Is Your Baby Monitor Smart, Safe and Secure? MSNBC News

iwatchlife baby smiling in crib with safe baby monitor

There was a major story on the MSNBC News called Strangers Can Snoop with Baby Monitors. It talked about how easy it is to drive past a home and capture the image and sound from a baby monitor!

Most people know that they have to set up a password for their Internet router or anyone sitting outside can use their network and access their computer. What many parents (and grandparents) don’t realize is that most baby monitors broadcast in an open format for anyone to capture. If you have a baby monitor in use right now, you are probably wondering if you have a secure system or just a pretty box that lets anyone see what’s going on in your precious baby’s room…or hear when you are not at home. Not a good scenario.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when buying a baby monitor:

1. To be safe and secure, your baby monitor must work the same way as your wireless router does–with high-level encryption or encoding of the bits of information–so a hacker can’t read it.  Practically, this means it needs those “keys” or “passwords” you type in. If you have ever setup a wireless router in your home, you may recall seeing groups of letters like “WPA” or “WEP”. These are industry terms for very powerful encryption techniques that allow your computer to operate wirelessly without being hacked by the kid next door.

If you have a baby monitor that does not require this high-level encryption, chances are that your personal visual and audio is available for one and all to access…just like a TV channel.  Consumer Reports has done tests that have shown that baby monitors can broadcast signals as far away as 400 feet.

2. For the technically inclined, some of the baby monitor types you want to avoid are those using analog technology (older, lower priced models) and digital baby monitors using the ETSI DECT protocol.  Many “high-end” baby monitor products use this technology. It offers great range… but unfortunately it is not secure and can be hacked using instructions available freely over the web. Here is a link to security issues associated with the DECT protocol used in baby monitors: DECT Security

3. Look for a baby monitor that uses the 802.11n or 802.11g. protocol (the protocols the wireless routers use) … and do set up your password.

Having said all of this, where would you find a secure baby monitor that can restore your peace-of-mind while you grab a few minutes of Modern Family?

One option is to use a wireless IP camera or a simple webcam.  A wireless IP camera can be setup to broadcast images to your wireless router and then onto the the internet, where you can view the images.  A wireless IP camera will allow you to monitor your baby without having a computer running, which is what would be required if you use a webcam.  Webcams work great, but you need to be the computer doesn’t go to sleep and that the noise doesn’t bother your child.

Of course, you always need to be sure that any cords are far enough away from your child’s reach.

If you learn more about the safety of baby monitors and how you can use your own webcam to watch your baby right now, feel free to visit this page on our site.

Useful Links:

Baby Monitors: Four Things to Know Before You Buy (Consumer Reports)

Digital Enhanced Cordless Communications (Wikipedia)

Baby Monitor Streams Space Shuttle Video (MSNBC)

If you have questions, feedback or suggestion, please let us know. Look forward to hearing from you!

Blog Author:

 Bill Murphy, COO & President (US), iWatchLife

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