Home cameras and baby monitors are ‘wide open’ to cyber-hackers, according to an expert at Liverpool John Moores University.
Today the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) advised people to check out their home-tech before installing it.
There were countless examples of hackers secretly observing or listening to conversations through connected devices, they said.
Dr Bob Askwith, principal lecturer in computing and mathematics, said the practice was criminal and abhorrent but not a surprise. He said: “Firstly, manufacturers don’t pay enough attention to usable security and ship devices with easy to guess passwords. Secondly, the public doesn’t understand there is a problem (and why would they?) and don’t set up passwords or other security.
“Internet of Things devices are by definition connected to the Internet which means they are potentially accessible to anyone, including thieves.”
In a case in point, reported in the Liverpool Echo, several householders were watched via their own webcams enter passwords, which were then used to access computer files, including financial data.
How can it be stopped?
“Follow advice, in short,” says Bob. “This centres around basic housekeeping steps such as using unique passwords, updating software and following manufacturers advice.”
But he insists the main onus falls on the companies which market IoT devices: “There is a 13 point best practice guide from the Government which many providers are clearly not enacting.
“Following the guidance would go a long way to improving the problem - no one should ever claim 100% security is possible!”
Who controlling who?
Dr Askwith though stresses that external criminal ‘hackers’ aren’t the only problem with monitors and cameras in the home.
“IoT devices are designed to control, which is great until someone else is doing the controlling," he says. "There’s lots of evidence abusive partners are using IoT as part of their abusive behaviour, this includes people using revenge porn and videos accessed by devices.