This mum’s baby monitor hacking tale is the sort of horror story that floats about on the internet and gets dismissed as some sort of urban myth. Except it’s not.
“Throw it away RIGHT now”
Jamie Summitt shared her experience on Facebook a week ago, in the hopes that it would encourage other parents to re-examine their use of technology and dig a little deeper into just who might be listening – or looking – in.
“If you have this baby monitor do yourself a favour and unplug it and throw it away RIGHT now,” Jamie wrote. She’d purchased her monitor from Amazon and explained that it worked in conjunction with a password-protected app that allowed multiple family members or carers to log in to the video feed and control the camera.
Baby Noah’s bassinet was in Jamie and her partner Kevin’s bedroom, and the camera – which was linked to the monitor and app – was in their bedroom too.
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“Panning over to our bed”
The thing is, it seems that Jamie and family were not the only ones logging in and viewing the live feed of their baby – and master bedroom.
“This afternoon I had the app pulled up and was watching Noah sleep in the bassinet in our room,” Jamie explained.
“I was in the living room with the only two people who had access (or so I thought) to the monitor. All of a sudden I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the camera was moving … and it was panning over to our bed. The exact spot that I breastfeed my son every day. Once the person watching realised I was not in bed, he panned back over to Noah asleep in his bassinet.”
I’ve been debating on whether or not to make this post, but have decided to go ahead in hopes that it prevents anyone…
Jamie confirmed that Kevin had not accessed the app that day, nor had her sister-in-law who lives with them. The family concluded that someone else had hacked into the app or monitor, and may have been watching and listening to the family for quite some time.
“I feel so violated,” Jamie posted on Facebook. “This person has watched me day in and day out in the most personal and intimate moments between my son and I. I am supposed to be my sons protector and have failed miserably. I honestly don’t ever want to go back into my own bedroom.”
Jamie contacted the police, who informed her there was little they could do, meanwhile the offender seemed to be trying to cover their tracks.
“Once we tried to access the app after the incident it locked us out, leading us to believe whoever was on the other end could hear us and that we had figured out what was going on.”
This distressed mum contacted the company that makes the monitor – with no response – and got in touch with Amazon, where she purchased the monitor, in the hopes of warning other parents or removing it from sale.
Jamie’s not the only one
A note from a retailer of this monitor – called the FREDI – on Amazon says the camera does sometimes moves on its own during normal operation, but that doesn’t account for why this family – and others – were locked out of the app once they began chatting about it being hacked.
Lots of parents who bought this product have had the same problems as Jamie (or worse!)
“This wireless wifi security ip camera, as you plug it into the outlet, it will move by itself first,” seller Family Security suggested, in answer to a purchaser’s question about why the monitor was moving independently.
Buyer say the cameras were moving long after they were plugged in, away from the positions that parents had put them in. Even more scarily, sometimes strangers were talking through the monitor.
“Hi, sorry but [this monitor is] not secure. I have the police in house because my camera was hacked and somebody talked to me via this unit. So do not use it. Especially not in your kids room,” one reviewer wrote.
“The craziest and creepiest things were happening with the camera, we are guessing our Wi-Fi was hacked and the camera was definitely being moved by an outside source. Personally witnessed the camera moving while neither of us were moving it. Creeped us out so bad that we just unplugged the camera,” an upset buyer posted.
“We were in the bedroom one morning and the camera just started moving. Someone else was in control of it and it was creepy and I couldn’t fix it. Unplugged it immediately. When I tried to reset it, it said wrong password and would not let me. Two days later my second camera was moved from where I left it so I spun it around and sure enough the next morning it said wrong password and someone had moved it back to facing the room. Automatically unplugged it and the third one just as a precaution” another purchaser wrote.
Another buyer said they easily hacked into someone else’s camera from their own monitor’s app.
How to keep your baby monitor safe from hackers
This is not the the first case of baby monitors being hacked, with many other models falling prey to intruders too. We’re sadly certain it will not be the last.
So how do you use your baby monitor with peace of mind, knowing that nobody else is watching, listening or chatting? There’s a few precautions you can take:
- Do not buy a cheap baby monitor! Many have very limited security features and hacking into them is a fun pastime for prank lovers, voyeurs and criminals in general. Buy a reputable brand from a local retailer instead.
- Register the monitor with its manufacturer as soon as you unpack it. This means it will receive security and software updates as needed – and hopefully keep hackers at bay.
- Make sure your home’s wifi router is secure.
- Use very strong passwords on all devices and networks.
- If you are concerned about hackers, avoid using the remote access feature on your baby monitor, rather just use its local features. This helps to keep hackers from accessing your device.
- Hire a tech-savvy home security expert to install your camera system.