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Source: istock

Stranger hacks family's Ring camera and has creepy conversation with little girl

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Jul. 9 2024, Updated 4:04 p.m. ET

Many families are setting up cameras in their homes as a safety measure, to keep an eye on kids or pets when they're not in the same room, and to prevent or quickly respond to disasters. Cameras that connect to smartphones or laptops have become the norm. However, a series of hacking incidents have raised concerns about the security of connecting your home to the internet.

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Ashley LeMay and Dylan Blakeley, who have three daughters sharing a bedroom in their Nesbit, Mississippi home, installed a Ring camera in their girls' room. Just four days later, it was hacked by a stranger who suddenly had direct access to their home and children.

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Source: istock
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On December 8, 2019, eight-year-old Alyssa wandered into her room after hearing strange sounds and music coming from it, BuzzFeed News reports. "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," possibly the world's creepiest song to hear randomly, was playing. When she walked in, a strange voice said, "Hello there."

Alyssa was understandably confused about where the music and voices were coming from. She walked around the room picking up her toys to see if they were what was making noise. "Moments later," BuzzFeed reports, "the man started screaming a racial slur at her over and over until Alyssa responded by screaming, 'What? I can't hear you!'" The man told her to "go call her 'mommy' the n-word" and demanded that she repeat it back to him, saying, "Come on, girl, say it with me." 

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When Alyssa questioned who the voice was, he said, "I'm your best friend. You can do whatever you want right now. you can mess up your room; you can break your TV. You can do whatever you want." When Alyssa yet again expressed her confusion, the man told her, "I'm your best friend. Santa Claus." Scared and confused, Alyssa said, "I don't know who you are" and left the room. 

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Their Ring camera system had been hacked. A total stranger watched and talked to their daughter, a traumatizing incident for anyone, let alone an 8-year-old girl. The New York Times spoke to Ashley, who said that Alyssa "won't even sleep in her room. She actually spent the night with a friend the other night because she didn't want to be here." 

When Ashley and her husband watched the video of a total stranger interacting with her daughter, her "heart just dropped," she told BuzzFeed News. She said that she and her husband immediately unplugged the camera and reported what happened to Ring and to the police. But she didn't get the response she expected.  

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After reporting the incident to Ring, the family left for a preplanned trip. They received one email from Ring stating that the company detected "unusual activity" on their account, but then heard nothing more. "I'm shocked at Ring's response," Ashley told BuzzFeed News. "I thought I would have 16 voicemails from them when I got home because it's become such a big deal and it was such a creepy video. I was frustrated they hadn't given me an update."

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Ashley eventually spoke with a Ring employee who told her the account had not been hacked but that it was a "data breach from a third party." Later, when she spoke to the company's COO, he confirmed the account had indeed been hacked. "I'm so frustrated," she said.

Unfortunately, this isn't the only incident of a Ring camera being hacked. There have been several similar stories reported. A family's Ring camera in Florida was hacked, with the stranger hurling racial slurs at their son. NBC 2 reports the 15-year-old boy never appeared on camera during the incident, which "left the family to believe the hacker was peering into their private life longer than just that night."

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Ed Slaughter told NBC Connecticut he felt "violated" after someone hacked into his family's Ring camera account and launched into an obscenity-filled conversation directed at his mother-in-law. Vice reports that there is an entire podcast dedicated to those who hack into strangers' Ring accounts to harass them. It's a growing epidemic.  

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In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Ring said, "Recently, we were made aware of an incident where malicious actors obtained some Ring users' account credentials (e.g., username and password) from a separate, external, non-Ring service and reused them to log in to some Ring accounts. 

Unfortunately, when the same username and password is reused on multiple services, it's possible for bad actors to gain access to many accounts." The company said it took "appropriate actions to promptly block bad actors" and contact users who'd been affected.   

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Ashley doesn't feel any better about what happened, though. They still have no idea who the hacker was, how long they had access to the camera, and if they still have access to recorded footage. Even though they've taken down the camera, Ashley's daughters are too scared to sleep in their own room. "She told me yesterday that it's hard for her to remember the camera's not there," she told BuzzFeed News. "She doesn't want to be in that room." 

This article was originally published December 18, 2019. It has since been updated.

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