South Carolina parents say baby monitor was hacked after camera lens moved on its own

A mother said she fears she "failed" to protect her son.

June 4, 2018, 9:40 PM

When Jamie Summitt welcomed her son, Noah, into the world in February, she wanted only the best for her newborn. Three months wiser and after brush with what she said the seedier side of tech, she feels like she "failed him."

The 24-year-old said she made a creepy discovery around 5:30 p.m. on May 30 when she says the lens on the $40 baby monitor started moving without command.

"We were out in the other room eating dinner, and I could hear the mechanic sound of it, but nobody sitting there was moving it," she told ABC News.

Jamie and her husband, Kevin, said they rushed over to the bedroom where Noah was sound asleep in his bassinet and stood there aghast as the monitor's lens swiveled on its own.

"I looked down and it was moving away from the bassinet and over to my bed, then stopped and panned quickly back over to where he was sleeping," Jamie Summitt said. "I said, 'Oh my god! Grab it and unplug it. Go grab it.'"

The baby monitor, which featured an infrared night-vision function, nanny motion detection and had a hi-resolution lens that rotates 360 degrees, was a gift from her parents, who bought it online back in April, Jamie said.

Jamie said the microphone also seemed extra sensitive.

"I could hear Noah's diaper crinkling and know he was waking up," she said.

ABC News' attempts to reach the manufacturer and reach the online retailer were unsuccessful.

A 2015 study conducted by tech security firm Rapid7 found that a number of internet-connected baby monitors had subpar security.

"Overall, we did find some devices that had some very easy-to-exploit issues," Mark Stanislav, the study's author, told ABC News.

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, a non-profit representing approximately 250 manufacturers of prenatal to preschool products in the country, sent a statement noting that many of today's baby monitors have encryption capabilities.

"Monitors that do not rely on their own networks and instead are connected through a home's router require strong home password and security settings to reduce the risk of vulnerability," the statement reads.

Jamie said she and her husband tried to protect the device as best they could. They followed directions to pair the gizmo to their smartphones and home Wi-Fi by entering the factory password and then updating it with one that they chose.

They said they were prompted to reset the password multiple times and required to update the WiFi address whenever she took the monitor to her parents' home.

It wasn't turned on all day or night, either, Jamie said, adding, "We only used it when Noah was sleeping."

Like many new parents, Jamie wanted peace of mind whenever Noah napped.

"I'm a first-time mom, and so I'm terrified he's going to die when he's sleeping," she said.

And when her husband had to return to work from paternity leave, the monitor let him spend time doting on his son remotely.

"He hated to go back to work, and leaving us so he would log on and looked at him and watched him while he worked," said Jamie.

Whenever the device shifted around, Jamie said she thought her husband was adjusting the view by scrolling with his mobile phone using the device's app.

"Every time the camera changed positions, I assumed it was my husband," she said.

After the moment when they suspected that the device may have been compromised they immediately unplugged it, stashed it in a drawer and called the police.

Jamie said the police officer told the couple to try to turn the device back on and utilize the app to see determine if whoever may have been watching them would attempt to move the lens again.

But the monitor simply stopped working.

"He tried to use it and access the security settings and it completely locked us out with a message saying 'Insufficient Permission,'" she said.

Now, Jamie suspects the hacker "heard everything" and "saw the officer."

The couple didn't provide a police report, and attempts to speak with officials at the North Charleston Police Department were unsuccessful.

Days since, Jamie said she feels violated because she breastfed, coslept and bonded with her child in an intimate way, thinking she was doing so in private.

"Those bonding feelings of just me and him together -- it's supposed to be me and him in those sweet moments," she said. "It makes me kind of sick to think what kind of stuff the person may have seen and still could be out there. I'm supposed to protect my son and I feel like I failed him."