ORLANDO, Fla. – Ring doorbell cameras may protect homeowners on the inside, but this new technology can leave homeowners vulnerable to hackers.
Ring doorbell cameras are providing homeowners with a window to the world outside their door. Many homeowners are sharing their videos of porch pirates and suspicious people all over social media.
But this extra piece of security isn't as safe as it seems.
News 6 wanted to know the ins and outs of this popular video monitoring system before all the big shopping sales start to hit this month.
Just last week, the cybersecurity group Bitdefender confirmed it told Ring that hackers could remotely shut down ring doorbell video and steal Wi-Fi passwords as homeowners try to reset it. Ring responded saying this is only possible during initial setup, clarifying that those within Wi-Fi range and proper technical setup could have potentially discovered a user’s Wi-Fi credentials.
A security company called Dojo found another vulnerability. According to Digitaltrends.com, Dojo by BullGuard did a live hack attack into a Ring doorbell video during the Mobile World Summit, a major meeting of tech minds held in Barcelona, Spain. The security company discovered an issue in the Ring app.
Ring said it has since fixed that flaw, claiming its customers are safe, as long as they update their apps and software to the latest version.
"Customer trust is important to us and we take the security of our devices seriously," a spokesperson said in a statement to News 6. "We rolled out an automatic security update addressing the issue, and it's since been patched."
Cybersecurity expert Danny Jenkins is with Orlando-based ThreatLocker, which helps major corporations safeguard all their data, said its more than just hacking.
He said the recent Ring hack exposed how a cybercriminal could drive down your street, spot the homes with a Ring doorbell and then try to hack into your Ring network from a few houses away.
"It's not just accessing the Ring doorbell anymore," Jenkins said. "It's now I've managed to steal your Wi-Fi password, because I knew when you were setting up your doorbell."
Jenkins said that’s not all the cybercriminal can access.
“If someone accesses your Ring (doorbell) and any of your other cloud-based accounts, they could access your video content,” Jenkins said.
That means a stranger could know when you or your kids are home alone or gone for long periods of time, he said.
Ring disputed this claim saying a hacker would not have the ability to gather any personal information, Ring account information or other data. The company has since addressed any vulnerabilities.
Jenkins said the best way to protect yourself is to create a separate Wi-Fi network for your video surveillance cameras. He also recommends that, when installing your Ring doorbell camera, you set up a difficult password and remember to change it often.
Legal expert Steven Kremer, an Orlando-area attorney, said you should always read the fine print of the terms and conditions with any surveillance system, to know what your rights are and what limited liability falls on the company.
"What people need to do is they need to take this technology with a grain of salt and be aware of the potential for misuse and also give consideration if there are better ways to get the same results," Kremer said.
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Kremer also discussed all the recent data hacks on big corporations and major retailers across the world.
"What happens when you have bad actors that seek out that information?" Kremer said. "Amazon may have the best intentions in the world but if they are a victim of a hack attack, it creates a concern."
All these recent vulnerabilities to your private data have us asking: What exactly do you need to know about your rights and your privacy, before you make that purchase on Cyber Monday? And what legal rights do corporations and law enforcement have to your video and Wi-Fi information?
Cassidy Temple, of Orlando, recently handed over portions of her Ring video to Orlando police, after one of her neighbors was attacked in Thornton Park. Police were able to make an arrest several days later.
"The intention was to protect myself," Temple said. "But if it protected my neighbors, that's all the better."
The Orlando Police Department is one of 20 law enforcement agencies in Central Florida that have partnered with Ring to help solve and prevent neighborhood crimes.
But police confirm they have limited access.
"We only have access to video that people give us access to, voluntarily give us," said Winter Park Police Chief Mike Deal.
Deal said that, while all the Ring videos recorded on those doorbell cameras are stored on Ring's cloud network, officers don't have any access to the cloud data.
On its website, Ring states users have full control of who views their Ring footage and points out that only content you chose to share on the Neighbors App can be accessed by police.
"We don't even have information on who has cameras, unless we go out physically ourselves and look at people's homes," Deal said.
The Winter Park Police Department was one of first Central Florida departments to partner with Ring. The local law enforcement agency is featured on the Neighbors App page. But the chief said these videos don't change anything about how the department conducts its investigations.
"We don't look at the cameras. We don't ask for access to their cameras, we don't have time to look at people's cameras," Deal said. "Certainly, there's been video out there of innocent people going up to a door, maybe trying to sell something, maybe got the wrong place. So, there's a lot of work that has to be done on our part before we would actually charge somebody with a crime."
The chief said it's difficult to say if the increase in the number of Ring doorbell cameras in area neighborhoods has deterred crime in Winter Park, but Deal said the cameras have helped solve a couple of recent cases.
One was a burglary and arson that happened in August 2018. Winter Park police said the suspect in the case was caught on Ring video stealing a package. A Ring camera also helped solve another porch pirate case three months later.
According Ring.com, Ring products are based on a simple principle: using your existing home Wi-Fi network to create a ring of security around your home. The website states that by hooking up to your Wi-Fi, Ring products use the free Ring app that's available for Apple and Android devices to alert you whenever someone approaches your door or comes within the range of a security camera.
Allan Conseur, of Winter Park, is one of several residents in the Penn Place neighborhood who uses a Ring doorbell camera in addition to other surveillance cameras located both inside and outside his home. He said that, even though he's aware of the potential risks, he's not really worried about someone hacking into his Ring doorbell.
"The technology is constantly changing," he said. "You always have to be concerned about your information, and this cloud is probably no different than any other system that people use."
Both Conseur and Temple said the cameras create one extra layer of surveillance, and an opportunity to be a good neighbor should anything get caught on camera.
“Because so many of us have them already, I think we are pretty well protected,” said Conseur.