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Assembly Panel Approves Downey, Mosquera & Spencer Legislation Strengthening Protections, Raising Awareness of Unsecured Baby Monitors

(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Monday released two measures sponsored by Assemblywomen Joann Downey, Gabriela Mosquera and L. Grace Spencer to establish protections for families who use baby monitors with an internet connection. Both measures will now return to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.

“In this age of technology, even baby monitors with the ability to connect to the internet can be dangerous for families to have in their homes,” said Downey (D- Monmouth). “Baby monitors that broadcast live audio and video feeds over the internet can be viewed remotely by unknown persons on a computer, cellular telephone, tablet, or other internet-connected advice. This should be a cause for alarm for manufacturers and a reason to strengthen security protections for these devices.”

The Office of Technology, Research and Investigation, in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), studied five baby monitors that broadcast live audio and video feeds over the internet and found that some of them have minimal security protections. Only one required a complex password while the others allowed users access with simple passwords, such as “password,” making them vulnerable to hackers. Two of the five baby monitors the FTC studied did not encrypt the feed between the router and internet resulting in additional vulnerabilities.

“Recent news articles have highlighted the vulnerabilities of Internet-connected baby monitors that lack basic security features, making them prone to even simple hacking attempts,” said Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester). “The rise of hacking incidents and security breaches demands that everything, including baby monitors, must have security features to protect families from technological invasions.”

“The possibility of an unknown individual watching a person’s baby is frightening for many parents who have come to rely on these devices,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “A hacked camera could also provide access to other Wi-Fi-enabled devices in a resident’s home, such as a personal computer or security system. All baby monitors should be equipped with security features and labeled with a warning for parents to be cautious in their use of the device.”

The first bill (A-3581), which all three Assembly members are sponsors, requires any baby monitor that broadcasts audio or video online and is manufactured, sold, or offered for sale in New Jersey, to include: (1) security features to prevent unauthorized users from hearing or viewing activity; and (2) a label or notice warning consumers of the risks associated with an unsecured baby monitor connection and the importance of accessing the baby monitor securely and using its security features.

The bill provides that it would be an unlawful practice under the consumer fraud act to sell, offer for sale, or distribute any baby monitor without security features and a corresponding warning label.

Another bill (A-3582) — sponsored by Mosquera and Spencer — creates public awareness campaign concerning risks associated with unsecured, internet-connected baby monitors.

Under the bill, the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and public Safety, in consultation with the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, is required to create the public awareness campaign to inform consumers about the risks associated with unsecured internet -connected baby monitors and security features and other measures parents can use to prevent unauthorized users form hearing or viewing activity through monitors.

The division would be required to provide a report to the Governor and the Legislature concerning the activities and accomplishments of the public awareness campaign within two years of the bill’s effective date.

The measures were released by the Assembly Women and Children Committee.