The above video shows an investigation I did for WFTV-TV in Orlando, Florida a few years ago about how people have the ability to peer into your home if you have a video baby monitor or virtually any device that emits radio waves. While this was done basic technology intercepting radio waves, criminals are now able to simply join a wireless network and see for themselves.[hr]
Technology can be a beautiful thing and make challenges in our lives much easier to deal with. It can also, quite easily, have the reverse effect. I’m talking about wardriving, piggybacking and downright invasion of privacy.
Just ask Marc and Lauren Gilbert. The proud Houston parents of baby daughter Allyson wanted to keep an eye on their baby at all times. What parent wouldn’t? In this case, the best option to make sure their baby was okay in the next room was to set up a simple video baby monitor.
Video baby monitors: more than just a view
There are various types on the market and they range in price from simple two-way video monitors for $30-$50 to full on security style, internet driven streaming monitors for about $200-$300.
Most popular video baby monitors these days can simply connect to your local wi-fi network in your home. If you’re sitting on the couch, open your mobile phone, tablet or laptop and you’ll instantly see a video stream of your baby sound asleep in the next room. It’s convenience. It’s peace of mind. If not managed right, it’s an invitation for unannounced visitors spying on your sleeping baby.
It happened to Marc and Lauren. According to media reports:
Lauren was washing dishes on the night of Aug. 10., when he heard noises coming from his daughter’s room. He and his wife went in to investigate the situation, when they witnessed something more disturbing than they thought possible.
A voice coming through a baby monitor, that was hooked up to the home’s wireless Internet system, appeared to be operating on its own. CNN reports that the hacker used the device to curse and say sexually explicit things to the sleeping girl — calling her by name and telling her to wake up.
Gilbert says the hacker was able to take control of the camera and see his daughter’s name on the wall. In a panic, he pulled the plug on the device. The girl was not disturbed by the hacker’s calls because she was born deaf, having to depend on a cochlear implant to hear.
This is a wake-up call for not only new parents, for you reading this. Chances are you have a wireless network in your home. Powering that network is a ‘wireless router’. It’s the little box next to the other little box that plugs into your cable or phone jack. It gives you the internet, both wired and, in this case, wirelessly.
Many people aren’t aware that you are supposed to add a secure password to your ‘wireless router’. Doing so would have most likely prevented the Gilbert’s from hearing the uninvited guest. I will be sharing an in-depth article over on my new tech blog about setting a password for your router, but for the time being if you need help, check out this article.
So what is Wardriving and this Piggybacking nonsense?
Perhaps you were aware about the importance of password-protecting your wireless router. But chances are you didn’t know what the terms used in part of the process to hack into these baby monitors is called. The first is ‘wardriving’:
I actually did a story for WFTV-TV a few years ago about a similar practice where criminals could (and still can) use simple technology to pick up radio waves in a home. I teamed up with a private investigator and showed homeowners how we could drive through a neighborhood (like wardriving) and we use a simple gadget to ‘peek’ into their homes via their baby monitors or other devices without anyone knowing. We notified the homeowners, obviously.
While there are no laws that specifically prohibit or allow wardriving, many localities have laws forbidding unauthorized access of computer networks and protecting personal privacy. But wardriving could possibly allow someone to use your internet without you knowing. This is known as Piggybacking.
Piggybacking on Internet access is the practice of establishing a wireless Internet connection by using another subscriber’s wireless Internet access service without the subscriber’s explicit permission or knowledge. It is a legally and ethically controversial practice, with laws that vary by jurisdiction around the world. While completely outlawed or regulated in some places, it is permitted in others.
While this practice isn’t as common as perceived by the amount of fear this recent story on the Houston couple will generate, it’s important to know what technology you have in your home, how it works and how you need to protect yourself. The parents actually had someone hijack their signal and hack their way into the baby monitor to view the baby. There is plenty of software online for free to help get this done.
Bottom line…password protect your wireless internet routers.
Leave a question or comment below if you have any related to wireless security in your home.