Jamie Summitt wishes she'd known about the security risk of baby monitors before she added one to her baby registry. The new stay-at-home mom thought a baby monitor would be a good way to keep an eye on her napping baby boy. Turns out, she now thinks she wasn't the only one watching her 3-month-old in their South Carolina home.
Last week, Summitt took to Facebook to warn other parents to research their baby monitors and to avoid the one she used, a FREDI wireless baby camera monitor that looks like a black-and-white puppy. She thought the device, ordered from Amazon, was a good fit for her and her family. Being able to access the video feed from an app on multiple people's phones through Wi-Fi seemed convenient, and even more amazing was that the camera could pan almost 360 degrees through the room simply by dragging her fingers across the phone's screen.
However, last Wednesday night, as her baby slept in the bassinet in her room, she noticed from the living room that the baby monitor camera slowly panned across the room to her empty bed, where she breastfed her son every day. It stopped and then panned back over to the sleeping baby.
The thing was, both parents were together at that moment, and neither of them had moved the camera. That's when Summitt's heart sank. She realized that earlier that morning, she had woken up with the camera pointed right at her, even though she had last faced it at her baby. At that time, she'd assumed that it was her husband, Kevin, checking on her and the baby while he was at work. But Kevin said he had not accessed the app all day.
"If you have this baby monitor, do yourself a favor and unplug it and throw it away RIGHT now," the mom wrote on Facebook. "I feel so violated. This person has watched me day in and day out in the most personal and intimate moments between my son and I. I am supposed to be my son's protector and have failed miserably. I honestly don't ever want to go back into my own bedroom."
While almost half of the Amazon reviews for the FREDI baby monitor have given it five stars, among the negative reviews, users have complained about not being able to change the default password. Some reviewers shared similar experiences of the camera moving on its own.
Summit said they called the police, but "nothing can be done." She also tried to contact the manufacturer but says the number isn't in service anymore.
"(Police) say with this type (of device), anything with a camera or monitor that goes through the Wi-Fi, they say it was a really common issue, and that it's almost impossible to prevent people from hacking into your Wi-Fi and internet, and that we needed to update our password and change our passwords," Summitt told ABC 4.
Tod Beardsley, the director of research for security analytics company Rapid7, told NPR that in its 2015 case study, the company found a number of security vulnerabilities in baby monitors "pretty much across the board" (though they didn't specifically look at the one Summitt used). He suggests parents looking for a baby monitor use less sophisticated versions that use radio technology instead of the internet.
As for Summitt, she told NPR that she and her husband will now stick to the ol' leave-the-door-cracked-open approach.