The disturbing revelation that live feeds from UK baby video monitors have been broadcast on a Russian website is an important reminder about online security.
The Russian-based site has been streaming material from thousands of unsecured cameras, among them baby monitor cameras, allowing users to see inside people’s homes and even babies’ rooms. One feed was found to be showing a child’s bedroom in Birmingham.
Also more recently, IT security company Rapid 7 have found potential security risks with several baby monitors that they have tested.
“There’s a certain leap of faith you’re taking with your child when you use one of these,” says Mark Stanislav, a senior security consultant at Rapid7.
How are baby monitors being accessed?
The main reason is that it is so easy to ‘hack’ these cameras is that some baby monitors don’t ask you to set up a password when you install them. This means that they either have no log-in codes at all or they work on a default password, which is pre-installed by the manufacturer. Lists of these pre-installed passwords are widely available on the internet – to unscrupulous as well as scrupulous people.
The problem comes because these cameras are usually connected to the internet, and access is gained either via an app or a website. If they only have a default password, they’re accessible to anyone with that password, who can then log in.
So what should you do?
There’s no need to buy a new baby monitor – you just need to make sure yours is securely password protected.
The UK privacy watchdog Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is urging everyone using webcams and baby monitors to always use strong passwords. These should include non-sequential numbers as well as letters and preferably not be the name of your children, date of birth or the names of your pets (but we all know we do it).
4 ways to secure your baby monitor
- Always create a hard-to-guess password for your baby monitor when you install it. Never use a login that comes pre-installed with the monitor
- Make sure you install any required updates to the software installed on your monitor
- It’s also worth ensuring that your internet router or modem is secure (change any default password and install updates), since this is how the device will connect to the Internet
- Turn off remote access on the baby monitor if you don’t need it
If you are very worried about security, consider using a non-Internet-connected device, such as an audio wireless digital or analogue model.
Check out our Buyer’s Guide to Baby Monitors for more information on the different device.