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Security & privacy

Hacker speaks to baby via Nest cam, turns up thermostat then taunts terrified family

Web-connected cameras can be great security and monitoring tools that can keep your home safe. But if you don’t take the necessary precautions, someone could use all your smart home’s smarts against you. Tap or click here for a few ways to keep hackers out of your home network.

If you set up security cameras in your home, you need to protect those devices. Otherwise, someone could break into the very devices you bought to protect your family. They could turn those gadgets into tools of terror.

This is exactly what happened to this Illinois family recently. Read on and see how the terrifying ordeal unfolded. You’ll also learn what you can do to prevent it from happening to you and your family.

If you don’t keep hackers out of your home network, this could happen to you

A self-proclaimed smart home aficionado recently told CBS Chicago that his family hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in 10 days. A hacker broke into his Nest account, taking over his thermostats and 16 home security cameras.

Arjun Sud, a homeowner from Lake Barrington, Indiana said it started after he and his wife put their baby to bed. They heard a peculiar noise coming from the nursery. As Sud approached the room, he heard a man’s voice coming from the nursery’s Nest cam, speaking to his seven-month-old baby.

I was shocked to hear a deep, manly voice talking. My blood ran cold.

Homeowner and hacking victim Arjun Sud, speaking to CBS Chicago

Then, Arjun and his wife noticed how hot the house suddenly was. Their Nest home thermostat shot up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Terrified, they took their sweating baby downstairs.

But the horror didn’t stop — the hacker started taunting and cursing them from his downstairs camera.

Watch this video from CBS News for the full story

What they did about it

Once Sud got past his initial shock, he managed to record a portion of the conversation.  The couple then disconnected their Nest cameras. Then, they called both the police and Nest itself.

Nest replied that he should have been using a unique password and two-factor authentication. His main gripe, however, is that Nest didn’t tell him when the hacker first broke in.

We don’t know how long someone was in our Nest account watching us. We don’t know how many private conversations they overheard.

Arjun Sud, CBS Chicago

He said he is extremely disturbed to know that the Nest security cameras throughout his home could put him in danger. There’s no indication that a stranger could be watching, aside from a blue light that turns on when someone is talking.

“Until they actually communicate with you, they could be in here, watching as we are doing right now, and there is no difference. You can’t tell,” Sud explains.

It’s not the first time a hacker terrorized an innocent family

The family’s ordeal follows another terrifying incident that involved a compromised Nest camera. Just last week, a hacker broke into a California family’s Nest account and sent voice warnings about an impending nuclear strike from North Korea.

To the hacker, it was a funny prank. Meanwhile, the family members felt like they’d been thrust into a horror movie. Tap or click below to listen to this story in 1 minute:

Did you enjoy listening to that episode? Want more snappy, informative podcasts? Tap or click here for more Kim Komando Daily Tech Update episodes.

How this happened

In both cases, the Nest accounts were compromised using stolen passwords from the victims’ other online accounts. It turns out that both families were using recycled passwords that were also being used on other sites.

This jacking technique is commonly referred to as credential stuffing:

  • This is when someone feeds your credentials into an automated program.
  • That program then tests your credentials on various websites.
  • The person hopes you’ve reused your passwords on multiple services.

You might not be as safe as you think. Data breaches are a common occurrence, so hackers might already have their hands on your passwords. Tap or click here to see if your information has been exposed.

Want to keep hackers out of your home network? Improve your passwords!

Firstly, you should use strong, original passwords. Secondly, you should never ever reuse the same password for multiple online services and websites. If you recycle the same passwords, you’re a prime target for credential stuffing.

If you have trouble coming up with strong passwords, we’ve got you covered. There are a few techniques you can use to create strong passwords that are hard to crack. Tap or click here for Kim’s secrets to setting strong passwords that actually protect your accounts.

Always use 2FA for your Nest account

Strong passwords are a must if you want to keep hackers out of your home network. Can my home Wi-Fi be hacked? Yes. Here's how your home network can be hacked and how to prevent it.
Two-factor authentication makes you prove your identity before logging in. | © Andrey Popov |

Normally, you just need to provide your username and password to log into an account. With two-factor authentication (2FA), you need a secondary form of verification to prove your identity. Here’s the premise: Even if hackers know your credentials, they can’t access your account since they won’t be able to get your special 2FA code.

Here’s how to enable 2FA on your Nest account

  • Make sure all the phones and tablets used to access your account have the latest version of the Nest app.
  • On the Nest app home screen, tap Settings.
  • Select Account, then Manage account.
  • Tap Account security.
  • Select 2-step verification. Then tap the switch to toggle 2-step verification On.
  • Follow the prompts to enter your password, phone number, and unique verification code sent to your phone.

More ways to keep hackers out of your home network

How to change your home network from public to private

How to see all the devices connected to your network

Have a gamer in the house? 5 must-do security steps

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