Hackers Target Baby Monitor
August 20, 2013

Hackers Target Baby Monitor

One problem with adding layers of security, especially those that can be accessed remotely, is that it can in essence work for the bad guys, as well. Many heist and capper films — Ocean’s 11 for example — depict how thieves can access a security camera system.

In a case in Houston, Texas it wasn’t the type of charming thieves from the movies that accessed the camera system, but rather a foul-mouth hacker. What makes this story, which CNN reported, all the worse is that this camera system was set up in a room shared by two toddlers.

Homeowner Marc Gilbert realized a strange voice was coming from the web camera, which had been set up to monitor his kids. Instead of providing security, the camera allowed this hooligan to spy on the children and even taunt them!

“I felt like somebody broke into your house,” Gilbert told CNN. “As a father, I’m supposed to protect her against people like this. So it’s a little embarrassing to say the least, but it’s not going to happen again.”

The Gilbert household is likely not alone in being accessed by thieves. While these baby monitors are there to provide a means of security, as noted these can be hacked and basically allows the room or rooms to be viewed remotely. One of the weaknesses is that these often broadcast via over Wi-Fi to computers or via RF to a receiver on a TV. As this information is in essence “in the air” it can be picked up by other devices.

In 2009 an Illinois man actually sued the maker of video baby monitor after he realized he and his neighbor could use it to spy on one another.

In the case of Marc Gilbert, he even took some of the basic precautions such as using a firewall and password. Even the IP camera had a password, but that still wasn’t enough to deter a determined hacker.

One option would be to use a true “close circuit” system, where the cameras are connected via wires to a central hard drive, which could be password protected. If connected online — where the homeowners could view the camera remotely — this could still allow an outside party to possibly gain access however.

So, for those who do want to access the cameras remotely, it is suggested that these be connected via cables or wires from each camera to a central hard drive or terminal, which also should connect via cables to a router. Default ports should be changed, just to make it harder for the users.

A firewall with password should be in place for the network and another (and more importantly different) password be used on the terminal. This will create layers that could at least slow down the chances of someone getting to the system. Moreover, some camera systems can be disconnected from the Internet when a user is home; this not only limits someone being able to use the system to spy on you when you’re home but also could limit the amount of time they have to access the system.

The sad part is that this makes it more difficult to use the system, but sometimes that is the best way to keep the bad guys at bay.

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on Forbes.com, Inc.com, Cnet.com, and Fortune.com. Peter is a regular writer for redOrbit.com.

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