Hacking baby monitors can be child’s play: Here’s how to stay safe

Make sure that the device that’s supposed to help you keep tabs on your little one isn’t itself a privacy and security risk

We’ve probably all read horror stories online: a parent is woken in the middle of the night by strange noises coming from their child’s bedroom. They open the door, only to find a stranger “talking” to their baby through the monitor. While rare, such cases do happen from time to time.

Smart technology has provided us with numerous ways to keeping our houses safe(r), from smart locks and doorbells to home security cameras. But when gadgets are fitted with computing power and internet connectivity, they also become a target for remote hackers.

Fortunately, a few best practices can help to provide peace of mind that your baby monitor will be doing its job, and not the bidding of a stranger, and doesn’t itself become a security and privacy risk.

How can hackers hijack baby monitors?

Why would anyone want to hijack a baby monitor? Some are just looking to play a prank. Others may have more voyeuristic aims in mind. And some may even be looking to steal personal information overheard on the monitor, or confirming the house is empty so it can be burgled.

Whatever the reason, there are two main ways to hack a baby monitor. They depend on the kind of monitor it is:

Radio frequency monitors require an eavesdropper to be within range of the signal and know the frequency it is using. Both this, and the fact that most leading products of this type use encrypted communications, make these models a safer bet overall, albeit with more limited functionality.

Wi-Fi monitors are more exposed to hacking because they connect to the home router and, often, out to the public internet. The latter support functionality which allows parents to view the video feed via a mobile app, wherever they are. While this could provide peace-of-mind when out and about, it also opens the door to remote hackers, who might be scouring the web looking for unsecured cameras to hijack.

Even devices that don’t offer this functionality could theoretically be hacked if…