Griefer hacks baby monitor, terrifies toddler with spooky voices

Remember how, back in September 2015, researchers revealed that virtually every "smart" baby-monitor they tested was riddled with security vulnerabilities that let strangers seize control over it, spying on you and your family?

Predictably enough, accounts are now surfacing of voyeurs and griefers who are using these capabilities to spy on, and taunt babies.

Jay and Sarah, parents in San Francisco, couldn't figure out what their three-year-old meant when he said he was scared to sleep at night because the "phone" kept talking to him, but then one night Sarah walked by and heard a stranger's voice coming out of the monitor, saying, "Wake up little boy, daddy's looking for you."

When Sarah walked in the room, the camera's night-vision lens turned to examine her and the voice added, "look someone's coming into view."

Another family in Minnesota discovered their baby-monitor had been hacked when they found photos of their baby online, apparently taken covertly with their monitor.

An "expert" in the report advises changing your wifi password and the PIN for your baby-monitor, but that will probably not do much, given the deep, extensive vulnerabilities in so many popular models.

What's more, it's only a matter of time until one of the cloud-based companies is hacked, allowing all its video-streams to be compromised.

We actually returned a home "smart" CCTV last summer. It promised to use motion-detection to trigger a video-stream sent, via the cloud, to your phone. This sounded like it had a lot of potential for mischief to me, but I don't have the chops to reverse-engineer and test the device. However, a quick look at the device's FAQ revealed this entry:

"We have strict internal policies and barriers in place to ensure that all personal customer data remains private and secure within the XXXX Cloud at all times. Only select XXXX employees have access keys to systems that contain sensitive customer information. Authorized access to the XXXX Cloud is granted on a least-privilege basis."

A followup email verified that the company didn't have the option of end-to-end encryption. By design, anyone who could successfully impersonate a "select employee" could watch all the video of all of the company's customers, everywhere in the world. The only thing protecting all this was a startup that could fold tomorrow, and whose priorities would shift from second to second as they "pivoted" while seeking a profitable business or an exit to a larger company.

That was enough for me. We sent it back.

Horrified, the couple took immediate action and phoned Foscam, the manufacturer of the monitor, who explained it was possible their device was hacked and being controlled by someone using a smartphone app or laptop, KDVR reports.

Concerned that the hacker may have further intentions, the family has made safety a top priority in their home and is using their harrowing experience to inform others of the potential dangers of baby monitors.

Stranger hacks family's baby monitor and talks to child at night [Chante Owens/San Francisco Globe]

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Notable Replies

  1. TobinL says:

    File under suprised it took this long?
    Also dear parents. The kid is fine. You do not need cameras/intercoms etc when it is just down the hall.

  2. This hacker....needs to be punished. severely.

    Look, you want to go after major corporations and organizations (I.E. adults)...fine, fair game. But when your fun and games means terrorizing a toddler...no. suffer a horrible and ignoble end.

  3. To be fair, we don't know anything about the child or family - maybe the kid has seizures for instance? The family might have a good reason to have the monitor. It's also sort of blaming the victim in this case.

    When I was on parental leave, I used a dumb monitor during my child's nap time if I had to do yard work, thus avoiding having to check in every 10 minutes to see if he had finished. Some things just make life easier,

    My experience is that most people, regardless of whether they have kids or not, are just itching to tell other parents how they are doing it wrong. I think parents need more support and less judge-iness; maybe they'd be more confident in their abilities then, and would rely less on things like monitors?

  4. If I didn't have an (audio-only) monitor sitting right next to the bed, I wouldn't be able to hear my kids when they wake in the night, even though they're right down the hall. Even sleeping with both our door and their doors open.

    How do you know they haven't had this monitor since the kid was a baby, and have just continued to use it since? We keep the monitor in our 3 year old's room right now, because she is too scared to get up and come into our room in the middle of the night, so this way we can actually hear her when she wakes up.

    I tried, I really did, to tell the difference between types of cries for both of my kids. I never could get the knack for it, despite other people saying they could do it with their kids.

    It's not just "I don't want to get out of bed" in many cases - if you're trying to teach your kid to be better at self-soothing, and you can't tell the difference between cries, a video monitor actually would come in handy (because going in means that they're not going to self soothe. They're going to want YOU to soothe them instead, as soon as they see you). I wish I'd had one with my eldest, simply because he was a vomit machine, and would often make himself sick. So trying to figure out if he was crying but would self-soothe, or if he was crying and had caused himself to silently vomit everywhere, would have been greatly helped by having a video monitor.

    tl;dr version of my post: hey, everybody's parenting styles are different. Who the fuck cares?

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