While it may seem like an episode from “The Twilight Zone,” a Wisconsin couple’s home was overtaken by a hacker, who terrorized them through their own Google Nest devices.
Google Nest is a line of smart home products including outdoor cameras, video doorbells, automatic thermostats, indoor cameras, and a Google Home device, which is a voice-activated device to answer questions, play your music, and control your other smart devices.
Victim Samantha Westmoreland said when she walked inside of her home, the Google Nest thermostat was set to 90 degrees. She and her husband suspected a hacker when they heard a voice talking to them through their Nest camera. In addition to the voice, the hacker played vulgar music through the camera.
Westmoreland said she felt violated and unsafe, an ironic feeling when the Google Store website says, “Google Nest products work together to help you stay informed, feel more comfortable and safe, keep an eye on home when you’re away…”
The victim unplugged the camera, pointed it towards the ceiling and even changed the system passwords, but to no avail. Ultimately, she and her husband had to have their internet service provider change the network ID of their entire wireless network.
Privacy Agreement with the FTC
In response to the attack, Google stated that Nest was not breached. They blamed the hack on the fact that customers use compromised passwords that were exposed through breaches on other sites. Their solution was for Nest users to enable two-factor authentication to eliminate the security risk.
The victims believe that the hacker was able to gain access to their Nest system by hacking into their WiFi network. Lamont Westmoreland said there should be some sort of wall between the Nest devices and the WiFi that would keep hackers out, even if they access the wireless network.
Google’s privacy commitment on its website lists several guidelines they follow including:
They went on to give more explanations of how the sensors in connected devices work. The sensors work to detect the environment around them and adapt to changes within the household. Data from the sensors may also be sued to review device performance and diagnostic functions.
Ensuring Home Security
This is not the first report of a hacked Nest camera. Business Insider reports that a family in California heard a voice come through their camera and warned them of a missile attack. Another couple in Texas heard a voice through their camera threaten to kidnap their baby.
While the General Data Protection Regulations and California Consumer Privacy Act are great leaps forward in protecting user data, there is still little that can prevent a hacker from accessing devices or networks if the security is weak. In this case, Google claimed that user passwords had been exposed on other sites, making them less secure to use with Nest. While strong passwords are crucial for security, some cybercriminals have the know-how to bypass these security measures.
Secure Forensics has examiners with decades of experience investigating spyware, data breaches, and instances of online harassment. Our team can examine your device, find what has been compromised, and create a court-admissible report about the cybercrime. Call to learn more about our services at 1-800-288-1407.