Home security systems are supposed to make us feel safer. Millions of Americans use them to protect our homes and families. They help to deter break-ins, contact police and fire in the case of emergencies, and even give parents the added bonus of being able to monitor our kids when they’re home alone.
Home security systems provide us with peace of mind. Until now.
In the last few days, there have been three incidents involving Ring Home Security Systems and it makes me want to turn off every electronic device we own. Because Big Brother hackers? They are watching you. And it’s terrifying.
Ashley LeMay, a nurse and mother of three from Memphis, Tennessee, decided to purchase a Ring camera in order to keep an eye on her daughters while working overnight shifts at a local hospital. The camera has a Live View video feed, two-way talk, motion-activated alerts, and can be accessed through Alexa and a Ring app.
Ashley expected the camera to provide an extra level of protection for her kids. Instead? It became the stuff of a modern-day horror movie thanks to ring camera hackers.
Each time I've watched this video it's given me chills.
A Desoto County mother shared this Ring video with me. Four days after the camera was installed in her daughters' room she says someone hacked the camera & began talking to her 8-year-old daughter.
— Jessica Holley (@Jessica_Holley) December 10, 2019
In the chilling video, you can hear Ashley’s 8-year-old daughter, Alyssa, asking, “Who is that?” and a male voice responding, “I’m your best friend, I’m Santa Claus!” At which point Alyssa screams for her mommy. The voice then says, “I’m Santa Claus, don’t you want to be my best friend?”
According to an interview with WMC Action News 5, the stranger continued to taunt the 8-year-old with loud music and encouraged destructive behaviour before her dad, who was home at the time, ended the encounter.
They could have watched them sleeping, changing. I mean they could have seen all kinds of things. Honestly, my gut, it makes me feel like it’s either somebody who knows us or somebody who is very close by.
The family, understandably, disconnected the camera and plans to return it.
But this is not a one-time thing. In another incident last weekend, a Florida couple’s system was hacked by someone spewing racial slurs and setting off a loud alarm.
The video shows the ring camera hacker introducing himself and taunting Josefine Brown and her husband for nearly three minutes, making reference to their 15-year-old biracial son, who was NOT in the room at the time.
“Did your child come out like black or like kinda like white-skinned? I don’t know.”
“Is your kid a baboon, like the monkey?”
“Wait, does your child look like an Oreo?”
The couple was finally able to disable the camera by removing the batteries. But it has left them terrified with the realization that someone had been watching them and their son for an undetermined amount of time.
They contacted Ring’s security team and were informed that their email address and password of one of their external accounts was exposed in a data breach, likely resulting in the hacker gaining access. It was in no way due to a breach in Ring’s own security system.
Ring tells Newsweek:
Due to the fact that customers often use the same username and password for their various accounts and subscriptions, bad actors often reuse credentials stolen or leaked from one service on other services. As a precaution, we highly and openly encourage all Ring users to enable two-factor authentication on their Ring account, add Shared Users (instead of sharing login credentials), use strong passwords, and regularly change their passwords.”
In a third incident, a Georgia woman got the scare of her life when she realized that she and her dog were being watched in her bedroom. She tells WSB-TV2 News:
“I hear a cough over the Ring camera. I see the blue light come on, so I text my boyfriend saying, ‘Why are you watching?’ We’re laying down, and we’re about to go to sleep, and he’s like, ‘What are you talking about?'”
“I can see you in the bed! C’mon! Wake the [expletive] up!”
And apparently? This can happen to anyone with an internet-connected camera in their home.
Ring company is owned by Amazon and carries a full line of security systems, ranging from video doorbells, to security cameras, and motion detectors.
In the case of all three incidents the company believes that they were caused by a failure on the customers’ part to take proper precautions.
Ring recommends using unique user names and passwords and enabling two-factor authentication on Ring accounts.
A spokesperson for the company says:
“Customer trust is important to us, and we take the security of our devices seriously. While we are still investigating this issue and are taking appropriate steps to protect our devices based on our investigation, we are able to confirm this incident is in no way related to a breach or compromise of Ring’s security.”
The scariest part of all of this? These hackers had direct access to see and hear everything the camera does. They had a front row seat to people’s homes and their children. For a device that is supposed to make you feel safer and protected, it instead left these families wide open and vulnerable to terrifying encounters with strangers.
It brings a whole new horrifying meaning to “Big Brother Is Watching You”.