How to keep baby monitor devices safe from hackers

Smart home devices can all be hacked. But securing your home WiFi network makes it more difficult for strangers to gain access.

There are many devices, appliances and other smart home gadgets that people use to make life easier. But with each additional device users link to their home WiFi network, it also becomes easier for hackers to take advantage of potential weak spots.

A popular Utah blogger’s Instagram stories went viral last week as she described the horror of a stranger gaining access to her little boy’s baby monitor. Isabelle Baker wrote on her ihonestlyloved account about how she and her husband couldn’t understand why their son, who was normally a great sleeper, was now afraid and having night terrors.

One night, she heard a man talking to her son in a distorted voice through the monitor. She immediately unplugged it and got rid of it. After Baker shared her story, she wrote that she was overwhelmed with messages from others; Many who had similar experiences with their baby monitors.

Research firm Bitdefender has indeed reported about vulnerabilities in at least two baby monitors over the past couple of months, including the Wyze cam that Baker used. Looking into the first version of the Wyze cam, Bitdefender found the potential for an attacker to access the camera feed. Wyze discontinued that version in January. It told customers the camera wouldn’t receive necessary security updates, but didn’t explain the specific danger of hackers possibly gaining access to the camera. Bitdefender reports two and three versions of the camera don’t have the same vulnerability.

Bitdefender reached out to Wyze three years ago about its potential privacy issue. But neither company made any specifics public until last week when Wyze released a blog post urging customers with the Wyze Cam v1 to stop using it.

Users may have an issue with why Wyze – or Bitdefender for that matter – would wait three years to make the information public. Wyze’s community forum about the security flaws is filled with debate on whether the vulnerability is a very big deal. Some commenters tried to make the case hacking wouldn’t happen very often because someone would need to tap into a home Wi-Fi network (via a router) to get access to the monitor.

But security company Avast reports router hacks can happen to anyone and could cause major damage. If a hacker gains access to a network, they could not only spy through connected cameras (like baby monitors), but also change passwords and get peeks into sensitive files.

The key to keeping smart home devices secure is to make sure a home’s router is as impenetrable as possible.

First, use strong passwords and change them regularly. There are two passwords on a router. One password is for the device’s settings and the second is to connect other devices to the network. Users should be sure to change both passwords from their defaults to ones that are long and complicated. Experts recommend changing those passwords every three months or so.

Make sure firmware is up to date and enable automatic updates if available. Consumer Reports has specific instructions on how to turn on automatic updates for routers. Some newer routers make the process easy through apps, but older ones take more effort. Users may need to find the device’s IP address using the router’s model number to figure out how to set up automatic updates. The blogger who had her baby monitor hacked discovered her router’s firmware was not updated.

Change the name of the WiFi network. Default network names often include details about the make and model of the router. Such information can make it easier for a hacker to figure out how to get in. Also, hide the network completely if that’s an option, so that it doesn’t pop up on other people’s devices as a network available to join.

And remember any time users log into a WiFi network other than the secure network in their home, it gives hackers another window of opportunity. So if users can avoid checking a baby monitor while not at home, they should. Also parents should try and minimize the amount of people who have access to the cameras. While it may be information moms and dads want to share with a nanny or grandparents, they should take care to only open that app when connected to a secure network.

These safety measures for routers can not only help keep a baby monitor away from the prying eyes and ears of strangers, but can protect every connected device in your home. With more and more devices in households contributing to the Internet of Things, users should take every available precaution to keep hackers at bay.

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