Late last year, it was discovered that yet another set of IoT devices were being turned against their owners by malicious people. It would be a stretch to call these losers “hackers,” considering all they did was utilize credentials harvested from multiple security breaches to take control of poorly secured cameras made by Ring.
Password reuse is common and these trolls made the most of it. Streaming their exploits to paying users, the perpetrators shouted racist abuse at homeowners, talked to/taunted their children, and interrupted their sleep by blaring loud noises through the cameras’ mics.
This string of events landed Ring in court. Ring claims this isn’t the company’s fault since the credentials weren’t obtained from Ring itself. But Ring’s lax security standards allowed users to bypass two-factor authentication and, until recently, didn’t warn users of unrecognized login attempts or lock their accounts after a certain number of login failures.
There’s another insidious twist to this new form of online/offline abuse. And it’s caught the attention of the feds. The FBI says these cameras are now being combined with swatting to inflict additional misery on camera owners.
Recently, offenders have been using victims’ smart devices, including video and audio capable home surveillance devices, to carry out swatting attacks. To gain access to the smart devices, offenders are likely taking advantage of customers who re-use their email passwords for their smart device. The offenders use stolen email passwords to log into the smart device and hijack features, including the live-stream camera and device speakers.
They then call emergency services to report a crime at the victims’ residence. As law enforcement responds to the residence, the offender watches the live stream footage and engages with the responding police through the camera and speakers. In some cases, the offender also live streams the incident on shared online community platforms.
Combining two things people hate into one dangerous blend is someone’s idea of a good time. Two recent incidents involving hacked devices and swatting fortunately ended without anyone being killed by law enforcement.
One Florida woman was called by a “hacker” and told to go outside and see if the local SWAT team was there. She was met by police shortly afterwards who told her they’d received a call she’d been murdered by her husband. No raid happened but officers were showered with insults and obscenities by “hackers” via the compromised Ring doorbell/camera for failing to provide the entertainment the online assholes were seeking.
A similar incident happened in Virginia, with the “hacker” taunting both the family and officers as they investigated a fake suicide call.
Through the family’s four Ring cameras, a hacker screamed, “Help me!” as officers checked inside the home to make sure everyone was safe.
Back outside, the officers realized the intermittent screaming was coming from the home’s Ring cameras.
A man started talking to the officers through the cameras, saying he hacked the homeowner’s accounts and faked the 911 call.
Officer: “What is it that you need from us?”
Hacker: “Oh nothing, we were just [messing] around, after this we’ll log out, tell him to change his Yahoo password, his Ring password, and stop using the same passwords for the same [stuff].”
Chesapeake Police officers covered up the cameras and asked who was screaming. The hacker told officers it was him yelling for help, claiming he livestreamed the Ring cameras when officers arrived and charged people five dollars each to watch online.
So, that’s where we’re at, hellscape-wise. A nation full of devices that can be taken over by anyone with the right credentials and turned into entertainment for sociopaths. Of course, being better about locking down IoT devices won’t stop these same sociopaths from weaponizing local law enforcement agencies. Choosing a strong, unique password isn’t going to keep assholes from swatting people. It’s only going to deprive them of their ability to witness the potentially deadly results of their actions.