Posted on January 24, 2019 at 4:43 PM
A US family living in Orinda, California, received a highly disturbing message last Sunday afternoon. In the middle of the day, the family heard a warning that sounded like it was coming from the Civil Defense. The warning claimed that North Korea has launched three ballistic missiles towards the US, targeting Los Angeles, Ohio, and Chicago and that they only have three hours to evacuate.
Laura Lyons and her family were petrified by the warning, not sure what to think, and whether or not it was real. After five minutes of horror, the family attempted to find other reports while shifting between different new stations. As there was nothing there, they quickly realized that something is wrong. They also concluded that the sound was coming from a Nest camera they owned, which was stationed on top of their TV.
The family reported the incident to 911, after which they were assured that they are not in any danger, which Nest confirmed as well. Nest, owned by Google, explained that the family was a victim of a hacking attack, which likely occurred after a third party got access to their camera which also comes with a microphone and speakers.
Unsurprisingly enough, the family was relieved, later stating that the warning sounded “completely legit,” that it was loud, and that it captured their attention right away. The warning also mentioned that the US President Donald Trump was moved to a secure location, which is also not true.
Nest and Google officials explained that there were numerous reports of hackers gaining access to devices owned by regular users. Most of the time, it was possible due to weak passwords which users would use on multiple websites when creating their accounts. If any of those websites got compromised, hackers would be able to access every other account, which is why security experts always warn that internet users should use different login credentials for each account.
Google’s spokesperson also stated that two-factor verification is capable of preventing such incidents. After becoming aware of the fact that their camera was compromised, the family disabled its microphone and speakers.
Meanwhile, Google stressed that the security of their customers’ homes is their top priority, which is why the company is introducing additional features that will increase the safety of devices. This is a necessary precaution considering the fact that numerous homes are already using Nest products, as well as other smart home devices, like Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa, and alike. As more and more homes are turning to such products, leaving them without proper security would allow hackers an easy way in.
Security breaches endangering families
Bad security of various internet-connected devices is becoming more and more concerning, with reports of hacking attacks and privacy invasions growing with each passing year.
Another incident reported in December 2018 occurred when a family in Houston reported that they heard a stranger talking through their baby monitor. The monitor was located in the child’s room, and when the family turned on the lights, the voice became violent, threatening to kidnap their child if they didn’t turn the lights off.
Before this incident, in November, a white-hat hacked called Hank Fordham managed to hack a Nest camera belonging to a man living in Arizona. The hacker’s goal was to point out the weaknesses in users’ accounts and raise awareness of the dangers that might follow. A similar move was made by a hacker known only as TheHackerGiraffe, who hacked thousands of printers recently, notifying people that their devices are not properly protected.
Another large incident occurred earlier this month, after a data containing 772 million email addresses and over 21 million passwords leaked on a hacking forum. This incident was reported by a security researcher Troy Hunt, who operates a website named “Have I Been Pwned.” The website allows users to type in their email address and check if it appears in any known hacking incidents or data leakages.
Finally, only a week ago, another cyber researcher discovered a large collection of FBI files, containing millions of pieces of sensitive information, such as emails, social security numbers, and more.
It appears that hacking attacks in 2019 are just as serious as those reported in 2018, such as the Marriott International hack, which exposed the data of nearly 400 million customers of various hotels owned by the company.
All of the incidents are a clear warning that online security needs to be taken seriously, and that internet users cannot remain unprotected, hoping that they will not become a victim.