Technology

US parents warned on hacked baby webcams

A baby monitor Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Increasingly parents are choosing baby monitors with screens that can keep an eye on babies as they move around the house

American parents are being warned about the dangers of hackable baby monitors.

It follows numerous reports by consumers that devices have been hacked and abuse shouted at children.

Now, New York's department of consumer affairs has launched an investigation - contacting four unnamed baby monitor companies, demanding information about their security and to see evidence of complaints about unauthorised access.

Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission issued a similar warning.

"Video monitors are intended to give parents peace of mind when they are away from their children, but the reality is quite terrifying - if they aren't secure, they can provide easy access for predators to watch and even speak to our children," said DCA commissioner Julie Menin in a statement.

"Internet-connected devices like video monitors provide convenience - but without proper safeguards, they pose serious privacy risks. We encourage parents to take steps to make sure their devices are secure and call on manufacturers to make security a top priority."

In its report, the FTC said it had looked at five baby monitors and found four of them could be accessed using easy-to-crack passwords.

In addition, two of the five did not encrypt the feed between the monitor and the home router and one did not encrypt the feed from the router to the internet.

The FTC urged parents to look for baby monitors with "strong security protocols" and to choose strong passwords.

Sexual noises

A net-connected baby monitor sends feeds to a user's home wireless router and then over the internet so that it can be viewed remotely.

But hackers have reportedly used them to scream at children or parents or turn the devices into spy cameras.

In August, an Indiana couple said someone had hacked in to their two-year-old child's monitor to play the Police's Every Breath You Take followed by "sexual noises".

In November 2014, the public was warned about a website containing thousands of live feeds to baby monitors.

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