Man Hacks Sleeping Family's Baby Monitors & Threatens to Kidnap Their Infant

security camera
NBC 4i

Two parents from Houston, Texas, are still shaken up after a stranger hacked into their Wi-Fi network and threatened to take their child. The man reportedly accessed Nathan and Ellen Rigney's baby monitor and told them that he was going to kidnap their 4-month-old son, but when they ran to the baby's room, there was no one there. Now, the boy's mother is sharing her experience with other parents, in hopes that they can learn from her family's terrifying ordeal. 

  • According to Ellen, a strange voice came through their baby monitor after she and her husband had put their son Topper to sleep.

    Speaking with NBC4i, the mom explained that a little after midnight on Monday, she and her husband heard something strange going on with their son's Nest baby monitor.

    The parents were fast asleep in their bedroom on the first floor of their home when Ellen heard a series of beeps coming from the baby monitors. The mom assumed it was a carbon monoxide warning, but then a man's voice came through the speaker.

    "Then we heard sexual expletives being said in his room," she said."Immediate reaction was that there's somebody in here, somebody's in my son's room! How did they get in there?!"

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  • The parents turned on the light, when another Nest camera that had been off in their room turned on and the man told them to turn the light off.

    Like something out of a horror film, Ellen said that the man then spoke to them through the camera's audio system and told them "I'm going to kidnap your baby. I'm in your baby's room."

    Nathan raced upstairs, determined to take on the man who was threatening his son, but when he arrived in his son's room, Topper was alone and safe.

  • Unsure of where the man's voice was coming from, Ellen said she remembered hearing stories of Wi-Fi-enabled security cameras being hacked.

    "We just had to figure out how to get the Wi-Fi shut down and shut down fast!" the mom remembered. "I kept telling Nathan, 'He's not in here, somebody's hacking this!'"

    The couple managed to turn the Wi-Fi off and called the police to file a report. However, when they reached out to Nest to file a complaint, they say that they received an unsatisfying response.

    The mom told Click 2 Houston that company representatives “were no help at all” and “did not apologize” for the incident. 

    In a statement given to NBCDFW, however, the company did speak out about the incident and said that in the past it has seen hackers access customers' accounts if there was a breach on another website that revealed the customer's password information. 

    "We are proactively alerting affected customers to reset their passwords and set up two-factor authentication, which adds another layer of account security," the company's statement said.

    Mary Dickerson, chief information security officer for the University of Houston, shed some light on why this might have happened to the Rigneys. She told Click 2 that hackers are now looking for devices that they can meddle with. 

    "A lot of hackers are just scanning the environment to see what can they find. And if they find something -- what can they do with it?" she explained. 

    The Rigneys believe that the hacker got their information from their Nest app.

    "If you can access it remotely, chances are someone else can as well," Dickerson explained. She recommended that people update their passwords regularly, make sure to use electronic devices or apps on secure Wi-Fi networks, and update software regularly to keep themselves protected.

    As for the Rigneys, the couple has since thrown away their Nest cameras and are now using cameras that don't use Wi-Fi.

    “It’s unnerving and unsettling,” Ellen said. “Something that is supposed to make you feel better and instead it makes you feel the opposite, it makes you feel invaded and uncomfortable.”

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