Buyer Beware: Used Nest Cams Can Let People Spy on You

A member of the Facebook Wink Users Group discovered that after selling his Nest cam, he was still able to access images from his old camera—except it wasn’t a feed of his property. Instead, he was tapping into the feed of the new owner, via his Wink account. As the original owner, he had connected the Nest Cam to his Wink smart-home hub, and somehow, even after he reset it, the connection continued.

We decided to test this ourselves and found that, as it happened for the person on Facebook, images from our decommissioned Nest Cam Indoor were still viewable via a previously linked Wink hub account—although instead of a video stream, it was a series of still images snapped every several seconds.

Here’s the process we used to confirm it:

Our Nest cam had recently been signed up to Nest Aware, but the subscription was canceled in the past week. That Nest account was also linked to a Wink Hub 2. Per Nest’s instructions, we confirmed that our Aware subscription was not active, after which we removed our Nest cam from our Nest account—this is Nest’s guidance for a “factory reset” of this particular camera.

A screenshot on the Nest website with instructions for factory-resetting Nest Cams and Dropcams.
Nest’s instructions for doing a factory reset on the Nest Cam indicate that there is no factory reset button, a common feature on smart-home devices.

After that, we were unable to access the live stream with either the mobile Nest app or the desktop Nest app, as expected. We also couldn’t access the camera using the Wink app, because the camera was not online. We then created a new Nest account on a new (Android) device that had a new data connection. We followed the steps for adding the Nest Cam Indoor to that new Nest account, and we were able to view a live stream successfully through the Nest mobile app. However, going back to our Wink app, we were also able to view a stream of still images from the Nest cam, despite its being associated with a new Nest account.

In simpler terms: If you buy and set up a used Nest indoor camera that has been paired with a Wink hub, the previous owner may have unfettered access to images from that camera. And we currently don’t know of any cure for this problem.

Source: Buyer Beware: Used Nest Cams Can Let People Spy on You: Reviews by Wirecutter | A New York Times Company

Updated: patch your nest to fix it!