Is Pet Cam Hacking Really a Thing?

Cat looking into a webcam

Andy O'Donnell

Over the last couple of years, all kinds of crazy new internet-connected gadgets have entered the marketplace. Some are passing fads and quickly fade into obscurity, but some have staying power and have helped create entirely new product categories that never even existed before.

Think of the iPad. It wasn’t really even a thing until suddenly it was a thing, and now it’s a whole separate category of devices with several subcategories (i.e. phablets).

Security cameras have been internet-connected for many years, but recently, manufacturers have started to come up with increasingly novel ways to sell what is essentially the same device by re-purposing it to perform a new task. One of the first attempts to take the security camera and use it in a new way was the introduction of the internet-connected video baby monitor.

Now security camera makers have come up with a new twist for keeping an eye on the other babies in your life: your pets.

The Pet Cam

Pet cams are basically the same remote viewing concept except, instead of monitoring your house or your child, you can now monitor your pets via an internet-connected camera coupled with a smartphone app used for viewing.

What Makes Pet Cams Different?

Usually, pet cams try to offer some unique features, such as the ability to talk back to your pet to soothe them while you're away. Some even offer the ability to remotely trigger a treat dispenser to let you give your animals something to snack on while you’re gone.

With Any New Device Comes Hackers

Hackers will attempt to find weaknesses even in the least likely of gadgets. Pet cams are no exception. Hackers will attempt to find a flaw in the product in order to exploit it for fun and/or profit.

Who Would Want to Hack a Pet Cam and Why?

Amazingly, there are many people out there that want to hack these types of devices. The big reason is that they want to listen in on and view things happening in your home. Criminals could use this information for identity theft, extortion, blackmail, and any other of a number of scams that require access to private information.

Money may not necessarily be the motive behind the hacks. Some hackers do it just for fun, others are voyeurs and have decided that they want to watch other people’s lives via hacked cameras because they think it's better than a reality TV show.

Whatever their reasons, hackers are breaking into people’s pet cams, and other network-connected cameras and could be watching unless we properly secure them.

How Can I Prevent Someone From Hacking My Pet Cam?

When you bought your pet cam, it had probably been sitting at the store on the shelf in its box for several months. During that time, it’s possible that several vulnerabilities were discovered and fixed by the manufacturer via an update to the device’s software (a.k.a firmware). Unless you update your device’s firmware after you set it up, you won’t be protected from the vulnerabilities that have been found and your device could be vulnerable to attack.

Change the Default Passwords on Your Pet Cam

One of the quickest ways a hacker can get into your pet cam is by using the default password that you forgot to change. Depending on the type of camera, this password may be freely available to anyone who downloads a copy of the camera’s operating manual. Change any default passwords and make sure your network has a strong wireless network password as well.

Make Sure Your Wireless Network Is Secure

You should definitely make sure your wireless network as secure as possible in order to discourage pet cam hackers.