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File:Insecurity cam.jpg

Ironically, the room would be more secure if someone stole the exit sign.

"No matter how many shorts we have in the system, my guards will be instructed to treat every surveillance camera malfunction as a full-scale emergency."

Breaking into a secret installation ought to be the hardest thing in the world - even if you can bamboozle the guards and outfox the dogs there's still the thorny problem of the security cameras. Or there ought to be the thorny problem of the security cameras, but it seems that every high-security base, whether it's run by terrorists, the Government or a Diabolical Mastermind, buys its security cameras from the same crummy factory.

As a result, the allegedly hi-tech cameras that can identify an intruder the moment he steps into their field of view can be shot, smashed, hacked or otherwise monkeyed with without any alarm being raised. Is it too much to ask to have a security guy watching the screens? Even if they're unbreakable, the spy can still stand directly underneath them without being seen, because they only have a very limited line of vision and - unlike the security cameras in, say, a shopping mall - are not covered to disguise exactly where the camera is looking. These cameras will often oscillate in a slow and predictable pattern, allowing an intruder time to sneak under them, when it would have made more sense for the camera to remain fixed at one angle.

And even failing that, the cameras may take several second before they "focus" on the intruder and sound the alarm, making a sound warning the intruder to run for cover as they do so.

However, while the manufacturers might not fit failsafes, they do sometimes load the cameras up with all kinds of pointless technological gimmicks, like lights that change colour to show when the camera isn't working, little klaxons that sound when it sees someone or even a little motor that keeps the camera upright so it can drop down dramatically when shot or turned off. Okay, so most of these help the intruder, but let's see you design security cameras every day and see how long it takes before you start putting in pointless bells and whistles. Literally.

See also Camera Spoofing, Weak Turret Gun, Snowy Screen of Death, and Useless Security Camera. Contrast Magical Security Cam.

Examples of Insecurity Camera include:


  • Lampshaded in Tomorrow Never Dies. There's a scene where James Bond and his current partner, Chinese agent Lin, are breaking into the ship of the villain. The villain is discussing something with one of his subordinates when he then notices Lin on the security cameras in the corner, the person manning which is just sleeping. He walks over to him and yells "what the hell am I paying you for?"
    • In Die Another Day, Bond actually discovers a Hidden Door by looking at a security camera that is pointed straight at an "empty" spot in the wall, and completely blind to the rest of the corridor, making it easy to disable.
  • In the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, there's a sequence near the beginning where a team of art thieves are performing an elaborate operation and one of them ends up dangling in full view of a security camera. This is seen in the main security room, but the person manning the cameras is catatonic and doesn't actually do anything in response.
  • In The 6th Day, one of the two Arnold Schwarzeneggers walks around a building shooting out all the security cameras, which makes him look pretty stupid when the bad guys instantly see what he's up to and capture him. However, it turns out he was just a diversion so the other Arnold could sneak in unnoticed.
  • In Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny when Jack Black is 'sneaking' into the Rock and Roll History Museum, JB thinks he's being extremely stealthy about the whole thing, but a shot of the guard room reveals he's pretty much been on camera the whole time. The guards, however, are too busy getting stoned and telling stories to notice.
  • In Panic Room, as the thieves enter the titular room and leave Jodie Foster out, she grabs a hammer and starts smashing the cameras, so her further acts can't be seen. One of the thieves stops to wonder why they didn't do that while breaking in.
  • The Bourne Ultimatum had Jason directing a target by cell phone through a train station keeping both of them hidden from the multiple security cameras (and government agents) watching them. It was implied to be part of his Hyper Awareness that he was able to identify the blind spots of at least 10 cameras. It wasn't until his target panicked and broke out of the blind spot Jason set him on that the agents were able to track him.
  • Justified in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, in which a burglar "disables" the security system at the convenience store Spicoli's working at by spraying paint over the lens. It being 1982, that probably was the only camera in the store.
  • An amusing subversion in Rush Hour occurs where Inspector Lee jumps over the wall of the consulate and nearly face-plants a camera looking straight at him. After a brief pause, he pushes the camera to point away from him - a little pointless though because a couple of downed FBI agents were actually watching him and the compound was on full alert.
  • In one film, an art museum had only infrared cameras protecting a Monet. Once the thieves disabled the air conditioning unit during a heat wave, it was useless.


  • Artemis Fowl loves this trope; it does it once every other book. A notable example is in The Eternity Code: Artemis and co. have to get past a phalanx of security cameras to break into the Spiro Needle... and they do it easily, complete with Techno Babble about why they can't be seen on the video. Granted, they have fairy technology, but you'd think a corporation with such a huge security budget could afford to put their cameras in the walls, rather than mounting them in such a way that they could be turned to face away from the intruders.
    • It happens earlier, though a realistic (by human standards) means was provided. In the first book, Mulch was called into the infiltrate Fowl Manor. Foaly simply subverted the security camera's abilities by feeding the system a few second long loop. Luckily, Artemis didn't catch on for a while.
  • No matter what the games do, the Star Wars novels tend to avert this pretty cleanly (except when Jedi are involved, of course). Wraith Squadron, in particular, goes to major effort at times to disable them without alerting anyone (typically by intercepting the data-stream it should be sending and splicing in a loop of "normal" footage). Occasionally goes even farther - a web of security cams in Solo Command has a prominent gap in it, so the Wraiths (rightfully) figure it's a trap, with hidden cameras covering the whole thing. And a villain in The Bacta War tries to get away by blowing out cameras along his path... so the guy in the security center just tracks him by what cameras stopped transmitting recently.
    • As for Jedi, they can 'glitch' cameras whenever the cameras show them (Or sometimes only when there's enough of them to be recognizable, so in crowds the camera works until it happens to see their face), so as to foil AI-based recognition. As of the latest series of books, various people have figured out they can track Jedi by programming A Is to look for this glitching moving from camera to camera, although they obviously have to guess as to who is being tracked.
    • In Survivors Quest, the people from the Chaf Envoy get trapped in three different turbolifts by the Outbound Flight survivor titled the Guardian. The Guardian tells them not to cut or blast their way out, because the turbolifts will crush them. The turbolift with Luke and Mara in it immediately has all potential camera sites covered up by them; the four unspeakably badass stormtroopers in another turbolift figure out where the camera is and cover it and only it. But the Guardian is in too much of a bind to do anything about it; plus, he doesn't think they'll be able to escape. Instead he lets someone in the third turbolift talk him into letting them out to talk to them, and leaves the Jedi and the stormtroopers where they are.
  • In one of the Phoenix Force series (a Mack Bolan 'Executioner' spin-off) the heroes are checking the security at a nuclear power plant. A guard mentions that one of the security cameras is out, but he's called for Maintenance. The leader of Phoenix Force asks if he's sent a guard to secure the area while the camera is down. The plant manager says he's being a bit paranoid, opens the next door and gets shot in the face by a terrorist.
  • In Border Songs, the border patrol installs surveillance cameras aimed at the Rousseau residence. Wayne later shoots them down while wearing a George W. Bush mask.

Live Action TV

  • The Trailer Park Boys occasionally have to deal with these problems, such as when they rob grocery or convenience stores. In one robbery in the first season, one of the Boys tries to get rid of the camera by shooting it with his gun, although by that time he's already on film with no mask on. Presumably learning from their mistakes, in later seasons the Boys make sure to take the security tapes along with everything else they steal. Also averted in one episode, when one of the Boys openly lets himself get caught on camera, since he wants to go to jail.
  • In Burn Notice, the security cameras are taken out with a laser-pointer overloading the chip. The entire purpose of this, however, is to make the guy think there's a security breach, when there really isn't one.
    • Another time, they don't have to do anything about the cameras because the bad guys let the gardening go undone and the camera's blocked by foliage.
  • Averted entirely in Las Vegas, which is set in a Las Vegas resort and casino. Security cameras play a vital role in pretty much every episode, and are covered with the black bubbles designed to keep people from knowing where they're pointing. Y'know, like in real life. Not to mention the sophisticated facial recognition and tracking system, which can cross-reference with national databases. At one point, a guest points out that the cameras they're using are outdated.
  • Spooks. During a celebrity child kidnapping that occurs during a party, a co-conspirator (who's an escort girl) distracts the security guard monitoring the cameras by having sex with him. Unfortunately for both of them there's another camera in the room to show if the guard is bunking off.
  • In Angel, Lindsey gets magical tattoos in the fifth season that allow him to walk unseen past security cameras. He even waves.

Video Games

  • In Deus Ex, the player can use nano tools to shut down cameras without anyone noticing or any alarms being sounded. They can also hack into the system and turn off the cameras and nobody will turn them back on. Even when a camera does see the player, it lets out a few seconds of klaxon noise before it triggers the proper alarm, giving the player a chance to flee.
    • However considering that the systems are automated, there is no one to notice them being turned off, and a delay could conceivably be there to avoid false alarms.
      • The cameras do transmit a picture, if the player hacks into the system, but allowing manual viewing on top of automation isn't inconceivable.
        • They probably function in a similar manner to the Identify-Friend-or-Foe feature of JC's nanoaugmentation, which means that they'd check to see if something looks sufficiently "foe-like" before setting off the alarm. The visual feed of the security stations is only visible if someone is actively checking them out and no enemies do so. The efficiency of fully automated technology ends up backfiring, eh?
    • In Deus Ex Invisible War, the cameras get dumber as they now emit a cone of colored light that indicates their field of vision. Possibly justified as the PC has various kinds of implants that alter his vision — the player's HUD and other screens are supposedly visible to the character as well. They are also more vulnerable to EMP and transmit in greyscale rather than full color, as opposed to the earlier models in the first game. Ain't technology grand?
      • Arguably justified by the fact that the Deus Ex 2 world is recovering from having its entire economy and technology sent back to the dark ages by the events of the last game.
        • The cameras have an complete IFF system installed and you don't think they could manage colour TV?
    • In Deus Ex Human Revolution the cone to show their field of vision is there but explicitly described as being from a part of Adam's augmentation. Destroying a camera will set off the alarm, although you can temporarily disable one for a few seconds with the stun gun without setting off the alarm. That still doesn't excuse the fact that most cameras oscillate rather than staying put. Cameras will also tolerate a second or two of "suspicious" behavior before actually raising the alarm, which makes sense for an automated system to get a good confirmation rather than throwing false positives all day.
  • In Splinter Cell. The cameras notice you almost instantly if they spot you, and a guard yells over the radio and sounds the alarm. However, said guard doesn't seem to notice if every single camera gets shot or disabled. Or, for the bullet proof ones, if the room suddenly goes dark.
  • In Metal Gear Solid and MGS 2, the player can shoot out cameras or baffle them with chaff grenades. Either way, nobody notices or bothers to investigate.
    • In Twin Snakes, the guards will be alerted if you shoot a camera, even with the silencer.
  • System Shock 2 allows the player to hack into security camera systems, but only for a specific period of time. Consequently, a camera will flash yellow when it spots you, before flashing an alert red mode. One or two shots from most weapons are also enough to kill a security camera, whereupon what happens is... exactly nothing. Obviously the super-advanced AI controlling the ship doesn't care about losing cameras all over the place...
    • This is a justified trope, as the last time an AI cared about losing cameras all over the place in the game universe, it resulted in SHODAN. Newer A Is since that little "incident" were specifically programmed with weaknesses in case something like that ever happened again.
  • In No One Lives Forever, guards actually will come check or sound the alarm if you just shoot out cameras... but it still has most of the other features.
  • In the videogame version of Batman Begins, there are no security cameras in Falconi's Elaborate Underground Base-cum-Bad Guy Bar until you get to the monitor room, and deal with the Mook watching them. The only purpose of the cameras is that if you hack into them you can see the infra-red beams of the Laser Hallways.
  • Portal subverts this by having the AI scold you every time you break a camera, and even has an achievement for breaking every breakable camera in the game. Unfortunately, doing this means you have to break them all in one full run without stopping. And sometimes the achievement doesn't appear after you get it.
  • In Bioshock, cameras are not only breakable, but spectacularly easy to dodge; when your character enters their view, they spend 3-4 seconds beeping before any kind of alarm is set off. Their movement is also ridiculously noisy. When they change their viewing direction, they make a noise that suggests they aren't so much moving as much as grinding stones. Sure, the game is set in 1960, but still...
    • Not only that, but they also emit bright, red light in area they are watching, which magically turns green, once hacked. Thank goodness for colour-coding engineers.
    • Quick players can shamelessly exploit this. As the game is mostly played in small, enclosed spaces, you are rarely far away from the cameras. So if you turn a corner and find yourself looking squarely at a beeping camera, you can just run to it, jump, and enter the hacking interface (which stops time passing) before it sounds the alarm. Then you hack it, and the problem is solved.
    • Possible justified in that Rapture is in an extreme state of disrepair with water everywhere. Presumably, what remains of the inhabitants are more worried about each other than about keeping them in top condition.
    • The cameras appear to be mostly automated as far as calling for guards, also destroying the cameras doesn't seem to stop Atlas or Andrew Ryan from knowing where you are at any given time.
  • Golden Eye 1997. Perfect Dark too, while we're at it. Highly explosive, as well. Be careful while blasting them on the run, they can and will damage you. Oddly, shooting them through the lens is more effective them shooting them through the side.
    • In both games, though, the cameras could be oddly finicky. Sometimes, the alarm would sound the instant you set foot in their range, other times they'd stare at you for several seconds before it happened.
      • It's partially connected to you shooting in the camera's line of sight- it will auto-notice you if you shoot and it sees it.
    • In James Bond 007: Nightfire, the cameras are large and turn slowly. They usually show a green light if everything's OK, but you can stand in front of them for nearly 5 seconds after the green light turns to yellow before it turns red and the alarms are sounded.
      • You can't shoot them, either. Doing so results in the alarm instantly being sounded.
    • In Golden Eye Wii, if you are spotted by a security camera, additional reinforcements quickly arrive. However, shooting out the cameras doesn't warrant any reaction from whoever's on monitor duty.
    • James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing has you knock out the security cameras with EMP grenades.
  • Inverted in Evil Genius : one of the game's challenge is to build a network of cameras and trap sensors (that, individually, fit this trope to a T) that the James Bond types will not shoot on sight. Your own minions rely on them to know where the investigators are, so having a top notch insecurity system is key.
  • In the video game version of the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough the first level features security cameras that must be shot out to continue. They are, of course, of the slow-moving and slow-detecting variety--one can stand in their range for a few seconds and all they do is beep; eventually the alarms will go off (the good guys downstairs do not react to the dozens of bad guys upstairs being slaughtered, despite several civillains being left alive...)
  • Strangely averted in the video game version of the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies when in a henchman's office building lair. On one floor there are many security cameras, but none can be shot out. However, they also do not react to stepping in front of them, or even killing gaurds right in front of them!
    • Then again, that game isn't exactly word-renowned for realism...
  • Inverted in Punisher for the X Box. The Punisher leaves Spacker Dave at the security desk for Stark Industries () being that the nearby employees had been slaughtered by Yakuza. Dave kinda sorta helps the Punisher out with advice.
  • Dead Rising averts this; the Security Room (which serves as a safe haven amidst the Zombie Apocalypse) has several monitors that are hooked up to the malls numerous security cameras. The camera feed not only helps the plot along at certain times, but they're also watched by Otis (a security guard) who contacts Frank to inform him of any survivors he's spotted hiding in the mall. However, the cameras are still not all-seeing, since there are several survivors and some boss fights that are not brought to your attention; you must find them yourself.
  • Justified in Thief 2: The Metal Age. While the "cameras" are very noticeable in this way (being human faces with attached glowing crystals whose color signals their degree of confidence an intruder's present that hiss and click constantly as they move), the very concept of a security camera is a recent novelty and their makers see them as religious crafts as much as salable products. Their conspicuousness is quite likely a selling point. And they connect to other alarms and mechanisms rather than having human guards monitor them because their inventor is a religious crackpot who thinks his toys are more perfect than any living defense.
    • Arguably even a partial aversion, in that many have no off switch and, being large steampunky metal constructions, the only real way to get rid of them is to blow them up, which tends to attract alot of unwanted attention.
  • If 47 is spotted by a camera in Blood Money, he gets a new task to go and get the security tapes to keep himself from being identifiable.
  • In Second Sight, security cameras can ruin the stealth effect of your Charm power, since any guards watching the monitors are out of range of your telepathic influence. Your choices for dealing with the cameras include destroying them with Telekinesis (which doesn't attract attention from guards) or finding a terminal and deactivating the CCTV system (which nobody will bother to reactivate).
  • The Alpha Protocol security cameras all cast a handy blue cone of light so you know where they are looking. An alarm will sound if you try shooting them, however.
  • In the Macintosh FPS Sensory Overload, security cameras are hemispherical and either shoot at you or sound an alarm to summon enemies from nearby rooms. Either way, they can be stealthily shot out with the Hollywood Silencer equipped.
  • During the CIA escape in Mission Impossible 64, you can disable cameras with spray paint.
  • In Time Splitters Future Perfect, the majority of the level Breaking and Entering has security cameras everywhere. If Cortez is spotted, guards will be called and autoguns will be switched on. If you shoot the cameras, you'll hear a transmission from the guards ordering a patrol to check the stairways, which is the only way for Cortez to get from floor to floor. However, you do get a weapon that allows Cortez to disable all electricity-based tech, at the very beginning of the level.

Web Comics

  • Parodied in this Schlock Mercenary comic.
    • In a later storyline, Tagon's Toughs get hired to supplement a shopping mall's security staff. They find that the local thief ring uses cards with matrix barcodes on them to exploit a backdoor in the security camera's computer system. The solution? Buy a case of cheap off-the-shelf spycams from a spyshop in the mall to set up a second network. Then they discover that the thief ring in fact has their own set of spycams from the same shop to watch the Mall Security's goings on.

 Legs: I think I got them all. I found thirty.

Shodan: You missed two.

Legs: How can you possibly know that?

Shodan: They bought the same brand we did, and they're sold in boxes of sixteen.


Western Animation

  • Subverted in an episode of Stroker and Hoop when Stroker breaks into a pharmaceutical company by the classic method of knocking out a guard and stealing his uniform. Once inside, he is immediately apprehended by another guard who saw the whole thing on security camera. When Stroker gets indignant that the guard wasn't sleeping or watching a football game like he was supposed to be, the guard explains "I like my job".
  • In The Simpsons' episode where Lisa is being bullied, she asks Groundskeeper Willie to see the security tapes. He looks flustered and says "Security tapes? There's no security tapes!" Lisa then points out the rather large security cameras, and Willie responds "Aye! I'm a stinkin' liar!"
    • Another episode revolves around an entire citywide system of security cameras with built-in loudspeakers, watched by volunteers (meaning Flanders).

 - "I'm Jiminy Cricket to the entire town!"

  • In an episode of Teen Titans, while skulking through Slade's underground lair Beast Boy was able to turn into a mouse and unplug a wire in a security camera without a hitch.

Real Life

  • Taking advantage of Reality Is Unrealistic, some have started to set up dummy security cameras, that resemble the ones from the movies, and are significantly cheaper than the real thing. Available for purchase at ThinkGeek. There are even real cameras that look like dummies, to fool criminals smart enough to spot a fake.
    • One Dilbert strip mocked these, with a fake security camera that is to be placed in the break room, so the engineers won't pilfer things, that is to be hidden so that the engineers won't know that the boss is pretending to watch them.
      • One of the text books suggested using a fake camera, pointed at one's cubicle, in order to slack off, since bosses and peers would think that one would not slack off with a security camera pointed at them.
  • While Walmart and other large department stores do in fact have cameras, these cameras are not watched in real time. If you are ever in a Walmart and hear over the loudspeaker something along the lines of "Cameras scan areas 5, 6, and 7," this is simply a ploy to make possible shoplifters feel that they are being watched.
    • Don't get too excited. It's more factor of there being a LOT of cameras, too many to be watched all at once. There's still a guy in there watching the important ones. On the other hand, they're not allowed to actually touch you so... at Wal-Mart anyway.
      • The main purpose of security cameras is to record footage anyway, not to provide real-time surveillance. So if you do get caught of shoplifting or more serious crime, they'll have the footage to prove it.
  • Some casinos and other private facilities will have very large video-gamey cameras, bright white and clearly visible. They are all real cameras really watching you: but mainly to distract you from noticing all the other cameras embedded in walls or cowlings covering the spots that you think are being missed, where you might surreptitiously stand while signaling your card counting partner or palming your phony chip stack...or phoning your guy in the parking lot when the lucky high roller is leaving for his car.
  • As described in the book Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History, during the heist that stole over $100 million in diamonds from the Antwerp Diamond Center, the thieves simply stole the VHS tapes out of the security cameras that were recording them.
  • This bit of Banksy art.