MIDDLESEX CENTRE, Ont. -- A southwestern Ontario family had a creepy encounter with a camera monitoring their young child when it suddenly began playing music and a voice said they were being watched.
It happened a little after nine in the evening on July 7 to a young family in Middlesex Centre, a rural area north of London, Ont., according to Ontario Provincial Police Const. Liz Melvin.
She said one of the parents was rocking the young child to sleep in the nursery when the camera was remotely activated.
"The camera played some eerie music and a voice could be heard indicating the parent and child were being watched," Melvin said. "Obviously it's going to be disturbing."
The family's Internet service provider confirmed the router had been hacked and the source of the hack could be from anywhere in the world, she said.
In response to the incident, the OPP issued a warning Wednesday reminding people that cameras connected to the Internet can be hacked. They said security cameras and monitoring systems can be susceptible to hackers because many have an option to be used remotely enabled by default.
"Be aware that potentially nothing is secure if it's connected to the Internet," Melvin said.
Melvin said no other incidences have been reported and she wasn't aware of any past investigations into this type of camera hacking in the area.
"Whether it's isolated or not, that's a good question, it seems to be in this area, but it could just be that it's unreported," Melvin said.
Even if it is an isolated occurrence, Melvin said camera hacking is an ongoing concern because of the potential for unauthorized people to make video recordings.
She said there are no suspects in the case and the investigation is ongoing.
Ritesh Kotak, a research and innovation strategist with the Toronto police, deals with cyber security issues and says remote hacking of devices like cameras will become more prevalent as more Internet-connected devices are created if proactive steps aren't taken.
"It's not just cameras, it's smart watches, fridges, our cars, everything just about now is connected to the Internet," Kotak said. "About 25 billion (devices connected to the Internet) will be sold by the year 2020, that's 30 times more than 2009 just to give you an idea."
"The importance of cyber security and having proper procedures, policies, technology and a solution to this is absolutely imperative moving forward," Kotak said.
Kotak says people can protect themselves from device hacking by using strong passwords, installing software updates and guarding against phishing scams where hackers attempt to solicit sensitive information.
Melvin agrees it's important for people to use strong passwords and suggests also checking if their camera is remotely enabled by the manufacturer, purchasing cameras from trusted sources and covering cameras not in use.
Melvin herself decided after hearing about the incident to cover the camera on her office laptop to protect against unwanted viewers.
"Make sure you have some checks in place to minimize your risk," Melvin said. "You don't want to invite a stranger into your home or your life."
-- By Matt Ingram in Toronto