Baby Monitor Hacking Scares Parents Everywhere, but Could It Really Happen to You?

Say What!? 12

baby monitor hacked

You may have heard this disturbing story by now: Houston couple Marc and Lauren Gilbert awoke to odd voices coming from their 2-year-old daughter Allyson's room. When they looked in on her, they saw the monitor moving and heard a "British-sounding" man cursing and saying lewd things to her through their wireless baby monitor. Apparently the monitor had been hacked.

No matter how you slice it, it's pretty darn creepy. Luckily, Allyson didn't hear a thing -- she was born deaf -- but the family is outraged and now a storm is brewing about the privacy of these devices, which are connected to wireless networks to transmit audio and video.

But are you and your family in danger? Probably not, as long as you follow one simple rule.

There are two types of wireless baby monitors. One uses a wireless handset that is completely disconnected from the Internet and streams video and audio to a special monitor. Hackers intent on cracking these would need something like a CB radio to figure out the frequency and, in most cases, that signal is encrypted. Unless you're a super-spy and the NSA is after your secrets, you're probably safe using these "analog" monitors.

What the Gilberts were using was something like this Loftek unit. It connects to your wireless network and uses an app on your desktop or phone to show you your little one. Some units actually allow you to see the baby from the web on a computer browser.

The key problem in most of these setups is wireless security. If you don't have a Wi-Fi password set up, you will be hacked. People will use your account for various purposes (most of them benign) and they will be able to see the wireless camera on the network using a combination of very simple tools. How can you solve this?

More from The Stir: A Fake Facebook Profile Could Keep You and Your Kids Safe Online

Add a strong password to your router. That's it. That's all you have to do. Go to Google, and look up "secure wireless router" along with the name of your router. If you don't know what you're using, have a friend help out or email me at john@biggs.cc with the subject line "BABY MONITOR" and I can guide you.

And remember to use a strong password. Something like "ilovedaddy" may sound cute, but it's easily hacked. Try something like "1l8ved!!ddy763." You can also add long words together like "AppleFish99MonkeyF18." That would be slightly less secure than the first example, but it's far easier to remember.

A really solid password will ensure that the connection among all your computers, phones, and baby monitor is secure. That's literally the most important thing you can do to prevent this from happening to you. 

What the hackers did in the Gilberts' case was to connect to their wireless network, suss out which wireless baby monitor they used (or, if the monitor had a web component, simply type in a web address), and start making mischief. Nothing they did requires a PhD in computer science -- just a bit of understanding of how networks work and a lot of free time. 

Note that I'm not recommending any of these two-way video monitors. I've used a number of Internet-based wireless monitors over the years and have found that the simple audio-only models work best. The more bells and whistles, the more things can go wrong and the shorter the battery life. 

I rarely trust anything networked around my children. Anything that can ping the Internet is suspect in my house, and I have locked down most of the kids' devices. Most hackers are just joyriding, and it's easy to stop them -- as long as you remember to lock the car door.

What's your reaction to the hacked baby monitor story? Do you own a wireless monitor?

 

Image via ABC

communication, gadgets, electronics, hacking, privacy, baby gear, nursery

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Craft... CraftyJenna

Easier to not connect your entire life to the internet, but good tips on usernames. 

niki_... niki_hubbard

We actually are expecting those same monitors to be delivered in two days. I was very worried, but my husband said we have a double encrypted (sp?) router, and we are going to do things like change the name of the cameras, and put passwords on them. We also have the router password... We went with these monitors so my husband could see the girls while working 16 hour days.

Arian... AriannaBadwolf

I got a second hand baby monitor...and it died a horrible death at the hands of me... I'm not good with this kind of stuff. I'd feel better about transitioning my son to a tot bed if we had a baby monitor.  I don't think I'd ever go to one that connected to the internet though. I did make sure to password protect our router because I like to shop online (though I can't haha) and I know any sort of info I put in can be seen by a hacker. And now that my SO gave the password to his parents and brother upstairs (yay apartments ><) the net has slooooooowed so much. I might change it and see how that goes, because the damn brother hooks up his xbox and it causes such lag :( He was supposed to use the net to get a job...the mooch.


I'm going to have to remember all the info here, and make sure that I've got it all encrypted better when we move.

nonmember avatar KathleenN

I disagree about being safe with "analog" monitors. We get interference with our neighbor's monitor all the time. All you need is a receiver and close enough proximity.

nonmember avatar Me

Why do you need a video monitor anyways? Ive heard about this before, its not isolated case. Even sound inky monitors can get interfearance if someone in close oroximity has the same one

nonmember avatar Bored

The notes on "Analog" monitors are CLEARLY made/influenced by someone born 12 years ago. CB radios are common as heck, you can build one or buy one at most electronics stores. Additionally, the "encryption" (if any) is again fairly limited as manufactures don't actually consider it to be a "necessity." If it offers any, it'll be easy enough to filter through with a spectrum analyzer.



It doesn't take a genius to "hack" an analog encryption.





But people seriously need to shut up about password security. Minor aside, having to make an alphanumeric password with mixed case over a forum account a result of the absurdity that our "anti-hacking" has made. But again, password security should be strongest at the REALLY important stuff (bank accounts, home security / video cameras) and WEAKEST at the crud (forum accounts) yet encouraging people to use strong passwords for the crud only spreads said password which means that a unsecure cookie may contain said password that you use for REAL stuff.



More insecurity comes from the use of public terminals and "hot spots" than "password hacking", because it is so easy! Your home may have 128-bit encryption but that is meaningless when you so blatantly share your password while out and about.





And this isn't even counting how many people you WILLINGLY give passwords to because they're "family" or "friends." Social engineering is a stronger method of hacking than people realize, and THAT is what should be talked about.

Chalene Smith

I had a regular video monitor that plugged in the wall and had the handheld and one night we ran into our daughters room because of what looked like someone touching her. It turned out that my monitor was picking up my neighbors baby room! The freakiest experience ever. It was unplugged and we didn't use it again! If we could see them then there is a good chance someone could see us!

Bruce Kalashnikov

MORONS!!! CB Radios are on 27 MHZ- dumb ass editor!

Stephanie Sekellick Kelsey

You should have security on your router whether you use a monitor or not, unless you like providing free internet for the neighborhood.


I had an audio only monitor, but I found I could hear well enough without it, so I took it off. Also, the light on it disturbed my son, who shared the room.

nonmember avatar Geoneil

This article is dangerously wrong!

Hacking wireless analogue cameras was already demonstrated 8 years ago by Kevin Rose using what amounted to be a receiver made of a large battery, LCD screen and the innards of a DigiSender receiver! If they're analogue and not encrypted it's viewable from someone within range of the signal.

Also, setting a router password only stops other people within range of your router gaining access to your home network, it does NOT stop hackers gaining access to an insecure camera over the internet which I think is what happened here, unless they actually did catch a "British sounding" man in a car right outside their house...

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