For the last year or so, erroneous reports of “hacked” baby monitor systems that are WiFi enabled have been perpetuated by the media–and trickled down to our readers, who understandably email us to ask about the potential of danger with WiFi baby monitors like the D-Link Baby Camera (above) or the Angelcare AC1200 baby monitor. Of course we wouldn’t recommend them if we thought they were wildly unsafe–though whether you need a video monitor or not is entirely up to you. Also, we don’t blame parents at all for being freaked out of the idea of a stranger virtually in your home–let alone one talking to your baby or toddler somehow.
That said, the chances of that happening are beyond small. Not that it can’t happen, but it’s unlikely.
UPDATE: Please see our post on Fighting hackers: Expert tips for protecting your webcams, baby monitors, and connected devices
The so-called “hackers” in these particular news stories have not been predators or burglars; they turned out to be people (okay, jerks) who stumbled onto an unsecure WiFi network and took advantage. That’s not actually hacking, although it sure sounds better in news headlines. In other words, any stranger trying to use your WiFi network is most likely looking for a free connection, so…don’t give him one.
Here’s how to put your mind at ease if you’re using a monitor with a wireless connection that transmits the signal your laptop or mobile device.
2. Use strong passwords. As you may know by now, the strongest passwords are a combination of numbers, upper and lower-case letters, and characters if allowed. In a nutshell, make combinations that can’t be found in dictionaries (“password”), aren’t common phrases (“HappyDays”), aren’t obviously repetitive (“12345”), and don’t include your personal info that can be found easily (birthdates, kids’ names, your zip code).
We have a few tricks for making strong passwords that won’t drive you nuts; or you can use a random password generator online or download Norton’s free password generator for help. Or of course, use a smart app that generates, saves and encrypts passwords like 1Password. (They’re an affiliate and we love them.)
3. Make sure the device you pick has a password for access too. If the monitor comes with a default password (like 1111) or a blank password, be sure to change it and make it strong during set-up.
4. Don’t forget about guest networks that may come with your Wi-Fi service. Disable them entirely or give them a strong password too. As in, not “guest.” In fact, recently we featured some fun ways to display a guest network password.
5. Be realistic. Remember that the likelihood of someone truly hacking into your baby monitor is slim to none, unless you’re Kourtney Kardashian and the paparazzo will do anything for a photo of your baby. (Cute though your own may be.) Digital transmissions from video monitors should be encrypted to make intercepting data really tough. In fact, we haven’t been able to find one confirmed report of a true baby monitor hacking leading to a burglary or any harm to any children at all, even if the photos of someone watching someone else’s baby seems creepy. And it is.
As I told ABC News a while back, there are plenty of better ways to case your home than through your baby monitor. Just make sure your WiFi password is protected to be safe –whether you’re a video monitor user or not — and you’re using a really respected monitor brand.