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Modern Parenthood

Baby monitor hacked: So what?

Baby monitor hacked in Texas: What's the big deal? Why this dad is not concerned. A baby monitor, hacked and used to yell curse words at an infant, is the least of his worries. 

By Guest Blogger / August 14, 2013

Some Texas parents are now sharing their story about their baby monitor being hacked in order to warn others to make their Wi-Fi devices secure. Shown here: the Information Systems and Internet Security lab at New York University, where students learn to foil hackers.

AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

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The Web is in a minor panic over an incident in Texas in which what is believed to be a webcam used as baby monitor was hacked, and curses were yelled at an infant.

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Contributing blogger

James Norton got his professional start at the Monitor as an online news producer, before moving over to edit international news during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Since leaving the Monitor in 2004, he has worked as a radio producer, author, and food blogger. 

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The infant was born deaf, so she did not hear the hacker's abuse. By another happy twist of fate, the infant was also unable to comprehend language, so if she had been able to hear the things yelled at her, they would have registered as random bursts of noise.

It's easy to draw this incident into a greater collection of stories that illustrate something people like to call "the dangers of the Internet," a grab bag of incidents ranging from the real and serious (identity theft) to the sensational (high-profile government leaks) to the everyday, but legitimately worrisome (online bullying).

But as the father of an infant – and the owner of a video monitor – I can say that what happened in Texas is not only not a real danger of the Internet, it is literally my least greatest fear. I'd put it well down the list from diaper rash, and slightly lower than onesies with complicated systems of snaps.

For starters, baby monitor hijacking and subsequent verbal humiliation of the baby ("milk is for closers!") is a highly unusual occurrence, happening on a "slim-to-none" basis among all the millions of monitors sold and webcams pressed into service as monitors.

Surely the Venn diagram between people capable of hacking a webcam or other Internet-capable video monitors and those who want to yell swear words at an infant covers a relatively small patch of territory – as noted above, the only people you're likely to bother are the parents.

There is no doubt that worrying about your baby ranges between a part-time hobby and full-time obsession for new parents, and my wife and I indulge in it liberally. (Using the monitor to confirm that our perfectly healthy and quietly sleeping baby is still breathing is a popular diversion.)

But when a Facebook friend of ours questioned our use of the video monitor for the security concerns detailed above, I mentioned that I wasn't worried about it, as we'd bought the Rate-A-Baby3000 monitor. It is, I explained, the only monitor that lets the general public look at your baby, post comments, and assign a star rating assessing his or her cuteness level.

The joke didn't go over well.

Some people have the energy to take every threat – regardless of its likelihood or its seriousness – equally. We'll be over here freaking out about SIDS, a suddenly developed ability to climb and jump over the side of the crib, and, eventually, the SATs, thank you very much.

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