Hackers Using Ring Cameras to Spy On, Harass People

In one case, a man harassed a young girl in her bedroom
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 12, 2019 12:09 PM CST
Hacker Uses Ring Camera to Scare Girl in Her Room
A screen shot of the video from Tennessee in which a hacker harassed a little girl.   (YouTube/ABC News)

It is the definition of creepy. A video shows a man who hacked into a Ring security camera harassing an 8-year-old Mississippi girl in her own bedroom. What's more, similar instances have emerged elsewhere across the US this week alone. Ring is investigating but generally maintains that its own security is not to blame. Instead, the company says people are being lax with passwords and other methods of keeping hackers at bay. Coverage:

  • In her room: The incident getting the most attention is out of Mississippi, where a man plays music and taunts young Alyssa LeMay through a security camera in her room. He uses the n-word and tries to get her to do the same, reports the Washington Post. "I’m your best friend, I’m Santa Claus," says the voice. "Don’t you want to be my best friend?" At one point, Alyssa screams for her mom. Eventually, she leaves the room and tells her father, who comes upstairs and unplugs the camera. (The girl is interviewed about her scare in this ABC News video.)
  • Mom's reaction: "I can’t even put into words how badly I feel and how badly my children feel,” mom Ashley LeMay tells the Post. "I put them at risk and there’s nothing I can do to really ease their mind." She also complains that when she called Ring to see if the she could find out where the hack originated, she instead was repeatedly reminded that she failed to set up two-factor authentication.

  • Other cases: In Grand Prairie, Texas, a hacker woke up a woman and demanded 50 bitcoin in ransom "or you will get terminated," per WFAA. He also hacked her doorbell camera and informed her that "I am outside your front door." In Atlanta, a late-night hacker shouted, "I can see you in the bed! C'mon! Wake the (expletive) up!" as a woman slept in her room. (That video is here.) "I was terrified," the woman tells the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "I literally could not move my body."
  • Another: In Cape Coral, Florida, a hacker yelled racial slurs to an interracial couple through their security camera, including insults about their son, reports NBC News. "I was scared," says Josefine Brown. "I didn't know ... how long he'd been watching us and I'm still scared now because I don't have any answers."
  • What Ring says: The company is responding to a media inquiries about the various incidents with a statement. "While we are still investigating this issue and are taking appropriate steps to protect our devices based on our investigation, we are able to confirm this incident is in no way related to a breach or compromise of Ring’s security," says the company.
  • Ring's advice: Ring also suggests people buying the cameras are being lax in setting up firewalls. "Due to the fact that customers often use the same username and password for their various accounts and subscriptions, bad actors often re-use credentials stolen or leaked from one service on other services," says the statement. "As a precaution, we highly and openly encourage all Ring users to enable two-factor authentication on their Ring account, add Shared Users (instead of sharing login credentials), use strong passwords, and regularly change their passwords."
  • A critic: The ability to use the Ring camera as a speaker (saying good night to a loved one from afar, for example) was initially a draw, but "it has now turned into a nightmare," writes Bridget Read at the Cut. "And hacking is only the latest development in the dystopian surveillance saga of Ring, which recently partnered with 400 police departments across the country to hand over hours of doorbell-camera footage for criminal investigations," she adds. "Think about that the next time you watch a cute Ring video of a bear ringing a doorbell."
(More security cameras stories.)

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