by Melissa D Jaramillo As parents, we do whatever we can to keep our children safe. We baby-proof the home, investigate caregivers, research everything from cribs to car seats for the highest safety ratings and more. Did you know, however, that one of the very products designed to keep watch on your little one(s) may instead be making your family vulnerable to predators? A (sick) growing trend among hackers includes tapping into webcams / baby monitors, shredding the privacy of families everywhere. These trespassers may be observing and listening to intimate moments in your home… and yes, are even capable of communicating with and terrifying your child and family.
The threats are real
Imagine the terror recently of Heather and Adam Schreck of Ohio, awakened from a sound sleep to hear a man's voice screaming "Wake up baby! Wake up!" from within their 10-month-old daughter's room. Heather observed the nursery on her cell phone and was horrified to see the camera moving independently. Fearing an intruder the parents raced to the room. They quickly discovered the violation was 'virtual' but very much IN their home. The (*insert your favorite expletive*) hacker then turned the camera on the frightened parents – peppering them with obscenities before turning his attention back on their child. In a very similar instance last August, dad Marc Gilbert was cleaning up the kitchen when he heard a man showering his deaf 2-year-old daughter with a stream of trash talk along with insults of 'moron' and 'slut'. As soon as the parents entered the room, the hacker turned his (cowardly) attacks towards them.
Cyber security experts are warning not only parents but everyone that they may be open to a similar violation… or worse. ANY device you have connected to your internet – particularly within webcams / baby monitors - may serve as an opening for attack. Predators are lurking to exploit not only your most innocent but also may use this opening as a gateway to drain bank accounts, run up credit charges and steal your identity. Tragically, there are those seeking to turn virtual threats into physical harm.
What's a parent to do?
Outside of unplugging completely, first install a good firewall around your home network. Make certain to create secure passwords for your home's internet access points including Wi-Fi router and cameras. (*Note: Do not use the same for both!) Changing these up frequently can offer another layer of safety. Finally – as hackers become more creative, companies are challenged to keep up. Check for security updates often and get them installed as soon as possible. Have you considered baby monitors to be a potential threat to your family's safety? Even if you have taken steps to secure your home please comment with your ideas and share this with your family and friends. By banding together we can continue to do our best to protect our kids.