Wyze security issue exposed private cameras to 13,000 strangers

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Around 13,000 Wyze security camera customers were able to see sensitive content from strangers’ devices Friday. As cameras were coming back online after a service outage, the customers saw thumbnails from other people’s feeds in their apps, and some clicked through to see videos.

The Seattle-based company alerted customers about the “security incident” in an email Monday. It says the original hours-long outage was caused by Amazon Web Services. When the cameras came back online, the device IDs and user ID mapping were mixed up, leading to some people having access to data from the wrong accounts. The company said a separate third-party partner caused the problem, but that issue has already been fixed. The Verge first reported the breach Monday.

“We must do more and be better, and we will. We are so sorry for this incident and are dedicated to rebuilding your trust,” the company said in the email.

Multiple customers posted online about seeing thumbnails from strangers’ cameras in their Wyze apps when it happened.

“It’s a totally different camera, different time zone, different everything. It even is showing events in my event history. So does this mean my cameras are showing up for other people as well?? Not pleased,” said Reddit user frozen-icecube.

Home security technology has been a growing market for the past decade, driven by affordable Wi-Fi-connected cameras that let people see what’s going on outside and inside their homes from a smartphone. Wyze’s first home cam was $20.

Standard security issues such as breaches and hacks are even more high-stakes for the technology, which can expose highly personal information. The cameras are often used inside homes, even as baby monitors, and can pick up private conversations as well as video footage.

There have been a number of similar problems over the years. Last May, the Federal Trade Commission claimed camera maker Ring allowed employees to access videos of customers and failed to use adequate security measures to protect them against hacking. Amazon bought the company in 2018, and most of the problems took place before the acquisition. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Like all internet-connected technology, home security cameras will always carry some risk. If you are using them, here are some tips to stay as safe as possible. For more security tips, check out our detailed advice here.

  • Use a reputable brand you’ve heard of, but don’t assume that means it’s 100 percent secure.
  • Make sure the camera you buy has a light that shows when the camera and mic are turned on.
  • Turn on end-to-end encryption if offered. It’s often off by default.
  • Change any default passwords.
  • Be thoughtful about where you place each camera. Never put one in a bedroom or bathroom, for example. Point them at entrances and exits instead.

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