Electronic Circuits

How to Modify a Fake/Dummy CCTV Camera

Fake CCTV Cameras

I got an assortment of fake/dummy security cameras a while ago. The cheapo batch was made in China, and later marked with a brand, perhaps by the importer or distributor in India. Anyway, they are pretty elegant!

What are fake security cameras?

Fake security cameras are cameras that are designed to look real, even though they aren’t real at all. Many people use fake security cameras in combination with existing surveillance camera systems, especially when on a budget. There are tons of various fake security cameras out there for us to choose from, and some of them even have exceptional features like fake pan/tilt/zoom, solar power supply, realistic blinking status indicator, etc.

Fake Solar CCTV Camera

What’s its role in hobby electronics?

If you are an active electronics hobbyist/maker, having a fake/dummy security camera is certainly good because you can modify such a pretty nice gizmo to make your own splendid electronics projects. Even if you go for a basic model, you will find yourself with a beautiful ‘project enclosure’ that seems more compact and very cheap than a readymade general-purpose electronics project enclosure. If with some careful thought and consideration, you can pick one fake security camera that have room for plenty of electronics, perhaps with a commodious battery compartment. That’s it.

There are a lot of innovative ideas to use fake security cameras. Some of the most simple and useful are tackled in this post. Anyway, keep your expectations low as this time I am talking solely about silly project ideas to be mindful of. So let us find out how to hack them at ease with components laying around!

Bring a fake security camera to life!

In this section, I will go through the process of taking one fake security camera from my latest collection,  and transform it to appear like a real surveillance camera. Let’s go!

This is my quick pick for the first hack. One Flipkart seller described the item as “Dummy fake infrared sensor dome wireless camera with blinking LED”, and these cost two dollars or under.

Fake Camera

First up, take the fake security camera apart, you will notice that the inside electronics itself is extremely simple. There is one battery compartment for two1.5V (AA) batteries, which powers a blinking red LED. Once you have all the parts of the camera separated, we are ready to add our own electronics. What we have to do now is to build an automatic LED driver i.e. a photo resistor based dusk-to-dawn automatic light switch.

Remember, unlike fake security cameras where the red light(s) blink, most real security cameras do not have blinking power indicators (however, some do). Anyway, you can see tiny red lights (visible in the dark) around the lens of certain real security cameras, if they have nightvision capabilities. Almost all genuine security cameras have infrared LEDs for night vision. Even though they are invisible to the naked eye, you will be able to see faint red dots around the camera lens especially at night if you walk close to the security camera. This is because of the 850nm infrared LEDs used for infrared illumination.

Now to the circuit diagram particularly tailored for the aforesaid initial hack. Honestly, this does not make much sense, but will help to extend the lifetime of the battery used as the power source for the red LED indicator.

Fake CCTV Camera-LED Driver v1

If you want to know more about the origin of this simplistic schematic, then  go through my featured review/teardown article https://www.electroschematics.com/night-vision-camera/

Obviously this circuit can be modified to drive a bunch of red LEDs just to imitate the 850nm night vision infrared LEDs, as well – if you want to go for the next model of fake ‘night vision’ security camera like the one shown below.

Fake NV Camera

Fake security camera, but a real radio bug!

Another hack is to use the fake security camera as a simple radio bug! Admitted, a fake camera is always a bogus one, and a clever intruder will recognize it at first sight. Let it be, but he/she never guess it’s a spy ear that always listens other people. Well, let’s start the next hack.

Only a small FM radio transmitter is all that needed to complete this hack. In other words, you need to buy/build a small FM transmitter working in the FM radio broadcast band (88-108 MHz) so that you can listen and pay attention to the transmitted audio signals through a standard FM radio receiver. Following is a well-known and easily reproducible FM radio transmitter/FM radio bug design I borrowed from https://www.cryptomuseum.com/. Although an extremely old (mid 1970s) one, it seems that many hobbyists still like to try this rather simple and effective design (as I did back in high school when I built my first radio bug)!

FM Radio Bug Circuit

Note that, in this schematic the first transistor (BC548) is the microphone pre-amplifier that accepts virtually any type of microphone, such a crystal earpiece, a dynamic microphone or even a loud speaker. The second transistor (2N2219) is the actual oscillator, frequency of which is set by the button trimmer (2-22pF) and the home-made coil (L). An aerial (a piece of random length wire) can be attached to the circuitry by making a tap just after the first winding of the coil from the top.  You can adjust the button trimmer (with a plastic screw driver) to set the desired FM band frequency (88-108 MHz). If the radio frequency range is not able to fulfill the requirement, then expand the coil some more and try again until you get it right. Warning: Use of this FM transmitter is subject to local laws and might be illegal in your country!

The whole circuit can be easily assembled on a little piece of veroboard. Nevertheless, after successful construction and test, fit the entire build inside the fake security camera’s enclosure, and make a hole in the appropriate location so that the microphone can give heed to outside whispers.

The button/spy camera cheat!

Button Camera

I repeat, fake cameras are fake cameras forever, so seasoned stealers not ever mind it (thanks for their silent laugh). But what about transforming a fake security camera into a real (but secluded) security camera? For not much more, a button/spy camera can be mounted inside the fake security camera enclosure to make it a real camera, even if not a pretty good one. Finally, hang it up somewhere.  If you do so, the end result will be a recognizable fake camera that really is not a dummy. I’m sure, no one could tell that one is a real security camera by just looking!

In India, you can often find minuscule button/spy cameras on Amazon and Flipkart for cheap. This is an unbiased link for your reference https://www.amazon.in/ENEM-Hidden-Smallest-Camera-Detection/dp/B082121MLR/ref=pd_sbs_23_1/260-2251754-0175926

Spy Camera Amazon

Moreover, you can use an FPV camera in lieu of the recommended button/spy camera for this hack. In order to learn more about FPV cameras, go back to the previously published FPV camera primer https://www.codrey.com/electronic-circuits/poor-mans-wired-or-wireless-spy-camera-v1-part-1/.

Automatic 360° security camera turntable

Now, to the build of a very slowly rotating turntable for fake (and real, ofcourse) security cameras. The turntable consists of the top rotating plate of a conventional “lazy susan” which is driven in small steps by a AC230V operated, single-phase AC synchronous motor attached to the bottom stationary plate. The security camera turntable is silent, slow, and move with subtlety as the unconventional part at its core is a geared AC synchronous motor usually called as microwave turntable motor. This is the photograph of the my AC230V(3W), 2-wire, microwave turntable motor obtained from an Indian online retailer.

Microwave Turntable Motor TK

Note that this microwave turntable motor has a pseudo-random starting direction. Most of the time it will spin 360° one way (CCW), and the remainder the other (CW). The direction seems to be more predictable if you interrupt its power supply for a while, then resume. It usually reverses direction, but not always.

Construction of the security camera turntable is extremely easy as you need only one device to complete the build – the microwave turntable motor. Except for motor which can be obtained at any online store, the rest of the parts can be obtained at most electronics shops – just one rocker switch (for turntable on/off control) and a bit of twin-wire cable (for power supply path extension).

There are many ways to setup the turntable. The motor, and the on/off switch are all glued onto the bottom stationary plate. The rotating shaft of the motor has to be attached to the top rotating plate. The shaft of the motor, with or without a shaft-mating hub, must be fixed to the center of that top rotating plate. The top rotating plate can act as the platform itself or carry a platform onto which your fake security camera will sit. The bottom stationary plate with accompanying motor and switch has to be supported on a stand. It can be attached directly to a stationary stand or pole, which can be as high as several meters.

See the casual snaps of the build process of my ‘soapbox’ model included below.

Soapbox Build

And, play the quick test movie shared here to watch how my crude model works (sorry for the blurred video)!

Get yours now…

There are always fake/dummy CCTV cameras You can get them for cheap as mentioned above. The easiest thing to do is to make it look like a real security camera to give would be bad-guys the impression that they’re being monitored. On the other hand, making a real CCTV camera (or a spy device) out of a fake one is a lot more convincing than the first method.

For the next part, now I’m developing a compact Wi-Fi security camera module/board for the fake/dummy camera enclosure. Stay tuned to see that pretty shifty do it yourself project idea. Hoping that others will experiment with the idea, find it useful and improve it. Looking forward to getting feedback and suggestion. Enjoy!

Leave a Comment