Protecting yourself from hackers

Hackers learning new ways to get inside homes

DETROIT – More and more people are living in a connected world, as computer chips change everything in our lives from how we keep our children safe to how we climate control our homes.

But this connectedness is more than a convenience. It can also be a danger.

A Texas mother of 8-year-old twin girls who doesn't want to be identified installed a home security camera in her kids' bedroom and connected it to her home computer.

"I have cameras to protect my kids and I kind of feel like we failed them and protect them," she said. "We actually put them in harm's way."

A hacker used a video game the kids played to get into the family computer and gain control of the camera feed.

A woman in Oregon saw the bedroom posted on a live camera viewer app and posted it on Facebook, trying to alert the unknowing parents.

"Never did I dream that they would be going into our camera system into our internet," the mother said.

Local 4 wanted to show you how to protect yourself from this kind of trouble, so Rod Meloni took a WiFi router, a baby monitor security camera like the on the Texas mom used and a thermostat to Plante Moran's Southfield offices, where I.T. security experts Alexis Kennedy and Sarah Pavelek dug into the manuals.

They said quite a few people still aren't thinking about security risks.

Pavelek hooked up the security camera and warned someone spying on your children is just the beginning:

"If they were to gain access to this, reposition it on a door to see whether it is unlocked," she said. "They could reposition it on a calendar on your refrigerator that says, 'Hey, I'm going on vacation next week.'"

Local 4 bought the thermostat because, as nice as it is to remotely climate control your home, there is a new and frightening hacker scam out there that can change the settings and crank up the heat up to 100 degrees while sending a message, saying, 'We're not going to unlock this thermostat until you pay a certain fee.'"

In surveying all the high tech toys, the experts agreed the key to protecting yourself is as simple as a good password. They said don't keep a default password and don't make it something simple. If you don't change those, it's the electronic trap door hackers can use to torture you.

Make your passwords long, like 10 or more characters. Exchange characters, so if your password has an "O" in it, use a zero instead.

If you can't remember your passwords, make a list, but don't keep the list near or in the computer. Don't use the same password for all of your devices, and don't email your list to anyone.

About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.