Gadgets Magazine

How to Keep Hackers Away From Your Nanny Cam

Posted on the 13 February 2015 by Nrjperera @nrjperera

Many home security products are now packaged as components of a “smart home” system, allowing consumers to access their devices wirelessly and remotely. Connected to the “Internet of Things,” these sophisticated appliances give any interested cybercriminal the opportunity to hack, and harass, their owner. While these technologies are capable of providing a safe and convenient service, many are highly susceptible to hackers with only basic technological training. Nanny cams and baby monitors, protected by the flimsiest security safeguards, are particularly vulnerable.

In a recent article from Forbes, writer Kashmir Hill described her efforts to gain access to people’s home video monitors and other devices. By executing a simple Google search, she was able to get a rundown on home security systems and their inherent flaws. From there, it was a breeze gaining access to people’s lights, hot tubs, and other appliances. Hill called each property owner in advance to warn them before attempting to control their home devices, but hackers could easily replicate her success without adhering to her moral scruples.

In the case of nanny cams, many reported incidences read out like the screenplay of a horror film. One babysitter from Houston, Texas, went to the police after a man’s voice started talking to her through the baby monitor. Foscam, the device manufacturer, has come under fire recently for its appallingly poor security standards. After it was discovered that anyone could hack into their products using the password “admin”, all Foscam customers were at risk. The company has since changed its password policy, but it is not the only manufacturer of baby monitors to falter in the face of cyber threats.

In many cases, products ship automatically configured with inadequate security settings. As in the case of the Foscam products, a default password, the same for all devices of the same model, may be enabled. Anyone who knows this password can gain access to the homes of users who haven’t bothered to change it. Another problem is that encryption is often disabled, which means that malefactors can monitor the traffic between devices and discover users’ passwords. Many instruction manuals contain information on how to beef up the security settings, but busy individuals often don’t have time to pore over voluminous documents or add additional safeguards.

If you don’t want your baby monitor hacked, there are a few simple precautions that can make a world of difference. First and foremost, change the default username, and make the passcode something reasonably secure. “123456” and “password” do not count. Second, ensure that your Wi-Fi transmission is securely encrypted – use a VPN network if possible. Make sure both your camera and your Wi-Fi network use the strongest security protocols possible. Updating firmware is also very important, particularly if the device is question is over six months old. Concerned customers can also review the Federal Trade Commission’s page on the topic of IP cameras.

In addition to nanny cams, hackers can potentially turn on heating, lights and other appliances, increasing electric bills. They can also obtain personal data, like valuable health and financial information. And using their skills, some cyber criminals can even open front doors and garage doors remotely in order to gain access for nefarious deeds like burglary.

The government has taken note of these issues, and President Obama has proposed the Personal Data Notification and Protection Act. This legislation would place restrictions on companies’ ability to gather and sell consumer data to third parties. However, because many of the problems are the result of “rogue”, unauthorized access rather than corporate policy, this law will probably do little to benefit consumers.

People should take it upon themselves to safeguard their privacy and physical safety rather than relying upon companies, government or other entities. By setting strong passwords for routers and other equipment, frequently changing these passwords, and staying on top of the latest software and firmware updates, customers can reduce the risk that their nanny cam, or other private security device, is open to attack.

[Photo credit: Flickr – dustball]

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