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Hackers Can Gain Control (and) Baby Intercom Device!


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Hackers could eavesdrop on the baby or even communicate with it if the device has a speaker

Horror stories are circulating online about parents being woken up in the middle of the night by strange noises coming from their child’s bedroom. They open the door and they find a stranger “talking” to their baby through the baby monitor.

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“Although rare, such cases do occur from time to time,” according to international digital security firm ESET. Fortunately, there are steps one can take to have peace of mind that the baby monitor will do its job and not follow a stranger’s instructions, and that it won’t pose a threat to family safety and privacy.

But why would anyone want to ‘hack’ a baby monitor? Some just want to have fun. Others may have more sinister purposes in mind. While some may seek steal personal information heard through the device or confirm that the house is empty in order to break into it.

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Whatever the reason, there are two main ways to hack a baby monitor. It depends on the type of device:

– Radio frequency devices require the eavesdropper to be located within signal range and to know her frequency used by the device. Both this, and the fact that most top-of-the-line products of this type use encrypted communications, make these models a more secure item overall, albeit with more limited functionality.

Wi-Fi devices are more vulnerable to hacking, because they connect to the home router (router) and, often, the Internet. These devices support features that allow parents to view video streaming through a mobile app wherever they are. While this gives you peace of mind when you’re out and about, it also opens the door to hackers, who may scour the internet for unsecured cameras to check.

Even devices that don’t offer this feature could theoretically be compromised if an attacker were able to hack the router. The simplest way to do this is to guess the password or jailbreak the device with ‘brute-force’ techniques, although more sophisticated attacks may try to exploit firmware vulnerabilities.

What can happen

Hackers could eavesdrop on the baby or even communicate with it if the device has a speaker. In some cases, footage from hacked cameras has ended up on illegal websites for others to watch.

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Here are some examples of baby monitor hacking:

• An infamous case in 2014, in which a website in Russia broadcast live footage from homes and businesses around the worldpulled from smart devices that were protected only by predetermined passwords.

• A 2018 case in which a mother from South Carolina in the US noticed that the baby monitor camera had been remotely moved to focus on where she was nursing her son.

• An incident in 2018 in which a hacker broadcast messages via a hacked device, threatening to kidnap the family’s child.

• A 2019 incident in which an unknown hacked into the device of a couple in the US city of Seattle and started sending scary messages to the child.

• A similar case from early 2022, when a stranger got hold of a baby monitor and terrorized a three-year-old child with threatening messages using a voice changer.


Ways of protection

A British consumer rights group recently urged parents to take device safety concerns to manufacturers. He argued that many of these companies will only change their ways when enough consumers demand change. There are also various legislative efforts in the US and the European Union that aim to improve the basic security levels offered by Internet of Things (IoT) devices and ‘smart’ products.

In the meantime, ESET offers some advice:

1. Research your options well and aim to choose a reputable manufacturer that places a strong emphasis on security and has good reviews.

2. Install all device software (or firmware) updates.

3. If possible, choose a model that does not allow remote communication via an app. If it does, disable remote access, especially when not in use.

4. Set a strong and unique password and enable two-factor authentication if available.

5. Regularly check device logs for any suspicious activity, such as people accessing from an unusual Internet address (IP) or at odd times.

6. Protect your wireless router with a strong, unique password. Also, disable remote access to it, as well as port forwarding or UPnP. Make sure your router is up to date.


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