You’ve probably heard the horror stories.
A baby monitor camera that starts moving on its own.
Hackers gaining access to cameras, WiFi, personal information, and more.
Baby monitors are meant to keep your children safe, but they’re often riddled with security gaps and vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited by even low-level crooks.
So which baby monitors cannot be hacked?
Sadly, any monitor that transmits a signal through WiFi or over the air (basically, anything that’s not hardwired) CAN be hacked. But some brands and technologies are far more secure than others.
If you’re looking for a baby monitor that can’t be hacked, here are some of the safest choices:
- Hello Baby Wireless Video Baby Monitor (Amazon)
- *My top pick: Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor (Amazon)
- Nest Cam (WiFi baby monitor) (Amazon)
|Hello Baby Wireless||Secure signal hopping technology, night vision, and budget-friendly||Check on Amazon|
|**Infant Optics DXR-8||Safest & most secure tech, swivel camera, can add cameras for more coverage – My overall favorite||Check on Amazon|
|Nest Cam||Amazing audio-video quality, stream to any device, most expensive option||Check on Amazon|
Now let’s dig in a little bit deeper.
Why & how are baby monitors hacked?
Before we get into the best and safest baby monitors on the market (and which ones to avoid), let’s talk briefly about the technology, the vulnerabilities, and why people hack monitors in the first place.
The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to prevent a tech disaster.
Why do people hack baby monitors, anyway?
This is a really good question.
Experts say that there are a few different reasons a hacker might tap into a baby monitor:
- If the monitor is connected to the home’s WiFi, it can be an easy entry point for the hacker to gather other personal information from the network
- A hacked baby monitor, especially one with a camera that moves or swivels, could be a useful tool for “casing” a house, finding entry points, and seeing when no one’s home
- And of course, there’s obviously the disgusting voyeuristic reasons someone may want to hack into a camera in your home
One of the biggest reasons people do it, however, is because it’s easy.
A lot of modern baby monitors are overly concerned with the bells, whistles, and features that parents want, that they totally overlook basic security functions that most computers these days need.
In the NPR article (linked above), an expert mentions hackers casually trolling for open or unsecured monitors, just to see what they can find. It’s easy and relatively risk-free, so why not?
Which kinds of technology are most vulnerable?
Chances are unless you’ve paid serious money to have your own camera and monitor set up installed permanently via hardwire in your home, you’re going to go with a baby monitor that transmits audio and/or video wirelessly.
Wireless signals are always going to be at least somewhat vulnerable to attack, but each method has its own pros and cons.
You see more and more of these on the market as time goes on due to the convenience of checking the feed on your phone from anywhere in the house (or anywhere where there’s Internet). You also get all kinds of cool bells and whistles with WiFi monitors, which is great, but these can be quite vulnerable to attacks.
They’re a little more secure, in most cases, than analog monitors (see below), but the risk is high because a successful hacker could go on to access other devices in your home connected to the same network.
Even if your WiFi network is secure, the software inside the monitor may not be, and these may serve as a gateway to access to other info on your personal network.
These monitors work using the same technology that powers your radio or over-the-air TV signals. They’re glorified walkie-talkies. And while they don’t have a lot of complicated software that can be compromised, the signal is pretty much open for the taking to anyone who can figure out what frequency you’re using. These may be an inexpensive option, but they’re by far the least secure.
The upside, if you want to call it that, of an analog monitor is that a hacker might be able to listen in or see the video feed easily, but they won’t be able to access any of your personal information (or probably even control the camera).
(Learn more about the pros and cons of audio baby monitors vs video.)
Digital monitors transmit audio and video signal wirelessly using a digitally encrypted frequency. The best ones will use a technology called FHSS (Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum), which essentially changes the frequency of the signal often and at random, making it much harder to track or hack.
Digital options may also use a technology called DECC, which is just another heavily encrypted digital signal.
These are probably the safest choice overall, especially from a known brand with a good security track record, though they’re not 100% unhackable.
To summarize, the safest monitors are going to be digital monitors that use frequency hopping tech, or WiFi monitors that are extremely well-designed to clamp down on vulnerabilities (combined with a very secure WiFi network and password).
Still, it wouldn’t quite be right to call any of these choices “unhackable.” You just want to make it as difficult as possible for someone to attempt.
For a little more of an in-depth read on the technology behind baby monitor hacking, check out this great article from Life Hacker.
Can non-wifi baby monitors be hacked?
Yes, they can.
As mentioned above, analog monitors can be easily tuned into. All it takes is for someone to figure out which static frequency your monitor is using and to be within range.
Can digital baby monitors be hacked?
Digital monitors can be hacked as well, though they are probably the most secure outside of a hardwired system.
It’s possible for a hacker to track the digital frequency, even if it changes often using FHSS (frequency hopping), but it’s far more difficult. It’s a lot more likely that a would-be attacker would rather look for a less secure monitor to tap into.
The password problem
Gaining access to a WiFi baby monitor is, often, as simple as knowing the password.
Bet you didn’t know your baby monitor had a password!
That’s because many of them come with factory preset passwords that parents never really need to use for anything. (Think: something like ‘password’, ‘admin’, or ‘12345’. Something super easy to guess, and sometimes available on Google.)
If you DO have or end up buying a WiFi password, make sure you find out how to change that default password to something really long and full of as many crazy characters as you can use!
Most owners overlook this (in fairness, because the company’s don’t do a good job of telling them they need to change it in the first place).
3 things to avoid in a baby monitor (security red flags)
One of the best ways to go about shopping for a safe and secure baby monitor is to know which features you need to AVOID…
… like the plague.
Here are a couple of things I would really watch out for when you’re shopping. If a hard-to-hack baby monitor is what you’re looking for, I’d steer clear of:
I explained this in a little more detail above. But basically, analog monitors use similar technology to over-the-air TV or walkie talkies. Meaning, anyone within range who can figure out what frequency your monitor is on could conceivably tap into your feeds.
For most families, analog monitors are not going to be a great fit. However, there are SOME advantages, namely that they are usually much less expensive. And for anyone who’s worried about emissions of wireless signals around their baby, analog monitors definitely fall in the low emissions category.
But in terms of hackability, I would probably stay away.
Too many fancy bells and whistles:
State of the art baby monitors can be really tempting because they have really fun features attached.
The ability to pull up the video feed on your phone is pretty cool! And there are even some baby monitors that play music from a library of lullabies.
These can definitely be valuable features. But remember that inside your baby monitor (especially tech-heavy ones) is a lot of complicated software that powers these functions. Every extra function is an additional possible failure point that a hacker could use to break into your network, if the monitor is on WiFi especially.
Really stripped down and simple digital baby monitors are usually the safest.
Probably one of the best ways to avoid buying an easily hackable baby monitor is to do some research into the company and model you’re considering.
There have been countless studies (and lawsuits) about baby monitor safety, and many specific brands and models have been named as having too many vulnerabilities.
D-Link, WiFiBaby, and Summer Infant have all been named in vulnerability lawsuits or studies in the past, though their newer models may have better ratings.
Safest baby monitors on the market right now
So which baby monitors are going to keep you and your family safe from hacks?
Well, as I mentioned above, I’m not sure there’s anything on the market that’s COMPLETELY unhackable.
But if you pick:
- A digital monitor that uses frequency hopping technology
- And monitor from a known and trusted brand
- (I’ll also recommend a good WiFi monitor that’s pretty safe if you really want to go that route)
You should be in good hands.
Remember, hackers are looking for baby monitors that are easy to hack. If you own one that’s going to be a pain for them, they’ll be likely to pass you by.
Here are three really good, secure baby monitors to get you started:
Best Secure Baby Monitor (Budget): Hello Baby Wireless Video Baby Monitor
This digital baby monitor from Hello Baby is a great choice at an affordable price. It’s secure, low on extras and bells and whistles, but should have pretty much everything you need.
- FHSS signal hopping technology
- Night vision
- Temperature read-out
- 2-way talk
- Stationary camera
- Narrow field-of-view
- Digital zoom is grainy
Best Secure Baby Monitor (Mid-Range): Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor
For a little bit of a step up in price, you can get a super secure digital baby monitor that’s got a little bit of a better viewing experience. The DXR-8 from Infant Optics is a top pick from most experts for both safety and overall quality of the device.
In fact, I own this monitor myself for my daughter and can vouch for it! It’s held up for 3.5 years so far and counting with exceptional quality.
- All the usuals: Nightvision, temperature, 2-way talk, etc.
- Optical zoom lens included for better picture
- Control the camera wirelessly for a better view
- Uses FHSS technology to fight hackers
- Can add additional cameras
- More expensive than competitors
Best Secure Baby Monitor (High-End): Nest Cam (WiFi baby monitor)
If you really, truly want to use a WiFi baby monitor, you should be sure to get one of the most secure ones on the market. The Nest Cam is not actually designed to be a baby monitor but is meant for overall home security. That means, as far as WiFi cameras go, it’s security is really solid.
Just be sure to customize your password and change your own wireless network name and passwords to something extra secure!
(Here’s a good article from WIRED.com on how to make sure your Nest Cam is secure.)
- Top notch video and audio quality
- Easy to use (installation & app)
- Stream baby video and audio right to your phone or another device
- App must stay open on your device at all times to hear sound/see video
- Can take a few seconds to load when you open the app
- Most expensive option on this list
You’ve probably heard that baby monitors are super easy to hack. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case for many brands and models.
But knowing that means it only takes a little bit of extra research to put yourself ahead of the game.
The biggest vulnerabilities are usually caused by:
- WiFi monitors with two many bells & whistles and poor security
- Not updating the default password on your monitor
- Analog monitors that can easily be accessed by anyone on the same frequency
If you’re looking for the best secure, relatively hack-proof baby monitor, for my money it doesn’t get a lot better than the Infant Optics DRX-8.
It’s a really high-quality monitor in its own right and has some of the best security around.
Hope that helps!