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Ring cameras hacked into ‘Swatting’ scheme

The Ministry of Justice said Monday that two men have been charged with a scheme that involved hacking into Ring security cameras outside homes, drawing and sometimes taunting the police, and then broadcasting the antics on social media.

Bloomberg / Contributor I Getty Images

Ring cameras.

Amazon bought security company Ring in 2018, and the product quickly became one of the company’s “signature” home security products, per The protector. Ring offers products such as doorbells, security cameras and home security systems, with relevant data and controls accessible through the company’s app.

Critics and researchers say the Ring cameras are used to it monitoring gig economy drivers and delivery people and that they give law enforcement too much power to oversee everyday life.

Related: Report reveals controversy surrounding video doorbells — and why delivery drivers don’t like them

It is unclear what the men’s motivation was. The two defendants are Kya Christian Nelson, who is 21, of Racine, Wisconsin and “currently incarcerated in Kentucky on an unrelated case,” according to the DOJ, and James Thomas Andrew McCarty, who is 20 and of Charlotte, North Carolina.

In this case, the two men used the Ring cameras to do something known as “slap“where one pretends there is an emergency to draw a large group of police or other first responders.

The pair would hack into people’s Yahoo email accounts, then find their Ring accounts, their addresses, call the police home with a fake story, and then stream the police response to the call. Often, they simultaneously harassed the first responders using the Ring device’s features.

For example, “A hoax phone call has been placed to the West Covina [California] The police station claims to be from the victim’s home and pretends to be an underage child who reports that her parents are drinking and firing guns at the victim’s parent’s home,” the Justice Department wrote.

The pair carried out this plan 10 times across the country in the space of a week, the department noted. The two men were indicted by a grand jury. Nelson faces two counts of unauthorized access to a computer and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

Nelson and McCarty each face charges of conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to computers.

The conspiracy and computer charges each carry a maximum sentence of five years, and identity theft carries a required sentence of two years. The case is also being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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