Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Anonymous Hacker Breaks Into A Personal Security System To Prove It's Possible


No one appreciates an unannounced visitor, especially late at night. Phoenix resident Andy Gregg is no exception.

ANDY GREGG: I walked into my house to take the dog outside, and I started hearing somebody talk in my house.


In a panic, Gregg looked to see who was talking, but he saw no one. Then he remembered his Nest security camera. It's a smart security camera, one that's designed to alert him when a visitor is at the front door. And it allows a two-way conversation. But this was different. There was a voice, and yet no one was at the door.

GREGG: It's this guy talking to me on the audio portion of my camera basically stating that he's a white hat hacker from Canada.

KELLY: Gregg started recording.


UNIDENTIFIED HACKER: We're white hat. I'm just here to kind of let you know so no one else, like any black hat hackers...


KELLY: That's a little hard to understand, but basically this was a benevolent hacker alerting Gregg to the vulnerability of his Nest security camera. The hacker claimed to be a member of the Calgary branch of the group Anonymous. And he would not give his name.

GREGG: I was totally freaked out. It really felt like someone broke into your house.

CHANG: So as any of us might, Gregg a lot of questions for the hacker.


GREGG: Like, are you able to see where I live and everything?

UNIDENTIFIED HACKER: Yeah, I mean, I don't know where you live right now. But if someone was really that dedicated, yeah, they could geolocate an IP. they could see when you're not home.

GREGG: How did you know I was home?

UNIDENTIFIED HACKER: I just kind of - like, I've been logging into accounts. And I could just, like, kind of hear some moving around. So I just figured I'd ask if anybody was there.

CHANG: Andy Gregg was not reassured by that.

GREGG: The question comes up of how long has this guy actually been listening to me in my house.

KELLY: Nest, the company that makes Andy Gregg's security camera, is a division of Alphabet. That's Google's parent company. Spokesperson Matt Flegel told NPR that Gregg didn't do everything the company recommends to evade his nocturnal hackers, friendly or not. Nest advises using two-factor authentication and passwords that aren't the same as the ones you use elsewhere.

CHANG: And still there is one more burden that falls on Andy Gregg, who's a real estate agent. He has to warn some of his customers.

GREGG: I give these cameras out as gifts when people purchase homes. And, you know, I have some clients that purchased a whole set of them to watch their kids in their living room and things like that. So now it brings up the whole fact of, like, you know, is it actually safe for anybody these days?

CHANG: As for Gregg himself, no more Nest. He's counting on his dog to serve as his alarm from now on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.