TREMBLING with fear, mum-of-three Lianne Davies peered out of her bedroom window into the dark winter night.
Though nobody was visible, she heard a stranger loudly threatening her husband Paul on his phone: “I’ve been watching your house and your children,” the voice said. “Come outside or I’m going to batter you.”
As Lianne would later learn, a hacker had broken into the family’s smart doorbell account and viewed video footage of them leaving and entering the house earlier that day.
After retrieving Paul’s mobile number from the account, the man repeatedly called his phone that evening, urging him to come outside. As Paul and Lianne’s three young children slept in their beds, he became increasingly insistent.
“Come out or I’ll steal your car,” he warned Paul, 39, while even telling him what their kids had been wearing when they returned from school.
The couple, from Port Talbot, refused to open the door. “There was no way I was letting Paul go outside,” says Lianne, 38, a stay-at-home mum to Florrie, seven, Eva, six, and Alfie, four.
“We had no idea what this guy wanted. To know someone had been spying on our children made me feel physically sick.”
BROKE INTO FAMILY’S DOORBELL
As the Davies’ encounter shows, our increasing reliance on tech can leave us frighteningly exposed. Everything from smart TVs, home alarms, cameras and smart thermostats to smart lighting and fridges can be hacked, or even used as a tool for spying.
Gaming consoles can potentially be used to groom children. Even digital vacuum cleaners and sex toys pose a risk if hackers break into online accounts and steal unauthorised information. It’s even possible for them to control your vibrator with their phone.
“The more we use technology, the more criminals seek to exploit it,” says cyber expert Dr Jessica Barker, co-CEO of Cygenta.
“We’ve seen criminals take over home security cameras, compromise baby monitors and speak to victims in their homes, and many other internet-connected devices can be accessed if they have security vulnerabilities.”
And our use of smart tech is soaring….