The story about the Texas parents who were terrified when their child’s video baby monitor was hacked struck me at first as a minor incident when viewed in the whole scheme of the world of hackers. After all, it is a rare event, no one was hurt, no threats were overtly made, and the child herself even slept through the event. But when I read more about it, I became increasingly bothered by the fact that I was not initially bothered by it! I mean, is that the creepiest of all feelings, to know that a stranger is watching your kids?
Here’s the summary for those who missed the story. Marc and Lauren Gilbert were in another room when they heard strange sounds coming from their daughter’s monitor. When they went into her room to investigate, they realized it was a strange man’s voice coming through the monitor and saying disturbing things, even using the child’s name, which could be seen above her bed. The child, who was born deaf and had her cochlear implants turned off, slept through the entire incident. Gilbert immediately disconnected the device, which was hooked up to the home’s wireless Internet system.
It is believed the webcam system, Foscam wireless camera, was compromised. In April, a study was released revealing potential vulnerabilities; in it the researchers said the camera would be susceptible to “remote Internet monitoring from anywhere in the world” and that thousands of Foscam cameras in the U.S. were vulnerable. A glaring flaw (which has since been “fixed” by a firmware update in June) is that users were not encouraged to have strong passwords and were not prompted to change from the default admin password. Gilbert said he did take basic security precautions, including passwords for his router and the IP cam, as well as having a firewall enabled.
For an interview with Fox and Friends, they asked me to consider the following questions. I’d like to share my answers with you in case you missed it.
How easy is it to hack a baby monitor?
It’s probably an apt cliché to say it’s as easy as taking candy from a baby. Just like with any device, an iPhone, laptop, home Wi-Fi, it’s only as secure as you make it. If you’ve taken no steps, it’s relatively easy to hack. You don’t make the problem go away by ignoring it.
Why would someone do this?
Some do it for the challenge, some for the thrill of controlling other people’s lives, and unfortunately, others do it because they are sick individuals that want to watch what you do in the privacy of your home.
Is this one of the more scary cases of hacking a household device you’ve seen?
This one hits close to home because it takes advantage of our kids, but I’ve seen pacemakers turned off, blood pumps shut down, brakes applied in cars, and all of it done remotely by outsiders who are never even seen. If the device is connected to a network, I guarantee you it can be hacked, and in most cases, you never know the bad guys are in control.
How can we avoid this type of hacking of our personal devices, whether it’s a video baby monitor, an iPhone or a pacemaker?
The good news is that’s it’s the same steps you probably already take on your other devices, like laptops, smartphones and iPads:
- Buy Digital. Only buy a digital monitor that is password protected, not an analog version that operates on an open radio frequency.
- Change Default Passwords. During setup, change the factory defaults on the monitor so that the password is long, strong and device specific. This case we are talking about probably had a default password in place, making it easy to hack.
- Firewall Your Privacy. Install a firewall between your Internet connection and ALL devices to keep the peeping Toms out. Hire a professional to set it up properly.
- Lock Down Wi-Fi. Make sure your Wi-Fi network is locked down properly with WPA2+ encryption and SSID masking so it can’t be hacked.
- Turn Devices Off. If you are not using the device, turn it off, as hackers can more easily crack devices that are up 24/7.
John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.