Smart Home Technology: Protect Your Privacy

Jody Dean and her husband Jimmy have two beautiful and tenacious German Shepherds.

"They are my babies," said Jody Dean. "Whatever room I am in, they are with me.

They are so special, she uses cameras, powered by an internet app on her smartphone, to keep an eye on them while she's gone. It gives her peace of mind.

"The comfort is knowing that they're not into something ... tearing something up ... or (they) get sick or throwing up, I know to come home," said Dean.

But one of the brands of cameras she uses called the D-Link was recently part of a Federal Trade Commission complaint. It found hackers could use a special search engine to gain access to owner's sensitive data.

"It makes you feel uneasy, but when you look at my house, you see two German Shepherds looking at them so that's kind of security right there," said Dean.

That may be so for Dean, but much of the complaint said the cameras left customers vulnerable to hackers who gained access to their financial information, and targeted homeowners for theft and even recorded private conversations.

That's exactly what happened to the voice activated device Google Mini.  Just a few weeks ago, a major flaw was found in that device  which was secretly recording conversations of users without them knowing. It was reported, and Google quickly fixed the software. 

Even phone app devices for baby monitors can leave users' privacy vulnerable.  

"I was asleep one night and I thought I heard a noise coming from my daughter's room," said a recent guest on the syndicated Dr. Oz show.  

The terrified mother described what she heard after her baby's monitor was apparently hacked, and someone else was controlling her camera. 

"The voice was saying wake up baby, wake up and just screaming noises just to get attention - get my daughter's attention," said the mother.

"Smart devices create privacy and security concerns," said Bill Gardner who teaches digital informational assurance at Marshall University.

Garner urges users of baby monitors to shop for a digital monitor  which is harder to break into. He suggests you should also turn off the features you are not using on the baby monitor and change the default password.

To help keep your voice remote systems and your private information safe: 

  • Turn off the voice input and use voice remote instead.
  • Change the "wake word" ... or the word that starts the recorder.  
  • Use pin protection ... or disable voice purchases. 

To keep your internet cameras private, experts suggest these tips to protect your router:

  • Download the latest security updates.
  • Update the software that comes with the device. 
  • Periodically check the manufacturers website for *new software and updates.

There are additional steps you can take to help keep your IP camera secure. You can check out those steps here


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