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Smart cameras and baby monitors vulnerable to hackers, warns UK cyber security agency

by Sarah Shearman | @shearmans | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 3 March 2020 12:43 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A premature baby sleeps in an incubator in the natal intensive care unit in a public maternity hospital in Gatire on the outskirts of Caracas October 5, 2011. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

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National Cyber Security Centre says flaws in smart home devices could let hackers spy on families and access live feeds of children sleeping

By Sarah Shearman

LONDON, March 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Baby monitors and wireless cameras risk being hacked by cyber criminals unless people take security measures to protect themselves, British security experts warned on Tuesday.

Internet-connected cameras used in the home are becoming popular and affordable but security flaws mean live feeds or images including of children sleeping, could be accessed by hackers, said Britain's national cyber security agency.

The National Cyber Security Centre urged users to change default passwords, regularly update security software and disable remote internet access if not being used regularly.

Hacked feeds showing people in their homes going about their daily lives have appeared online in recent years. In December, a video showing a hacker speaking to a nine-year old girl in the United States through a monitor was shared online.

Families should think carefully before using this technology in their homes, said Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties group.

"Many of these 'smart' cameras are essentially internet-connected surveillance cameras that can either send data to big tech companies or leak data to hackers," Carlo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.

Firms making these devices should consider security as a priority rather than an afterthought, she said.

Britain recently announced new laws that would hold companies manufacturing and selling such devices to account if they fail to improve security settings.

Until these laws are in place, consumers themselves will have to do research and take measures to protect themselves, said Caroline Normand, director of advocacy at Which?, a consumer rights group.

The guidance comes amid growing debate over the digital rights of young children, particularly with the rise of tracking apps on mobile phones and their images shared online by parents.

In January Britain's data watchdog announced a new code that would require companies to tell children if their products include parental controls to show when they are being monitored. (Reporting by Sarah Shearman @Shearmans. Editing by Tom Finn. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and slavery, property rights, social innovation, resilience and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

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