Baby Monitor Hacked: Child Threatened With Kidnapping, Other Lewd Comments Made By Hacker

baby monitor hackers security protect
A consumer watchdog has advised parents on how best to protect Internet-enabled baby monitors from hackers. IBT Media

A Houston couple has disabled a set of baby monitors in their home, and a criminal investigation is ongoing after the monitors were hacked and their child threatened on Monday.

Nathan and Ellen Rigney were sleeping downstairs just before midnight while their 4-month-old son, Topper, slept in his room upstairs.

Ellen told KPRC that the beeping from the monitor woke her up and that she initially thought it was just a carbon monoxide alert.

However, she and Nathan heard a voice coming from the monitor, speaking with vulgar language. After the couple got out of bed, and turned on the lights in their room, the second monitor in their bedroom turned on and the voice ordered them to turn the lights off.

The man's voice then told the couple that he was in Topper's room and was going to kidnap him.

After checking that Topper was safe, Ellen said she remembered a story on Wifi hacking that she read online.

"We just had to figure out how to get (the Wifi) shut down, and shut down fast! I kept telling [Nathan], he's not in here, somebody's hacking this," she told KRPC.

The Rigney's experience with a hacked baby monitor is just one of several that have been reported in recent years, though monitors aren't the only susceptible devices where children can be targeted. In January, an Ohio hacker was indicted for infecting thousands of school computers with malware that allowed him to connect to webcams. He used some of the footage to create child pornography.

A 2016 investigation by Newsweek discovered numerous webcams and baby monitors were available for viewing on a search engine called Shodan.

The Rigney's filed a report with Harris County police, who are currently investigating the incident. The couple also contacted Nest, the company who makes the baby monitor they used, though Ellen told KRPC that they "were no help at all."

In a statement to KRPC, Nest said that reusing passwords are sometimes to blame for hackers gaining access.

"We have seen instances where customers reused passwords that were previously exposed through breaches on other websites and published publicly ... Reusing compromised passwords can expose customers to other people using the credentials to log into their Nest account and potentially other websites and services ... We are now also rolling out changes to proactively prevent customers from using a password compromised in a public breach as their Nest password," the company said.