A security slip-up with a home security camera sounds absurd, to say the least, but occasional reports of such happenings suggest the matter needs to be taken extremely seriously when it occurs.
An odd story out of the U.K. this week explains how a woman with such a camera started receiving live footage to her smartphone. But it wasn’t from her camera.
Instead of showing the interior of her home, the woman, Louisa Lewis, found herself looking at a family she didn’t know, in a kitchen she didn’t recognize. The voice of a child could also be heard off-camera, the BBC reported.
Lewis owns the Swann Smart Security Camera, a compact, wireless device for both indoor and outdoor use.
She said she’d been using the camera since last year and had had no issues with it until last weekend. According to Lewis, she was out of her home when she received an alert from the camera to her phone, suggesting the device’s motion sensor had been triggered.
She immediately realized the footage streaming to her phone wasn’t of her home and instead showed what appeared to be a family in their kitchen. She assumed it was a technical error and thought she could ignore it. But then several more alerts came through showing video of the same location.
Lewis contacted Swann to explain what was happening, but the company reportedly took two days before the erroneous streams were stopped.
A Swann spokeswoman told the BBC the issue was caused because two cameras had been made with the same “bank-grade security key, which secures all communications with its owner,” something the spokeswoman put down to “human error.”
She said it happened “after the [family] connected the duplicate camera to their network and ignored the warning prompt that notified: ‘Camera is already paired to an account,’ and left the camera running.”
The spokeswoman expressed regret that the matter hadn’t been dealt with more quickly, and said changes had been made for any future cases.
But most concerning of all, Swann said it was yet to identify the family so it could inform them of what had happened.
Swann has been in the business of security monitoring for 30 years and now runs a global operation. Its website features a large range of security systems alongside a slogan that says “Security made smarter.”
The company called the incident a “one-off,” but the BBC’s report notes a similar episode just last month when another owner of a Swann camera received footage from a pub that happened to be a short drive away. The recipient of the video told the pub owner about what had happened. Swann put the error down to both users registering their products with identical usernames and passwords, though the report claimed this not to be the case.
While we’ve heard in the past of smart monitoring devices being hacked, incidents where the feed simply turns up on the wrong device seem rare.
Swann told Digital Trends it’s been in contact with the affected customers“to sincerely apologize for the recording error that took place when using our security cameras. We acknowledge and regret the concern and inconvenience caused to all parties involved.”
It added: “We take the security and privacy of our customers very seriously and are taking corrective action while investigating this issue further as our highest priority.”
Updated on 29 July: Added statement from Swann.