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One mom got the scare of her life when she found a livestream from her daughters’ nanny cam online.
A friend had let the mom—identified here only as Jennifer—know that she’d seen a picture of the her daughters’ room on a Houston mothers’ group. Someone in the group was trying to find the family in question in order to warn them of the stream’s existence.
Shelby Ivie, the mother who accidentally discovered the stream, had originally been looking at satellite images of the earth online with her son. While looking for new satellite feeds, she found and downloaded a free app called Live Camera Viewer.
Looking through the images, she noticed the bedroom of two little girls, marked with the location it was streaming from (Houston) and the number of likes it had garnered (over 500). In tears, she began sharing an image of the room, looking for the parents of the two girls.
Fortunately, a friend of Jennifer’s saw the image and got in touch with Jennifer, who was horrified. “We have security cameras to protect them,” Jennifer told ABC News . “I feel like I’ve failed. … People are watching my kids in their home, dressing, sleeping, playing.”
As it turns out, hackers had likely gained access to the girls’ wireless nanny cam when one of Jennifer’s daughters had gone online to play a game. Her daughter ended up using an unprotected server when she didn’t know her family server’s name. This let hackers see the family’s IP address and access their modem and DVR system. Unfortunately, this system was connected to their security cameras.
For their safety, Jennifer’s children are no longer allowed online. However, this is far from a unique experience. Families in other states have had similar experiences. For example, one set of parents started worrying after their web-connected surveillance camera started playing strange songs at night. Others heard voices coming through their monitors.
For parents, it’s legitimately a nightmare scenario. So how can you protect your children from hackers without having to do away with surveillance cameras?
1. Do your research and buy a safe monitor.
If you’re looking at a web-based wireless camera in particular and find that it has known security vulnerabilities, skip it. If necessary, ask manufacturers what they do to help make their devices safe against attacks.
(Note: Old-school video or audio monitors don’t reach as far as wireless versions but they also don’t require internet access.)
2. Take The Proper Precautions
Once you’ve bought a monitor, make sure you change its generic username and password. Then, register your monitor with the manufacturer you bought it from. This way if there are any software updates or concerns, the company can reach out to you.
“I recommend registering your devices with the company that provides it to you,” Robert Siciliano, an Intel Security safety expert, told ABC News in 2015. “That means if they discover a vulnerability, they will usually ping everybody’s email and let them know they need to update their device.”
You can also set up a Google alert for the brand name so that Google lets you know if there are any new issues you should know about the product. If there is an update, download it and keep your device current.
3. Check Your Logs
Check your camera logs regularly for any possible unauthorized access from an IP address that’s not yours. If you weren’t the one checking in, alert your manufacturer (or an internet safety expert) ASAP. And if you’re not using the device, switch it off, since it’s harder to hack into a device if it’s not always on.
If you have friends with surveillance cameras, make sure they know how to stay safe as well. It’s better to do a little bit of prevention early on, rather than find out your home has been livestreamed later.
With a little up-front work and monitoring, you can keep your nanny cam safe and avoid a scary situation.