People entrust the safety of their homes to security companies all the time. Smart doorbells, alarm systems, and home security cameras all sound like good ideas. But if you can keep an eye on your house while you’re at work, someone else could be keeping an eye on you at home. That’s what happened to hundreds of families in the US, where a technician has admitted to secretly spying on people through their home security cameras.
Telesforo Aviles, a former technician at ADT Security, admitted to hacking his customers’ home video cameras and now faces up to five years in prison.
Over four and a half years, Aviles hacked the home cameras of at least 200 customers. He did it by adding his own email address to the list of authorized users, either secretly or by telling his customers that it was necessary for testing the system.
Aviles targeted women he found attractive and secretly watched them as they dressed or engaged in sexual activities. He logged into people’s home security cameras almost 10.000 times before someone in the company noticed his unauthorized access.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time a device meant to increase privacy and security ended up backfiring. Why does that happen so often?
“Aviles targeted women he found attractive and secretly watched them as they dressed or engaged in sexual activities.”
As more smart solutions reach our homes, we encounter a certain paradox. People are increasingly concerned about their privacy, but they are willing to give it away if offered a good deal in return. They don’t mind that their home camera footage is stored in a company’s servers, as long as it allows them to use the system to turn the lights on and off and see what their dog is doing.
However, before allowing more IoT devices and third-party services into your life, it’s important to evaluate whether the comfort you’ll get from a new home security system actually outweighs the risks. Maybe you’ll be fine without it? Or perhaps there’s an old-fashioned/analog solution that would work just as well. Maybe you don’t need the overengineered shiny new thing at all.
If you decide to get a smart solution for your home, don’t just trust the company with the best price. Sure, reviews and customers’ experiences are important, but you must also do serious in-depth research – your privacy and physical safety is at stake. Here are five steps that can help you stay safe:
1. Find out exactly what information the company will have about you and what data the device itself will log and store.
2. Are there any secret backdoors? Look for security experts’ opinions on the matter – don’t just scan through customer reviews.
3. Can you grant and revoke permissions and access to your data and/or device?
4. If a single system is responsible for your entire home's security, you should follow the company closely. Set up Google Alerts to be notified if the company has a data breach or a new vulnerability is found.
5. If something comes up, act quickly to secure your accounts and devices. If it’s serious, consider uninstalling the app, shutting down the devices, or freezing your account until the vulnerability is fixed.
Once lost, privacy is difficult to get back. And while becoming completely anonymous is impossible, there’s a lot you can do to minimize your online footprint and protect your private information. For more tips on becoming an online ninja, read our ultimate guide to data privacy. Meanwhile, here are the essential tips you should follow:
Get a VPN and shield yourself from cyber threats.