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Smart devices being taken over by hackers

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Posted at 6:41 AM, Dec 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-17 09:56:50-05

Smart devices are all the rage for holiday gift giving but technology experts warn those smart locks, lights, and cameras can give crooks an open door to your home if not properly secured.

Reports have been popping up across the country telling tales of hackers accessing people's devices and either scaring or threatening them.

In Tennessee, a strange voice startled an 8-year-old Memphis girl as she played in her bedroom. Speaking to the young girl through her family's newly installed Ring camera, the man claimed to be Santa Claus.

"They could watch them sleeping, changing, they could have watched a lot of things," Ashley LeMay, the girl's mother, told WMC Action News.

This scary situation is not unique.

A family in Florida was recently targeted by a hacker who triggered the home alarm system before shouting racial slurs over the Ring microphone.

"They've been watching us," Josefine Brown, the homeowner, told NBC 2 News. "The comments he made were really hurtful"

Some cyber safety experts say the same smart devices designed to improve safety and comfort in our homes are also giving crooks an open door.

"All of (the devices) work through one central point of vulnerability and that's your wifi network," Data Discovery Sciences CEO Ed Peters said.

Peters said it only takes one unlocked device for a hacker to take over.

"Once somebody gets into your wifi network, whether through the doorbell or one of the devices like an Echo or Alexa, they can then have something that looks across your network for points of vulnerability," Peters, a cyber security expert, said.

Peters warns against re-naming your network name to something like "Jon's wifi," which can lead hackers directly to your devices.

It's also recommended that people enable the two factor authentication, which forces you to enter a second password on your phone in order to access any of your devices.

San Luis Obispo police said it's not considered burglary or home invasion if someone hacks into your devices unless they physically enter your home.