Jack Wallen offers his take on the upcoming release of the Ring Always Home Cam.
I have two Ring doorbells at my house, and they are far from perfect. The delay and the poor excuse for a mobile app has caused me to miss deliveries, but the devices do a pretty good job of making sure we see who's visited and can (most of the time) answer the door before the visitor or delivery person shrugs and walks away. The batteries last a good while, and the cloud subscription price isn't so much that our bottom line really feels it.
Other than the network delay between the Ring doorbell, the mobile app, and the Ring Chime, my biggest complaint is the speed at which Ring deploys updates. In fact, the Ring app doesn't even tell you which version of the firmware it uses--instead, it just says Up To Date. You'd think a company focused on security would make it more apparent. Given Ring's latest move, I'm starting to question those who make the decisions at Ring. Case in point: The Ring Always Home Cam. If you've not been paying attention, let me get you up to speed.
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The new Ring Always Home Cam is a security camera that rests on a base, but when called upon, it will lift off that base and fly around your home in either autonomous paths or pre-programmed patterns. The idea is simple: You buy one camera that can cover all of your home. So instead of buying a camera to cover every room and every angle, you buy the Always Home Cam, and you're set. With this device, you'll have a drone that is capable of flying around your house to record video of what it sees.
Do I really need to point out the problems with that? On the off-chance I do, here goes nothing.
The elephant in the room
What was Ring thinking? Does it really believe consumers want a drone (complete with a video camera) inside their homes to fly around at will and record everything it sees? Do the developers at Ring not see the security issues that brings up?
If Ring doesn't see the elephant in the room, then I'd have to ask why they were in the security business in the first place.
Ring devices exist on your network. That means they are discoverable and therefore, hackable. Now, imagine some ne'er-do-well hacks into your network, gains access to your Always Home Cam and flies it about your house to scout the building. They now know the layout of your home, where the more valuable objects are, and maybe even your daily routine.
Thanks to that in-home drone, the job of those burglars has been simplified.
Maybe they aren't interested in burgling your home. Maybe someone simply wants to play the role of voyeur for a while. While you're showering, dressing, or doing other NSF things, a hacker could fly that Always Home Cam around and watch your every move.
Imagine this: You wake up in the middle of the night to see your Ring drone hovering at the foot of your bed, it's tiny LED blinking at you as if it knows what you're doing. Because it does--it's been recording everything.
Or, imagine this scenario: Your employer deploys these cameras to watch over you and your fellow employees. Hello? Big Brother called and it wants 1984 back.
I know this might sound as though it verges on conspiracy theory or even the mad ramblings of someone who writes dark fiction and covers tech for a living, but how far from reality are those scenarios? You only need a layperson's understanding of technology to know those ideas are not all that far-fetched. Ring is about to unleash a product that makes them possible.
Not quite that simple
Now, I realize it's not quite that simple. A hacker would not only have to hack into your drone (which probably won't be all that easy), but they'd also have to gain access to the on-board camera or your cloud-saved videos for any of the above scenarios to be truly effective.
The thing is, nothing is impossible. If you put a security disaster in the making on the market, chances are pretty good that, at some point, a capable hacker will make that disaster a reality. Eventually the Always Home Cam will get hacked and it will be used for nefarious purposes.
That is, unless Ring has a sure-fire way to prevent this from happening. Anyone who knows anything about security fully understands the old adage, "Where there's a will, there's a way." That saying perfectly applies to this situation. As long as those Ring drones are attached to a network, they can be hacked.
Don't get me wrong, I think the idea behind the Always Home Cam is sound, but given the state of home network security, I can only shake my head at what could come of this device. Home network LANs tend to be less than secure. How many Wi-Fi passwords are changed to something simple, just so people can remember them? How often are those home LANs hacked? The answers? Too many and too often. The end result in this case is a hacker gaining access to a camera-enabled drone that can fly about your house and record everything it sees.
As I said: It's a security disaster in the making.
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