Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My baby made me a spy :)

We spend many hours spying on the Nugster.  We've watched him roll from one end of his baby jail (PnP) to the other, overheard his conversations with Pink Doggie, and been lulled to sleep by his cooing.  

Once, we had turned off the Nug spycam and checked the handheld reciever, and to our surprise saw another baby taking a nap.  Knowing that I could see that baby meant someone else could see ours. Creepy. Recently I was asked to turn off my baby monitor.  By the Utilities Company.  Because it interferes with their meter reading.  I found this alarming to say the least, and it roused my curiosity.  

They knew the exact type of monitor we had as well as the channel we use to watch the Nug. 

Because Nugster naps 4-5 hours during the course of the day, turning off the monitor is not convenient, nor is it something that I feel the utilities company should request of parents.  Please read on.  Your comments are most welcome.

The info below is entirely from my friend Gabe C, who did some investigating for me on the issue.
Well, it's not great from your perspective.

This apparently has been a known 'problem' for about as long as audio-only monitors have existed. They were set up just to use radio, which is analog and therefore very easy to pick up. I saw a selected list of news reports on the topic from the last 15 years, including several exposes. My professional analysis is that said stories have not achieved sufficient market penetration to cause the market (mothers) to demand secure baby monitoring in great quantity. This happens across a lot of markets - industrial control systems, for example.

Not all is lost - the news outcry and the increasing awareness of radio's weaknesses for something like this has caused the development of digital baby monitors. These are (theoretically) secure from eavesdropping, although the probably have not been tested by anyone good at breaking these things. Further, and even more recently, it appears manufacturers have been taken to task for not advising mothers of this issue. As such, you can find the product page for the 2012 version of your model now lists the issue on its front page.

Here's a 2011 éxpose on the issue:

The downsides are that analog monitors will remain insecure, and that digital monitors are more expensive. Further, as a known issue there is little else to prove - the manufacturer response is 'Yes, that is by design. If you want security, buy a digital version.' Not what one wants to hear.

The upside is that it appears analog monitors are gradually getting rarer. For example, the entire first product page of your manufacturer's baby monitors appears to be exclusively digital. That doesn't help you, however.


Also, scary thing. If your monitor is interfering, that means your power meter is probably using radio. That means people could probably monitor and analyse your power usage patterns, as well.

I never imagined that the world of baby monitoring would ever meet the world of power usage monitoring.  Do you have any experiences with this?  What would your response be?

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