It appears that Ring, the popular Amazon-owned home security camera company, has more fires to put out in assuring the privacy and safety of its customers.
Last month, Ring came under fire when it was found that their weak account security requirements allowed a slew of hackers to access live footage and speak to individuals and families within their homes through the cameras.
Now, according to Vice, Ring has had to fire at least four of its own employees after investigating complaints that they had improperly accessed customer video footage.
“We are aware of incidents discussed below where employees violated our policies,” a letter from Ring, dated January 6, reads.
“Over the last four years, Ring has received four complaints or inquiries regarding a team member’s access to Ring video data,” the letter continues, explaining that although each of these employees was authorized to view customer video data, their attempted access went beyond what was needed for their job.
“In each instance, once Ring was made aware of the alleged conduct, Ring promptly investigated the incident, and after determining that the individual violated company policy, terminated the individual,” the letter states, adding that Ring has also taken steps to limit customer video access to a smaller number of employees.
The letter came as a response to one sent by a handful of senators to Amazon head Jeff Bezos in November 2019. In the letter, Senators Ron Wyden, Chris Van Hollen, Edward J. Markey, Christopher A. Coons, and Gary C. Peters asked several questions, arguing that such easily hackable hardware could even pose a national security risk.
This news follows just a month after several families were terrorized by Ring hackers, including a biracial Florida family who were harassed and slurred and a Mississippi family whose 8-year-old daughter was approached by an unidentified man claiming to be Santa and telling her to destroy her room.
“Is your kid a baboon, like the monkey?” the person can be heard saying, introducing himself as if it was part of a streamed video prank or podcast.
The clip shows the hacker asking the parents to search for a website, which they refuse.
He says “I will leave you and your family alone, or I could do this” before turning on the alarm.
As the batteries are pulled from the device, he can be heard trying—and failing—to read a URL.
Josefine Brown, one of the victims, told NBC-2 that the hacker must have been looking into the home for some time before harassing the family. “They had been watching us because that’s the only way you know I have a son and the only way you know what he looks like,” she said.
In DeSoto County, Mississippi, Ashley LeMay was terrified to find that a hacker had been watching through the camera that overlooked the bedroom shared by her three daughters.
In a chilling clip from the LeMay family’s security footage, their 8-year-old girl is seen in her room when mysterious music starts playing from the Ring. A man’s voice is then heard saying, “Hello there.”
During another clip, the voice is heard saying, “I’m your best friend. I’m Santa Claus.” When the terrified little girl begins crying for her mother, the hacker asks her, “don’t you want to be my best friend?”
Each time I've watched this video it's given me chills.
A Desoto County mother shared this Ring video with me. Four days after the camera was installed in her daughters' room she says someone hacked the camera & began talking to her 8-year-old daughter.
— Jessica Holley (@Jessica_Holley) December 10, 2019
“You can do whatever you want right now,” he says in another clip. “You can mess up your room. You can break your TV.”
While we see no reason to rule out that the monster who hacked into the little girl’s room is a pedophile as we previously assumed, Vice did bring to light the fact that the slew of Ring hacks all appear to be related to a sick podcast called NulledCast, which attempted to erase all evidence of their participation and encouragement of the hacks when mainstream media began picking up on it.
“Hey NulledCast fans, we need to calm down on the ring trolling, we have 3 investigations and two of us are already probably f***ed,” one of the self-described podcast staff wrote on a NulledCast Discord server, according to Vice’s tech blog, Motherboard. “Drop suggestions on what else we should do. It will still happen just on a much smaller scale,” they added.
While the identities of the hackers remain unknown as of this writing, one thing is clear: Ring is not doing enough to earn its customers’ trust.
The company has been repeatedly scolded by virtually every tech blog over its failure to force all users to use two-factor authentication in order to log in, an option that most users do not take advantage of. With frequent data breaches elsewhere in the world and sophisticated hackers crafting effective software to find and sell login credentials, it’s looking like the feeling of “security” Ring seeks to provide may not be worth it.
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