from the watching-you-watching-me dept
Another day, another company leaving massive troves of consumer data openly accessible to the internet.
One of the darlings of the holiday tech marketing season was Wyze Labs, which provides significantly cheaper ($20) in home internet-enabled cameras compared to competitors like Ring. While both Wirecutter and CNN put Wyze’s cheap camera on their holiday must buy shopping lists, the company’s customers got more than they bargained for under the tree this Christmas.
The folks at Twelve Security discovered that camera information, Wi-Fi network details, email addresses, Alexa tokens, and even biometric data of 2.4 million customers was inadvertently left available to the open internet from December 6 to December 27. Security researcher “Ghost” stated he’d “never encountered a breach of this magnitude,” and noted that a significant, major breach had already impacted the same company about six months ago. A second post by the firm notes how the cameras are largely just rebranded Xiaomi cameras from China, funneling much of this collected data back to Alibaba cloud servers.
Wyze, which sells the cameras largely through its relationship with Amazon, told the New York Times that an “employee error” was to thank for the massive breach:
“The first Wyze breach occurred after an employee created a flexible database to quickly pull user analytics, such as camera connectivity rates, user growth and the number of devices connected per user, Mr. Crosby said.
That employee removed the security protocols on the new database, exposing customers? personal information. Customers? passwords were not saved on the breached database, so hackers could not access live camera feeds, said Dongsheng Song, a co-founder at Wyze.”
Yeah, whoops. Prompted by the data leak, the company began a complete head to toe security audit (why this hadn’t already been done isn’t clear) and found another, second breach on December 27 — the details of which haven’t yet been made public and continues to be investigated by the company. On the plus side, the company at least acknowledged the need to do better, which doesn’t always happen:
“?We didn?t properly communicate and enforce our security protocols to new employees,? Mr. Song said. ?We should have built controls, or a more robust tool and process to make sure security protocols are followed,? he added. Wyze executives said that the employee who made the mistake is still employed at the company. ?It was an accident,? Mr. Crosby said. ?We are very, very sorry and taking it very seriously.”
Most IOT vendors don’t prioritize privacy or security because it erodes revenues. The consumers who buy these products only care about cheap tech. And government regulators remain uninterested in seriously penalizing companies that fail to secure their systems. As such, the breach highlights why in this vacuum there’s such a growing push to begin including security and privacy warnings in user hardware reviews so consumers are at least fleetingly aware of the companies they’re getting into bed with.
But it also again highlights how dumb tech (like say, a dog) often remains the smarter option.