How To Tell If A Security Camera Is On (Top 10 Ways)

A common question I get is from people worried about their security camera and how you can tell if it is on. This question usually comes up during or after a power outage or from people trying to protect their privacy and debating whether a camera in their area is filming them.

In general, the easiest way to check if security cameras are on is by seeing if the mounted small LED is lit up; however, if it is not, this can still mean it’s on because only half of the security cameras come with these LEDs.

Quick Checklist

Indicator If YesIf No
Is the Camera Moving/ Panning or Tilting?100% chance it’s on (maybe a fake camera, though)Move to Next Check
Is There a Light in The Led?100% chance it’s onMove to the next check
Check Ir Lights for Light100% chance it’s onMove to the next check
Use a Bug Detector to Find an Electromagnetic Signal50% chance it’s on 50% its interference or other circuits100% chance it’s off if there is no signal
Use a Phone App DetectorThese apps aren’t very reliable 25% ChanceThese apps aren’t very reliable 25% chance
Check WiresIt may still be wirelessIt may still be wireless
Check wifi ConnectionIt may be wired without wifiIt may be wired without wifi

Check if the Camera is Moving When It’s a PTZ Camera

PTZ cameras

PTZ cameras or Pan Tilt Zoom cameras are a type of camera that move in all three dimensions. Law enforcement, security, and surveillance personnel use them to view an area better. 

Many of these cameras are also built on motion-sensing technology, ensuring they follow different areas when recording sensitive motion movements. The easiest way to see if these are off is by throwing or putting larger objects in their vicinity and seeing if they move with the motion. Also, some PTZ cameras that do not detect motion and move around naturally can be suspected to be off when there is no movement.

Usually, you can tell if a camera is a PTZ camera by looking at it. PTZ cameras will have more advanced metal parts and joints that look like they can swivel and move.

Also, if you have a hard time telling the difference, you can look at the particular model of the camera [a lot of them say the brand right on top of it] and do a quick search online to see if that particular model is a PTZ camera.

Check the LEDs for Light

CCTV camaera red light

These are the LEDs on the camera’s front lens fixed in the dome. It should be fairly easy to check these by looking at the LED and seeing if it is glowing. It isn’t easy to see this often because sometimes the LED is a very light color.

Remember that not all security cameras come with an LED that indicates that they are on or off, so the fact that you do not see the light does not mean that it’s not working; still, in the process of elimination, if you do see the light, it is certainly on unless it is a fake security camera.

Check for IR Lights

IR lights on security camera

These LEDs produce infrared light when powered, invisible to human eyes but can be seen by night-vision cameras or other detectors.

It’s important to see a difference between the power LED of the camera and infrared lights; the power LED is normal light, whereas infrared lights are not visible at night or to the human eye.

One way around this is by taking a photo of the camera. At this point, your camera should be able to see the actual IR light signal.

Use a Bug Detector


An RF bug detector is a device that detects the presence of wireless signals in the surrounding environment. It uses an antenna to receive and analyze radio frequencies from wireless devices such as cellular phones, GPS systems, and Bluetooth speakers. (1, 2)

you can easily use these detectors to see if the camera is getting an electric current. These detectors work by lighting up and producing a small noise once an electric field is more pronounced.

By coming closer to your security camera with the bug detector, you will see if the lights and sound are increasing and if not, it could be a good indicator that there is no power coming to the device and, thus, it is off.

Use a Phone App Device Detector

phone app device detector

You can find hidden devices around you without any effort with this app! It uses magnetometer readings and notifies you when they are detected. This is a clever and easy-to-use app; when the magnetic field value is higher than usual, the app alerts the user to search for potential hidden electronic devices in the surroundings.

This app can determine if the security camera has a reading coming from it, signifying that it is on.

One Thing to Note – These apps are not as trustworthy as standalone detectors and other methods we mentioned.

Check the Wires

cctv on the wall outside

A security camera may be installed, but the installer did not put in the wiring properly, or there has been a malfunction or rainstorm that has disconnected it. You can look at the camera and track down words following the wires to see if there is any disconnect or damage.

Installing cameras for over 15 years, I have seen a lot of instances where this has happened, like small animals chewing on the wires or thunderstorms and falling trees disconnecting these.

Check for wifi Connections.

wifi connections

An easy way to find these cameras, if they are wireless, is by looking for a wifi connection. Models with wireless connections will be obvious because you will not see any wiring coming from them.

Once you have established that the camera is wireless, you can use your phone to search for wifi connections.

It may be hard to figure out which one is from the camera; still, manufacturers will often have the brand name within the wifi connection, or you could use the process of elimination and see if there are a bunch of wifi connections with names like [John’s house] or [John’s Samsung phone]. If there are no wifi connections around and the camera is a wifi camera, it’s safe to assume that the cameras are off.

Check Your Monitoring System

CCTV monitoring systems

If this is your camera system, then one of the easiest ways to check if it is on is by logging into your monitoring system and seeing if the screen is completely black and showing a disconnect. Many of these monitoring systems also allow you to diagnose and see if the issue is a power issue at the actual camera or a possible wiring failure further down the line.


Do all security cameras have red blinking lights?

This is a common misconception where people think that because there is no red light indicating that the camera is on, it means the camera is off. Most security cameras these days don’t come with a red light. The red light does scare away some would-be burglars and intruders; It is not the norm, so do not expect this to answer whether the cameras are on.

Can I tell if the security camera is fake?

The discussion here gets a little harder since fake security cameras are built not to look fake. Even some CCTV cameras have been repurposed as fake security cameras, so there is almost no way to tell if these are fake. One of the most popular ways to discern whether the camera is fake is by looking at the parts to see if they are cheap or decent and looking at the wiring to see if it leads into the house or is completely missing.

Wrapping Up

Overall there are many methods and a great checklist here to follow if you’re wondering how to know if a security camera is on. Remember that if a security camera is on, that does not necessarily mean it is recording. Not many security cameras can have their memory fall or be sent to standby and still be turned on, so this may be another subject to keep in mind.

(1) GPS systems –
(2) Bluetooth –

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