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Your baby monitor is a tool that’s meant to bring you peace of mind, allowing you to quickly and easily check in on your baby from a distance — mom might have eyes in the back of her head, but no x-ray vision to peep in on the nursery.
As technology adds features that make family life easier, the unintended consequence of invasive hackers has become a very real fear.
Many of today’s baby monitors are packed with safety features that make it easier to lock out strangers, but learning more about the features that can help you bypass the risk and the signs that something is wrong is an important part of using baby monitors safely.
How Do I Pick a Safe Baby Monitor?
There’s a lot of options out there for you to choose from, and baby monitors can be pricey — especially when you’re looking for one that’s really secure. This means it’s wise to learn about what features you need, the meaning of some common terms, and any issues associated with the baby monitors you’re interested in.
- Choose a baby monitor with an encrypted connection: Encryption is a complex word which describes a fairly simple action. When your connection is encrypted, it means that all the footage from your video baby monitor is filtered and altered into random data, so only authorized users can actually see what’s happening — hackers see nothing but scrambled information. This offers a deeper level of security than password protection, which would be rendered ineffective in a large-scale data breach.
- Understand Internet security basics: Gaining a better concept of Internet security concepts like encryption, password protection, home Wi fi network security, and malware is an important part of choosing a safe baby monitor and protecting existing connections from being tampered with. As a basic rule of thumb, this means understanding how to choose appropriately complex passwords, securing your Internet connection and devices through the use of a wireless router and password, and avoiding suspicious websites or emails from people you don’t know. It also means being sure to change any device’s default username and password, even your home router, and avoiding the use of identifying details in your network name.
- Research the product you’re buying: No matter how much you love what a brand has to say about their product in an advertisement, remember that they are trying to sell it to you. Take a look at what others have to say, especially when there’s reviews available from other parents. This can make you aware of any possible security issues, hotfixes, or past problems that have occurred with a device, giving you a better idea of how it will actually perform.
- Make sure to register: If you’re one of the many people for whom new product registration forms wind up in the bottom of the wastebasket or shoved in a desk drawer somewhere in your home, we implore you to think twice in this case. When you register your baby monitor, you’re more likely to be contacted directly if there’s an update or a serious issue with the device.
What Should I Consider Before Buying a Baby Monitor?
When you’re preparing to make your purchase, here are a few factors worth considering.
- The features it has VS. the features you’ll use: Baby monitors can come with a staggering number of features, like video live-streams, home temperature and heartbeat monitors, a set of pre-recorded lullabies, Wifi and cellular network connectivity that allows you to see and hear your child from longer distances, and even activity logs that track the way your baby sleeps. Of course, not all these features are ones you’ll access on a regular basis, so consider which ones are the most important to you.
- Price point: While regular baby monitors are fairly affordable, smart baby monitors that offer Internet access through home networks and have all the appropriate security features can be a lot more costly. It’s safe to say the cost runs the gamut, so don’t be afraid to register for that smart device, or give family members a heads up.
- Technical complexity: With a host of new tech-centric safety features, the use of infant monitors can be more technically complex than one would expect. If your family (or at least one parent) is comfortable with the world of basic Internet security and network technology, you’ll likely feel right at home with everything and have no struggles. If you find that all the tech is too complex for you, look for a baby monitor that’s known for convenience and a user-friendly interface.
Safe Baby Monitor Usage Tips
Once parents have chosen the device that’s right for keeping a child safe, learning how to use it properly and avoid common hazards is the best safety measure of all. Follow these basic security tips to reduce the likelihood of baby monitor hacking.
- Reboot your baby monitors and security systems on a regular basis: About once a week, it’s good advice to completely reboot any security camera, baby monitor, router, and other security devices that connect to the Internet in your home. This is because, as cameras, baby monitors, and other devices reboot, they’ll automatically seek out information about any updates or patches that have been released recently. This can help to keep devices running efficiently, and can put an end to potential vulnerabilities. Scheduling a simple weekly reboot is one of the best ways to save you from having to think about these updates.
- Choose an email that’s just for your baby monitor: In the unfortunate event of a security breach, things can be even more complex if the email account you’re using for your baby monitor is also tied to your credit cards, bills, and mortgage. To protect your vulnerable information, it’s wise to make an email address that’s just for your monitor. The good news is that Gmail allows you to sync delivery with an existing account, so once the account’s made and set up, you can basically forget about it.
- Choose strong passwords for your Wifi router and the baby monitor: Always change the default password of both your baby monitor and your Wifi router, as a complex password helps to keep your network secure. It doesn’t have to be a string of random characters, but try to pick disparate words, numbers, and symbols for a wi fi password rather than using a sentence, name, or other familiar set of words — the best choice is something the kids can remember, but that wouldn’t be easy for a stranger to identify.
- Set up a Google alert for the make and model: No parents have the time or desire to spend each day searching after their baby monitor online just to make sure no issues have been announced, but thankfully, Google is willing to save you the trouble. Your best bet is to set up a Google alert for your device’s make and model, and if any important updates or vulnerabilities come to light, you’ll find out about them speedily in your inbox — typically, no news is good news.
- Understand what your device can do: Some modern baby monitors are absolutely packed with security features, but keep in mind that if you don’t read up on exactly what they are, you might miss out on using some of the most valuable ones. These can include things like two-factor authentication, which adds an extra layer of protection that must be bypassed in order to access your baby monitor.
- Update the baby monitor’s software or firmware whenever required: If you receive a notification that your router or baby monitor’s software or firmware is in need of an update, it’s important that you update the device as soon as possible. If you are rebooting all your security devices weekly, as suggested above, this process may happen automatically before you are aware an update is available. However, if you are notified of an update between reboots, or if you do not reboot regularly but see that new software or firmware is available, it’s advised that you act immediately. These updates both streamline device function and tackle security vulnerabilities, so ignoring them is bad news.
- Don’t allow remote access if it isn’t needed: If you don’t actually need remote access to your baby monitor, simply turning remote access to the cameras off mitigates a great deal of the risk associated with keeping your baby monitor connected to the Internet. You can always turn it back on when it’s needed.
How Do I Know if My Baby Monitor has Been Hacked?
The fear of your child monitor being hacked is something everyone can understand; even worse is the fact that it may not be immediately obvious what’s happening. Small changes and unusual noises are key signs that something is amiss, so if you’re suspicious, read on to learn more.
Watch for changes
Be aware of where your baby monitor camera is focused in your home, so that you can notice if anything unusual happens, like the camera moving without your input. It’s best to ask your partner and older kids to let you know if they ever change the baby monitor’s camera position, so that you can ensure any changes are being made from within household access.
Opt for audio alerts
One feature of smart baby monitors that many parents love is the option to chose the type of alert they receive when their child cries, but alerts that are solely visual aren’t a great idea. This is because disabling the audio from your child’s room will prevent you from hearing the unusual audio that’s often linked with access from a hacker.
If you’re hearing sounds, voices, or music in the room through your baby monitor that you know aren’t being produced in your home, it can be a sign that your baby monitor has been hacked. If a suspicious incident occurs, it’s best to note the date, time, and what occurred.
The Bottom Line
While the idea of hackers accessing your video baby monitor is understandably frightening, it also doesn’t happen regularly. Per Daniel Eliot of the National Cyber Security Alliance, while it’s wise to limit opportunities for hacking to occur, the problem is not exceptionally common, and the news may make parents more fearful of the possibility than is necessary. Taking precautions to eliminate security risks within your home network and choosing a monitor that’s well reviewed for safety features can go a long way in reducing the likelihood of a hacker.
The best thing you can to to stay safe is follow basic protocol — securing both your wireless network and your video monitor with a complex password helps to make hacking more difficult for intruders, and regularly rebooting devices to trigger installation of software updates ensures that the most recent and most secure technology are present on monitors.