We've all heard the horror stories of computers, smartphones, bank accounts and credit card accounts being hacked—but have you heard the recent news about baby monitors?
One family from the Minneapolis suburbs said they realized their baby's video monitor had been hacked when they heard strange music coming out of it one night, they told their local CBS news station.
The family had long been using the video baby monitor to keep an eye on their child from other parts of the house and even while leaving the baby home with a sitter.
Even more scary, when the family heard the strange music coming out of the monitor and began to investigate, they discovered that photos and even portions of the video feed had been posted online to a website whose IP address was registered overseas in the Netherlands.
Unfortunately, this situation is becoming more and more common—and police even say this is one of the more tame cases.
In another terrifying case, the nanny to a young baby in Texas was frightened when, while changing the child's diaper, a strange voice came out of the monitor and said, "That's a really poopy diaper," leading the nanny to discover that she and the baby had been being watched by hackers who had accessed the monitor, according to Yahoo! Parenting.
And the cases are piling up—stories of sleeping children being woken up as hackers scream at them or play loud music through accessed monitors, and families having photos and live video feeds of nanny cams or home security cameras broadcast on the Internet for anyone in the world to see.
Some hackers are even claiming they are purposely hacking families' baby monitors and making their presence known, such as by broadcasting music or yelling through the monitors, in order to alert parents to the fact that their product's security is faulty, according to the website Fusion.net.
A Fusion reporter notes that many of the hacking incidents are tied to one specific brand of baby monitor—Foscam, a Chinese company. The reporter indicates that countless complaints have been lodged against the company for ignoring a loophole in the monitors' security that allows the cameras to be accessed, and even controlled, through any WiFi signal.
However, law enforcement agencies and cyber security experts are attempting to spread the word to parents to educate themselves more on the security of their cameras and baby monitors, and to take steps to protect their families.
One precaution families can take against their baby monitors being hacked is to regularly change the password to the monitor's feed. As is the case with Foscam monitors, many come with default logins and passwords, and many families fail to change and customize their password. Changing it regularly can help make life difficult for hackers, experts say.
One technology reporter said registering the monitor with the manufacturer can also help.
"Many manufacturers send an alert to consumers if a security flaw is found, helping parents keep up with potential problems," said technology reporter Bob Johnson of Jilard News. "Parents could also search online for talk of any problems with their brand of device."
Bryan Lagarde, a security camera expert with ProjectNola, told Yahoo! Parenting that parents should also be sure they have the most up-to-date firmware for their monitors.
“Think of firmware as software — it's a set of instructions that make a device operate, and it's regularly updated,” Lagarde told Yahoo!. “If you have a company that makes baby monitors and they get complaints about security hacks, they will make fixes. But you need to have the latest version to have the most updated protection.”
UK-based publication The Independent also published an article with additional tips for families on how to protect many different gadgets and household items from being hacked, such as laptops and desktop computers, baby monitors, and other home monitoring video feeds.