A family in Orinda, California, got the fright of their lives while watching the NFC Championship football game last Sunday, the Mercury News reports. Suddenly over the game, the familiar national emergency alert squawk siren began playing. It announced that North Korea had launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles headed to Los Angeles, Chicago, and Ohio. Everyone in those areas had only three hours to evacuate, the warning said. It also said that the U.S. had launched a retaliatory strike against North Korea. In other words, the country was at war.
After “five minutes of sheer terror,” the family noticed something odd–despite the emergency alert system warning, the NFC Championship game continued to play on their television uninterrupted. That’s when the family discovered the warning had come from their Nest security camera. After calls to 911 and to Nest, the family discovered they had been the victim of a “third-party hack,” according to a Nest employee.
A Google spokesperson later confirmed that no systems at Nest had been hacked. Rather, the hacker had gained access to the family’s Nest camera by using their password, which had been compromised by an unrelated data breach. Still, the incident exemplifies the vulnerabilities people will open themselves up to as smart home gadgets appear in more homes. With little more than a compromised password, hackers could terrify occupants of those homes remotely and at will.
For years, smart-home device makers have focused on the “wow” and “futuristic” features of their products. It’s about time they all start focusing more on security and privacy before smart-home device hacks turn deadly.