Couple says hacker took over Nest devices, talked to them

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Hackers take control of smart home
Hackers take control of smart home: as seen on 6abc Action News Mornings, September 25, 2019.

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin -- A couple in Milwaukee believes someone has outsmarted their smart-home system.

The couple says hackers took control of the thermostat and an indoor camera on their Google Nest system.

"It's supposed to make me feel safe and I didn't feel safe," Samantha Westmoreland told WITI-TV. "My heart was just racing. I felt so violated at that point."

Samantha returned from work to a blazing hot home. The thermostat was turned all the way up to 90 degrees.

She thought it was a glitch, setting it back to room temperature, not realizing then it was only the begin of a roller coaster 24 hours.

"It gives me the chills just talking about it," Samantha said.

The thermostat continued to go up and a voice began speaking from a camera in the kitchen, then playing vulgar music.

"So I unplugged it and turned it facing the ceiling," Samantha said.

She and her husband Lamont changed their password, but the problems persisted.

Eventually, they contacted their internet carrier and changed their network ID.

They believe someone hacked into their Wi-Fi and then their Nest.

"If someone hacks into your Wi-Fi, they shouldn't be able to have access to those Nest devices without some sort of wall they have to get over," Lamont said.

The couple is upset that their $700 system was a gateway into their home.

"Hopefully someone hears this and this awakens them or alerts them to this is happening," Lamont said.

The Westmorelands want others to be aware that hackers are outsmarting the smart-home.

"People need to be educated and know that this is real and this is happening and it is super scary," Samantha said.

Google, which owns the Nest system, says the systems itself was not breached.

The company says the couple likely used a compromised password, which can be avoided by switching to a two-factor verification.