Protect yourself against spying from connected devices and hidden cameras

The internet-connected devices inside your home could be a window into your life for someone who's never seen your house.

PHOENIX - Can you be sure the internet-connected devices you're buying aren't spying on you?

Experts say the majority of your devices that are meant to make your life easier are probably wide open to the outside world, enabling anyone to spy on you.

Internet of things

According to experts, internet-enabled devices are extremely easy to access remotely, mostly because owners never change the default passwords.

Devices like web-connected doorbells and security cameras are lumped into a group of devices called the Internet of things. 

A Dutch woman recently posted a video of a web-enabled camera she bought spinning around, tracking her across the room, and even talking to her.

She suspects someone had gained access to the camera and was using the speaker function to talk to her. 

Some toys have been criticized for violating privacy and for having extremely lax security protocols.

One, called My Friend Cayla, had next to no security measures at all, critics said.

My Friend Cayla is a doll designed to learn about its environment and become more personalized. However, to do this, the doll actively listens to everything around it and records the sound as an audio file.

The file is then sent back to a translating company and sent back to the doll, so the doll can learn the child's mother's name without ever being programmed from the house.

Critics said My Friend Cayla violated federal child privacy laws.

Hidden cameras

Internet-connected cameras can also be used to actively spy on you, experts warn.

The owner of an Airbnb rental in Florida was arrested after a renter allegedly found a hidden camera above the bed. The camera had apparently been hidden in a smoke detector.

"You can't put security cameras in the bathroom or in bedrooms," attorney Monica Lidstrom said. "You can't have cameras in any of the places you would expect to be private."

Ken Coburn, the owner of Data Doctors in Phoenix, said there's a fairly simple way to look for hidden cameras in hotel rooms and rental homes. He recommends taking a flashlight and shining it around the room. Hidden lenses should flash when the light hits them.

Why you?

But Coburn also warns not to overreact to those vulnerabilities.

Just because a device is unsecured doesn't necessarily mean someone wants to try to get into it.

"The predictions are tens of billions of devices will be connected to the internet," Coburn said. "Why your doorbell?"

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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