Some ‘Amazon’s Choice’ Security Cameras Pose ‘Huge’ Hacking Risk, Study Says


Consumers may want to do some additional homework before purchasing a security camera that has the “Amazon’s Choice” seal of approval, according to a new study.

The six cameras that were reviewed by the e-commerce giant posed a laundry list of security red flags, including weak user names and passwords written directly on the product, unencrypted data, and holes that hackers could potentially exploit that would allow them to spy on someone, according to a news release from Which?, a U.K.-based consumer advocacy group that carried out the tests.

Many of the bestselling cameras on Amazon include off-brands. While these devices can be cheaper than recognizable brand names, such as Ring or Nest, they provide little help for customers hoping to track down the company to ask questions or to alert them of security flaws, the group says.

Adam French, a consumer rights expert at Which?, says in a statement that the study shows that Amazon appears to have “no quality control” when it comes to deciding which products receive the coveted “Amazon’s Choice” seal of approval.

“Amazon and other online marketplaces must take these cameras off sale and improve the way they scrutinize these products,” French says. “They certainly should not be endorsing products that put people’s privacy at risk.”

Which? also had difficulty contacting some manufacturers, even with the help of an industry expert in Shenzen, China, which has become a hub for manufacturing lower cost electronics.

Amazon did not answer a question regarding how it chooses which security cameras receive the “Amazon’s Choice” seal of approval, which launched in 2015. However, previous reports suggest Amazon’s algorithm gives the “Amazon’s Choice” placement to products that are highly rated, affordable, and in stock.

An Amazon spokesperson did tell Fortune that the company “require[s] all products offered in our store to comply with applicable laws and regulations, and we proactively monitor multiple sources for safety notifications, including from regulatory agencies and direct contacts from brands, manufacturers, and sellers.”

This hardly the first time the “Amazon’s Choice” tag has come under scrutiny. A BuzzFeed review in June found that flawed products are being awarded the “Amazon’s Choice” badge, even after customers left reviews detailing a problem with a product. These include a portable washer and dryer that broke after one use, a thermometer that gives erratic readings, and padlocks that could be picked in a matter of seconds.

When it comes to choosing a good security camera that actually does its job, security experts recommend that people look beyond the “Amazon’s Choice” seal and do further research. This includes checking to see who makes the camera and conducting a Google search to see if there have been any reported problems.

Also after a camera is purchased, customers should immediately change the default password to something strong that a hacker shouldn’t be able to easily guess.

Many cameras use the same password, a point that Russian hackers made in 2014 when they streamed thousands of nanny cams on a website, allowing anyone to search by country and sneak a peek at peoples’ private moments. Despite the startling exploit, hackers continue to go after any connected device that uses a factory default password, whether to spy or to use it to form a botnet to flood a website with artificial traffic and knock it offline.

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