The disturbing revelation that live feeds from UK baby video monitors have been hacked – in one case by someone who spoke to a young girl, pretending to be Father Christmas, is an important reminder to us all to take care with the online security of the smart devices we use to help us parent.
These devices are “fantastic innovations”, says Dr Ian Levy, director of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), but they are vulnerable to cyber-attackers.
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. These pre-installed passwords are often easy to guess (0000, for example) and lists of them are widely available on the internet.
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) urges everyone using webcams and baby monitors to always use strong passwords. These should include non-sequential numbers as well as letters – and not be the name of your child, your date of birth or the name of a pet (we know it’s tempting but it’s really not safe).
4 ways to secure your baby monitor
- Always create a hard-to-guess password for your baby monitor when you install it. Never keep a login that comes pre-installed with the monitor
- Make sure you install any updates to the monitor’s software (or firmware)
- Ensure that your internet router or modem is also secure (change any default password and install updates), since this is how your 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.