secure crib and a baby monitor are on the the “must-have” safety checklist for many new parents. But when you tuck Junior in for the night, you never imagine waking to a scene straight out of the Twilight Zone: a foul-mouthed baby camera with a life of its own.
This is exactly what happened to Adam and Heather Schreck last spring when they awoke in the middle of the night to screams of “Wake up, baby! ” streaming from their daughter’s bedroom. The couple rushed to their 10-month-old’s crib and realized the voice was coming from the IP camera they had trained on their baby to ensure her safety.
Then things got even creepier.
The camera rotated to handle Adam, and a voice started screaming obscenities. Adam realized the camera was possessed controlled by a hacker and pulled the plug. (Note: Cutting power to the camera was the wrong move because it erased forensic data. )
Unfortunately, the Schreck family’s experience wasn’t isolated. In May 2013, a Houston family using a similar IP camera awoke to find their two-year-old being verbally attacked by someone yelling obscenities.
These incidents occurred because parents were using IP Cameras
What is an IP camera? The “IP” stands for Internet Protocol, as in an IP address. Cameras, computers and other devices on the internet transmit an IP address so other Internet-connected devices know where to deliver content. An IP camera enables a legitimate user, like a parent who wants to monitor a sleeping baby, to stream audio and video to another device, like a smart phone. But this same remote accessibility can be exploited by a hacker.
Baby monitoring systems and security alarm cameras aren’t the only types hackers target. IP cameras in offices and public places can also be compromised if they aren’t properly secured. The Daily Mail recently found they could access numerous camera nourishes not only of children, but also the aging and sensitive assets, like cash registers.
If you keep an IP camera, take the following precautions to reduce the probability of getting hacked:
1. Change the default password. Many cameras come with a simple and standard password to make it easy for the new owner to stream audio and video to a computer or other remote device with minimal set up. Hackers know this and exploit the vulnerability.
2. Set unique, strong passwords for the home devices. Computer guru Kim Komando has some very nice tips. You can also check out ’e Hows own password info graphic to learn what makes a good password, and if your passwords are secure enough.
3. Update your camera’s firmware. Camera manufacturers often provide updates when they find an exploitable a weakness. Visit the camera’s website occasionally to see if they have any updates.
4. Set your devices not to broadcast their SSID. This task makes your devices less visible to the public (but admittedly won’t slow down a dedicated hacker). The SSID is the device name that broadcasts, showing a wireless connection to it’s possible.
Note that implementing new security protections will make your camera less vulnerable, but there’s still a chance it could be hijacked. A sophisticated hacker could not only violate your privacy by turning your web cam on you and your loved ones, but could also commandeer your network and make your camera a slave bot to use additional exploits.
The very best way to keep your IP camera from being started up you is to don’t you have it turned on in the first place. Use one if you must, but think very carefully about the potential damage that could be done when you click the “on” button.