We’ve previously alerted you to the importance of not buying cheap, no-name security cameras, but if you haven’t already thrown yours into the nearest river, now is probably as good a time as any.
A Dutch woman bought a cheapo camera to keep an eye on her rowdy puppy, only to find it following her as she walked around and connecting her to anonymous foreigners who barraged her with a 15-year-old’s idea of pillow talk.
The information comes from the victim herself, one Rilana Hamer from Brummen, Netherlands. She was going about her daily business when she heard her webcam swiveling around on its own. When she went to investigate, she found that not only was the camera following her movements, but voices were also coming through the speaker.
MORE: Best Wireless Home Security Cameras
An adolescent-sounding voice started off in French, saying hello, asking her how she was and if she spoke French. When Hamer replied that she spoke English, the voice was undeterred, continuing to ask her how she was. Unnerved by her chatty companion, Hamer cursed out the hacker and yanked the plug out of the camera.
A few days later, she tried the camera again, hoping to show her difficulties to a friend. Sure enough, a hacker logged on after a minute, this time trying to hit on her in Spanish. When she let loose with some well-earned profanity, the hacker shot back with some unkind suggestions. Hamer has since disconnected the camera, and has no intention to plug it back in again. (An NSFW video on Hamer's Facebook post shows this encounter.)
Although her ire was directed primarily at the hackers, she was also not happy with Action, the discount retail chain that sold her the gadget. Hamer did not specify the maker of the camera.
“Please Action,” she wrote, “remove this camera from your stock.”
Although Hamer seems to be the only one who’s suffered from this particular problem, she’s probably not the only person who’s run afoul of hackers on a cheap webcam. (Hamer said in her Facebook post that she had put a password on the device.) Internet of Things gadgets are notorious for poor security, and a search engine known as Shodan can find smart home gadgets all around the world and provide information on them.
(It’s worth noting that Shodan is a totally legitimate organization with benign applications for businesses; it just so happens that hackers can also take advantage of the data for malicious purposes.)
The only way to keep yourself safe from security camera hackers is to buy a device from a reputable brand, and ensure that the firmware is constantly up to date. Even that won’t protect you completely, but if you’ve really got to keep an eye on your dog all day, there are cameras that can do it much better than Hamer’s.
Best Security Camera Overall
The Arlo Q is an excellent security camera with great video quality, strong motion and sound detection and a generous free cloud-storage plan.
The $60 Mini O 1080p is a bargain security camera that provides good-enough video, excellent audio and the essential tools most users need for basic home monitoring.
Best Outdoor/Wireless Security Camera
The Netgear Arlo Pro 2 provides a great combination of software, free cloud storage and video quality.