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Are baby monitors safe from hackers? Our tips for staying secure

Are baby monitors safe from hackers header baby asleep in cot

Certain monitors can be hacked, but the risks are easy to minimise

If you’re wondering whether baby monitors are safe from hackers then perhaps you’ve seen a worrying news report, or maybe someone in your antenatal group has mentioned something about such devices being compromised by cybercriminals.

Unfortunately, they’re not wrong and such reports do exist. In one particularly alarming case, a hacker was able to talk to a baby via the monitor, even threatening to kidnap the child when the parents rushed in to turn it off. In a separate report by NBC, hackers were actually able to change the focus of the monitor’s camera and look around the baby’s bedroom.

Naturally, these stories can be scary for new parents and parents-to-be – having a baby is stressful enough without added anxiety over cyberattacks – but the good news is that such baby monitor hacking attacks are both rare and preventable, as we explore below.

Can baby monitors be hacked?

The short answer is yes, as those news reports illustrate. However, it’s important to note that this risk is specifically linked to so-called ‘smart monitors’ that connect to the internet via your home Wi-Fi.

“Like most IoT (‘Internet of Things’ – everyday objects that connect to and exchange data via the web) devices, baby monitors can be hacked with the right knowledge and tools”, confirms Jake Moore, global cybersecurity advisor for the digital security company ESET and a former digital forensics consultant for Dorset police.

So, the threat of baby monitor hacking is limited to Wi-Fi devices. Much like smart video doorbells, these monitors typically use an app to let you view your baby’s bedroom remotely, rather than simply from the next room. Such monitors are popular among parents since they allow you to check in on your little one when you’re away from home – for example, out on a date night while a sitter watches the baby. Some more advanced monitors can also provide parents with helpful data, such as room temperature, humidity and even the baby’s sleep patterns.

But how do hackers gain access to these devices? “Baby monitor vulnerabilities are usually down to weak default security”, says Moore.

The issue is typically down to the devices arriving with a default password – such as ‘admin’ or ‘password’ – which can easily be guessed, giving cybercriminals access to live video and/or images of your baby and home. Moore also adds that hackers often target vulnerable baby monitors in order to gain lateral access to other devices, such as laptops and phones. So, changing the default password during set-up is crucial.

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How worried should I be about my baby monitor being hacked?

Reassuringly, reports of hackers gaining access to baby monitors are rare. “Most baby monitors are not specifically targeted, as financially motivated hackers may not see much potential in knowing a stranger’s baby’s sleep patterns”, says Moore.

“This is something that brands and manufacturers take really seriously, so thankfully there is little reason to be worried about hacking”, adds Charlotte Hill, a nursery product specialist at John Lewis, which offers a dedicated all-about-baby nursery advice service.

She notes that the Wi-Fi connection used in these devices has the same level of encryption as banking apps but, like Moore, she also stresses the importance of creating and maintaining a secure password.

It’s also worth noting that a recent Act of Parliament sought to make baby monitors even safer from hackers: the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Act directly addresses the vulnerability of smart devices to cybercriminals by banning the use of universal default and easily guessable passwords. This new law – which came into effect on 29th April 2024 – requires that all smart devices, including baby monitors, meet basic cybersecurity requirements.

Manufacturers are now also required by law to publish information about how long they guarantee to provide software updates for their products, and to provide customers with a contact for reporting hacking incidents on their device.

What can I do to keep my monitor safe from hackers?

There are several steps you can take to protect your baby monitor from cyberattacks. As we detailed above, this advice applies specifically to devices that require an internet connection.

1. Swap default passwords for strong, secure ones

Most smart baby monitors released before the April 2024 law change will arrive with a default password that allows you to log in to the device and any associated apps. Since such passwords can easily be hacked by cybercriminals, it’s imperative that you change it before you start using the device.

The NCSC recommends using three random words to create a password that can’t easily be hacked. Alternatively, as we outlined in our article on how to create a secure password, you might apply a pattern that is easy to remember for you, but that’s difficult for criminals to crack.

Unique passwords are important too, says Moore: “Make sure you change the password to something you do not use anywhere else”, he warns.

2. Protect your home Wi-Fi

Smart monitors connect to the internet via your home Wi-Fi, so it’s a good idea to make sure that this connection is secure and well-protected, too.

Moore suggests keeping your IoT items – including baby monitors, but also other smart devices such as TVs, doorbells and ovens – on a separate network from items like laptops and phones. This stops attackers from gaining lateral access to these devices, which typically contain highly personal data, such as bank account details and home addresses, which is much more valuable to hackers.

Fortunately, a lot of modern routers offer this option.

3. Keep on top of updates

“Good-quality monitors will offer updates that patch known vulnerabilities, so it’s vital to update as soon as you are notified”, says Moore.

The NCSC advises regularly searching for the words ‘update’, ‘firmware’ or ‘software’ within the app to check for any available updates.

4. Consider a Wi-Fi–free model

If you don’t have a specific reason to be able to access your device’s video feed outside of the home, you might consider a unit that doesn’t require Wi-Fi, or one where the Wi-Fi can be turned off, to negate any risk.

As these models use closed-circuit technology, as opposed to transmitting over the internet, this effectively “cuts off the outside world”, says Moore, giving you peace of mind that your baby monitor is safe from hackers.

The Vtech VM3254 (£50, Argos) was one of the best Wi-Fi–free models we rated in our roundup of the best baby monitors. Alternatively, the Wi-Fi connection can be turned off on the Maxi-Cosi See Pro (£200, Amazon).

5. Opt for reputable brands

As with most things, you get what you pay for with baby monitors so it’s wise to avoid the lure of cheaper models from brands you’ve never heard of.

“It pays to stick with more well-known brands as they tend not to cut as many corners”, advises Moore, explaining: “Unfortunately, security is often the first addition to go.”

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Baby monitor security features to look for

For additional peace of mind, it’s worth checking the release date of any model you may be considering buying since, as we detailed earlier, devices released after 29th April 2024 should meet the requirements of the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Act.

Of course, if your Wi-Fi device doesn’t meet these standards then follow the steps we listed above to help prevent cyberattacks.

Moore also advises looking for monitors that use multi-factor authentication – where the device requires more than just a username and password before you can gain access – and that guarantee encryption of any recordings made. This, he says, should provide reassurance that no one at the brand’s parent company can gain access to these files, as US regulators found to be the case with Amazon Alexa recordings in 2023.

Happily, our number-one-rated baby monitor, the Cubi AI Plus (£229, Amazon), boasts both of these features.

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