It’s just about as creepy as it gets: A hacker breaking into a smart device in your baby’s nursery. The Internet of Things (IoT) has wrapped our homes technology, which means any piece of technology you own — be it a smartphone, a thermostat, or even a baby toy or monitor — is fair game for hackers.
High tech products geared toward parents of newborns and kids are on the rise. Reports show that new parents are fueling this industry and purchasing everything from smart diapers, onesies, baby monitors, digital bassinets, soothers, high-tech swings, breathing monitors, play pads, and a string of smart toys. Parents purchasing baby tech and digital toys are counting on fresh tech ideas and products to increase efficiency and maintain a constant connection to their kids.
But these seemingly efficient products, some argue, could be increasing parent’s stress in some cases. Are these tech products, which are also highly hackable, worth the risk and worry?
Peace of mind, safety. Smart baby devices give anxious parents added peace of mind when it comes to worries. Who doesn’t want to see their sweet baby deep in sleep and go to bed without worry? Given a chance, many parents welcome the opportunity to know their baby’s temperature, oxygen levels, heartbeat, and breathing are on track.
Remote monitoring, convenience. When you can be downstairs or working in the yard, or in your home gym, and still check on a sleeping baby, that’s an incredible convenience that many parents welcome as a productivity booster.
Learning and development. Many parents purchase smart devices for kids in an effort to help them stay on track developmentally and ensure they are prepared for the tech-driven world they are heading into.
Hackable. Any device that is web-enabled or can connect to the cloud has the potential to be hacked, which can create a whole new set of issues for a family. If you are getting sleeping, breathing, and health data on your child, anyone else could be getting that same information.
False readings. Baby technology, as useful as it appears, can also have glitches that medical professionals argue can be more harmful than helpful. Can you imagine waking up at 2 a.m. to a monitor alarm that falsely says your baby isn’t breathing?
Complex, pricey. Some of the products can be complicated to program and set up and pricey to purchase or replace.
So why would a hacker even want to break into a baby monitor, you may ask? For some hackers, the motive is simply because they can. Being able to intercept data, crash a device, or prove his or her digital know-how is part of a hacker’s reward system. For others, the motives for stalking your family’s activities or talking to kids in the middle of the night can prove to be a far more nefarious activity.
Tips to safeguard baby tech:
Think before you purchase. According to the tech pros, think before buying baby tech and evaluate each item’s usefulness. Ask yourself: Do I need this piece of technology? Will this product potentially decrease or increase my stress? If a product connects to the wi-fi or the cloud, weight its convenience against any risk to your family’s data.
Change default passwords. Many products come with easy-to-guess default passwords that many consumers don’t take the time to change. This habit makes it easy for hackers to break in. Hackers can also gain access to entire wifi networks just by retrieving the password stored on one device. (Sometimes all a hacker does is google a specific brand to find the product’s password — yes, it’s as easy as that!)
Buy from known brands. Buy from reputable manufacturers and vendors. Google to see if that company’s products have ever been digitally compromised. And although it’s tempting to get your device used to save a little money, second-hand technology might have malware installed on it so beware.
Update software, use strong passwords. If there’s a software update alert connected to your baby tech, take the time to update immediately and be sure to choosing a password with a minimum of 16 characters and not using the same password for more than one device.
Turn off. When your devices are not on, there’s no vulnerability so, even with all the safeguards, remember to turn off devices not in use for that last layer of protection.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures).