have a blue tint, as opposed to just being plain bright white. When a blue tint is observed in the light, this is typically a laser:

A fairly strong laser pointer
A fairly strong laser pointer

Lasers can also be in other colors such as green or red. In any case, a laser means bad news for your camera lens. Why?

Criminals want to avoid being caught – obviously. But instead of, oh, not committing crimes, they choose instead to find ways to disable one of the most common forms of home security – smart cameras.

They know that the sensors are key in recording footage, so these nefarious individuals are flashing laser lights into the camera. They do this because they know that this can damage your cameras’ lenses and sensors to the point that they’re non-functional

When pointed directly at the camera’s sensor for an extended period of time, these lasers damage sensors by generating too much heat. The overheating in turn causes serious malfunctions that result in permanent damage to your camera, rendering it useless. The lens can even be physically damaged.

It’s to be noted that a common laser pointer (such as you’d use to play with your cat) isn’t usually strong enough to damage a camera as it’s under 5 mW (megawatts). Still, it’s not a good idea to point one at a camera lens for too long, as the potential for some damage to occur still exists, especially if the laser is within 5 feet of the sensor and lens. At the very least, recorded images will become distorted:

A heavily disrupted Ring recording due to a light being shone into the lens of a Ring Indoor Cam
A heavily disrupted Ring recording due to a light being shone into the lens of a Ring Indoor Cam

Now, though bright lights aimed at your cameras are of concern, not all lights are harmful, or from would-be criminals.

Lost in the Dark

Not all light shining on your cameras is dangerous: some can simply be from a car with high beams on turning at a weird angle. Other lights could be from a flashlight of someone searching for their lost dog/cat, or a delivery driver trying to find an address at night.

If there’s been a blackout in your neighborhood, some people may walk around with flashlights. Why do this instead of staying in the house? No clue – but some people like to do this. 

Around Halloween, Trick-or-Treaters may have flashlights as they walk through the neighborhood after dark on their way to the next house.

In general, there are many reasons why someone may flash a light toward your cameras that aren’t dangerous. But these are usually for brief moments. If you notice a light shined directly at your camera for a long period of time, or that has a color tint, at that point, there is definitely cause for concern.

So now, how do you protect your cameras from potentially harmful lasers?

How To Protect Your Cameras

So you want to protect your cameras from any potentially damaging light – this can be tough. If someone is truly determined to point a laser at one of your cameras, unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. Outdoor cameras are out in the open exposed to the elements and other outside forces, so keeping them safe can be a challenge.

A laser has to be pointed directly at a lens or sensor for it to be damaged. In light of that, there are a couple of options you can try to make it a bit harder for this to happen.

Mount Cameras Up High

One of the best preventative measures is to mount your camera high up. The higher up the camera is, the tougher it is for anyone to reach. It also makes it a bit more difficult for someone to accurately point a laser directly at the camera’s sensor.

Side Ring Camera Set up High
Side Ring Camera Set up High

However, this may not help if your camera is angled down for visibility purposes. In that case, the lens will also be angled down, making it just as easy for a criminal to point a laser at your camera’s sensor.

Backyard Ring Cam Set up High and Angled
Backyard Ring Cam Set up High but Angled Down

Mounting the camera high up will still, however, make it less likely for errant light from passing cars and people with flashlights to hit your camera.

Of course, mounting your camera high isn’t very practical when it comes to video doorbells. No one wants to have to climb a ladder to ring your bell! For doorbells, then, you may try another option.

Infrared Filters

On sites such as Amazon, you can find Infrared filters for cameras. Many are sold for professional cameras, but there are smaller cut-out versions that can be placed on the lens and sensors of your security cameras. This helps deflect the laser light, preventing overheating and damage to your cameras.

Be sure to use a filter that has a fairly clear (transparent) film, so it has very little effect on your camera’s ability to record clear images. A heavily tinted film might cause issues with the night vision mode, resulting in weird color recordings.

Double-Up On Cameras

Two people standing under lots of bullet CCTV cameras
The solution: install a couple of extra (hundred) cameras… just kidding!

Something else you might try is placing more than one camera in a specific area. This way, even if one camera is disabled by a laser, another one will still be there to catch the perpetrator’s face. Unless the person has several lasers, or there’s more than one person, they can’t disable more than one camera at once.

This can give you, or the authorities time to rush over and catch the criminals red-handed.

Protecting Your Cameras From All Vandalism

Pointing a laser at your camera with the intent to damage it is just one form of vandalism. Unfortunately, outdoor cameras are prone to other acts of vandalism as well. Breaking the camera, obstructing the view of the lens, and other forms of defacing can also occur (and have!) with outdoor cameras.

Mounting the cameras higher, except in the case of video doorbells, are often your best bet. Even if the criminal happens to be successful in disabling your camera, the effort they have to go through makes it more likely that the vandal is caught in the act.

Another option to protect your camera is installing a case. Different cameras will require different size cases, so make sure you measure or search for a case that’s compatible with your particular outdoor camera or video doorbell.

These clear plastic cases can be locked, making it near impossible for vandals to get to your camera. It’s clear enough so that your cameras will still catch footage but strong enough so that it’s hard to break, and near impossible to open.

Hiding your cameras so that no one knows your camera is there in the first place is one of the most effective ways to protect your security cameras. Birdhouses, holes in trees, or a shady corner nestled in foliage are all good ways to hide your camera so that no one thinks to bother them in the first place!

Securing Your Security Cam

It seems like people are always finding new and creative ways to sabotage smart cameras so they can do their dastardly deeds. From sticking things onto the lens, to now flashing damaging lasers – it’s annoying to say the least! While there’s very little one can do to stop this entirely, there are a few precautions you can take.

Placing cameras up high, as well as investing in protective coverings and infrared filters can make it harder for criminals to damage smart cameras. This way you can keep the cameras rolling and keep your home and family safe.

About Yvette Griffith

Yvette is a freelance writer who also happens to be a smart home enthusiast! She owns several smart home gadgets like strip lights, smart bulbs, cameras, and more! With a knack for troubleshooting device issues, she’s been the go-to for family and friends for all kinds of tech-related issues - dating back to VCR’s!

Here on Smart Home Point, she shares her knowledge with the world in hopes it’ll help you create and maintain your smart home.

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