A family in Auburn, Wash., felt like they were living in a real-life horror movie after realizing hackers had been watching them through their home security cameras.
Abby Laguidao told Yahoo Lifestyle that she had installed a Nest home security system in her home in December. One camera was installed near the front door, and another was mounted in the corner of her living room in the home she shares with her boyfriend, Conrado Casallo, and their three children: 6-year-old twins and a baby. She said that shortly after installing the cameras, she started becoming uncomfortable in her own home.
“I remember telling my boyfriend, ‘I feel like someone is stalking me,'” she said. She was so uneasy that she resorted to having Casallo meet her at her car and walk her to their front door whenever she came home late at night. It was during those weeks that she began to hear “faint voices and faint music,” but she couldn’t pinpoint the source.
The noises would become audible in the mornings after her boyfriend would leave to drop the kids off at school, and she was home alone having coffee. “I thought it was Alexa, or some laptop or computer was on,” she said. “I would listen intently. At one point, I thought it was coming from my daughter’s baby monitor, but the iPad wasn’t on.” She even worried that someone might be inside the house — but she would hear the sounds only when she was in the living room.
Laguidao said she was hesitant to tell her boyfriend that she had been hearing things, but one early morning at about 4 a.m., he finally heard them too. “We both woke up because we heard loud broadcasting noises, and they were coming from the camera,” she said. “People were talking through it. ‘Shoot! Get down! Freeze!’ It freaked both of us out.” She said Casallo immediately unplugged the living room camera, but realized he could still hear sounds coming from the one outside and unplugged that one too.
The next morning, though, Laguidao said she decided the plug the cameras back in. “I was like, ‘Maybe it’s a signal interruption,'” she said. “I decided to just let it go.” Then, the following Monday afternoon, the situation got worse.
Laguidao said she was home alone with the twins on Monday and was working on her laptop while they watched a movie. Her baby daughter was at her grandmother’s house and Casallo was at work. She said voices started talking to the twins through the camera — and the children talked back, thinking it was their dad, who checks in through the Nest home security system from time to time.
“They starting rapping and saying the N-word,” Laguidao recalls of the voices. “They were telling us to ‘Shut the F up, you N-word!” She said the situation became even more disturbing when the voices made it clear to her that they could see her. “They were saying, ‘Nice a**.’ Then they said, ‘Nice laptop.'” Miraculously, Laguidao was able to keep her composure. “I thought, ‘These people are looking at me right now, so don’t do anything crazy,'” she said. “It was just me and the kids in the house. We were really vulnerable.”
So the mom made a beeline upstairs and called Casallo, who advised her to record the voices with her iPhone. She went back downstairs, pointed her phone at the home security camera and was able to capture audio of the men saying, “Shut the f*** up,” and threatening her to stop recording, according to a profanity-laced video sent to Yahoo Lifestyle.
At the end of the video, the hackers clearly ask Laguidao, who is Asian, “Can I ask you a question? How would you like your dog? Fried or deep pan-fried?”
That prompted her to disconnect both cameras, and when Casallo came home, the two contacted Nest. “Conrado asked the person who took our call, ‘Is there any way you can trace the person?’ And he said, ‘No, we don’t have that technology,'” she said. They next called the police and filed a report, but Laguidao said they were told authorities couldn’t trace the communication either.
That’s when the couple decided to do their own investigating. Casallo realized it was Laguidao’s Nest account that had been hacked, she said, as the profile name was changed to a homophobic slur, and the photo was switched to a profile photo with a username. The pair Googled the username and instantly connected it to a Twitter account. “He’s from the U.K., and he’s a gamer,” she said.
Police officers followed up the next day, and once they realized Laguidao had captured racist remarks in her recording, the case became a hate crime. The incident is now under investigation as a felony, she said, which carries a jail sentence.
Yahoo Lifestyle contacted Nest for comment. A representative for Google, which owns the company, said Nest was not breached. “These recent reports are based on customers using compromised passwords exposed through breaches on other websites,” she said. “We take security in the home extremely seriously, and we’re actively introducing features that will reject compromised passwords, allow customers to monitor access to their accounts and track external entities that abuse credentials.”
The representative strongly cautions Nest owners against using the same password for their home security system as they use for any other account, online or off — including ATM passcodes. She also emphasized the importance of using the company’s two-factor verification feature, which is designed to thwart hackers, “even if they have the account credentials.”
Previously, Nest had reset the accounts of other customers who were hacked when they reused passwords that had already been exposed through breaches on other websites, the representative said.
Laguidao told Yahoo Lifestyle that her family is no longer comfortable having a security camera inside their home, but they do still have one outside. She declined to expose the Twitter account of the suspect, especially while the case is being investigated, because “we don’t want them to delete their account,” she said. “We want them to continue what they’re doing and get caught.”
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