FTC: Negligence by security camera vendor harms customers' privacy

The security camera seller didn't use secure software, and hundreds of customers were exposed online, the FTC says

Hundreds of people had private moments broadcast publicly over the Internet through security cameras they bought from a vendor that got in hot water with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

TRENDnet's lax security practices allowed hackers to post links on the Web to live camera feeds, exposing the private lives of the affected customers, including minors, the FTC said Wednesday.

TRENDnet has settled FTC charges of inadequate security practices related to its SecurView security cameras, the agency said. While the company said its cameras were secure, the devices had software that left them open to online viewing, and in some instances listening, by anyone with the cameras' Internet address, the FTC said in a press release.

The FTC's complaint against TRENDnet was its first against the marketer of an everyday product with connectivity to the Internet and other mobile devices. Such connectivity is often called the Internet of things.

"The Internet of things holds great promise for innovative consumer products and services," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. "But consumer privacy and security must remain a priority as companies develop more devices that connect to the Internet."

TRENDnet didn't immediately respond to a request for a comment on the settlement.

TRENDnet marketed its cameras for home security, baby monitoring and other uses, the FTC said in a complaint. Since about April 2010, TRENDnet failed to use reasonable security to design and test its software, the FTC alleged. As a result, hundreds of consumers' private camera feeds were made public on the Internet.

In January 2012, a hacker exploited this flaw and made it public, and, eventually, hackers posted links to the live feeds of nearly 700 of the cameras, the FTC said. The feeds displayed babies asleep in their cribs, young children playing and adults going about their daily lives.

After TRENDnet learned of this flaw, it uploaded a software patch to its website and alerted its customers of the need to update their cameras, the FTC said.

TRENDnet also transmitted user login credentials in clear, readable text over the Internet, even though free software was available to secure such transmissions, the FTC alleged. TRENDnet's mobile applications for the cameras stored consumers' login information in clear, readable text on their mobile devices, the agency also alleged.

Under the terms of its settlement with the agency, TRENDnet is prohibited from misrepresenting the security of its cameras or the security, privacy, confidentiality, or integrity of the information that its cameras or other devices transmit. The company is barred from misrepresenting the extent to which a consumer can control the security of information the cameras or other devices store, capture, access, or transmit.

In addition, the settlement requires TRENDnet to establish a comprehensive information security program designed to address security risks that could result in unauthorized access to or use of the company's devices. The settlement also requires the company to obtain third-party assessments of its security programs every two years for the next 20 years.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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Tags U.S. Federal Trade CommissionregulationsecurityTRENDnetCivil lawsuitslegalEdith Ramirezgovernmentprivacy

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