Is Pet Cam Hacking Really a Thing?

Protect your home, privacy, and personal information

As homes get smarter and the Internet of Things connects more and more household items, products with sophisticated digital functionality are becoming commonplace. Pet cams are a relatively new phenomenon, letting concerned pet parents monitor their fur babies' activities from work.

But anything connected to the internet can become a hacker's target, and smart pet cams are no exception. Here's a look at the security dangers posed by pet cams and how to guard them against intrusions.

Pet cams work similarly to smart baby monitors, which have recently been the target of hackers. Hacking horror stories include parents hearing voices over the monitor and kids reporting someone "living" in their monitor.

Who's Hacking Your Pet Cam?

It makes sense that hackers would go after bank accounts and passwords, but why would they bother with pet cams?

Pet cams connect to your home Wi-Fi network to display a live stream of your pet that you can view from your smartphone or a computer screen. Dedicated pet cams often have fun and unique features normal webcams don't offer. For example, the Furbo holds treats and lets you play fetch with your dog from afar.

Furbo
Courtesy of Amazon.com

But this seemingly innocent window into your home is an attractive target for cybercriminals, who can seek out and find valuable information to help them commit identity theft, extortion, or blackmail, or even scope out your home for a good time to break in.

Pet cams are vulnerable to hackers because they're often unsecured, without built-in security features or password protection, so anyone with an internet connection can access the devices and peer into your home.

Another hacker trick is to use clickjacking to trick owners into allowing access to their pet cams. They place an Allow button next to a Play or View button; if a user hits Allow, the hacker gains access to the pet cam.

Protect Your Pet Cam From Hackers

Research Your Product

Security features in pet cams vary widely between models. Make sure the pet camera manufacturer provides regular firmware (the software built into the camera’s hardware that runs everything) updates and that it's easy to change the default password and login info. Choose a device whose network is encrypted and secured through 128-bit encryption, and keep an eye out for other security features and protocols.

Pet cams noted for excellent security features include the Furbo, Petcube, and PetChatz.

Update Firmware

Remember to update your pet cam's software regularly, because most updates include security changes. Check the manufacturer’s website frequently for updated firmware that affects your model. Find out if the manufacturer added any additional security features and make sure to implement them.

It's important to check for firmware updates before you install your pet cam. The product may have been sitting on the shelf for a while and it's possible vulnerabilities were found and fixed during this time.

Use a Strong Password

Many monitoring systems come with a default login name and password. It would be easy for a hacker to research the default login data and gain entry to your system. As soon as you install the monitor system, change the default username and password to something strong and unique.

If you're not sure how to create a strong password, take a look at some examples of hack-resistant passwords.

Secure Your Home Network and Wireless Router

Secure your wireless network and router, including making sure your router's firmware is updated. Make sure your home network password is strong.

Cover the Lens

This is simple and very low-tech advice. If you cover the pet cam's lens when you're home, even if it's been hacked no one can peer into your home. Try a small sticker or piece of masking tape that can easily be removed.

Home security systems, such as the Arlo and Blink, can double as pet cams and provided a host of additional security features.