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Four days after Ashley LeMay bought and installed a Ring camera in her 8-year-old daughter's bedroom, the child began to hear strange noises coming from it.
At first there was music, then a puzzling “banging noise.”
Then there was a voice that boomed camera, proclaiming to be Kris Kringle and asking to be friends with the girl.
"I'm Santa Claus, don't you want to be my best friend?" the 8-year-old recounted the voice, apparently of a man who'd hacked into the security system, saying in an interview with WMC-TV.
LeMay said watching the recording of the encounter was shocking and emotional.
“I watched the video and I mean my heart just like ... I didn’t even get to the end where she is screaming ‘Mommy, mommy!’ before I like ran inside,” LeMay explained.
The mother, who works overnight shifts as a nurse in Mississippi and installed the device so she could monitor her three daughters, quickly decided to disconnect it.
She's not the only person to report disturbing incidents of apparent camera hacks. Across the country, some homeowners are learning that the very devices they'd purchased to beef up on security are themselves causing them to feel unsafe.
A couple in Grand Prairie, Texas said they thought someone had broken into their home on Monday when their Ring doorbell camera device was blaring.
“I was asleep and our Ring alarm was going off like an intruder had entered our home,” Tania Amador told WFAA.
Nobody was physically in the home. But the 28-year-old woman claimed that she “heard a voice” coming from the camera.
Indeed, a voice is heard chuckling and then announcing: "Ring support! Ring support!"
The person went on to tell the couple: "We would like to notify you that your account has been terminated by a hacker."
Then came demands for currency.
"Pay this 50 bitcoin ransom or you will get terminated yourself," Amador said the hacker demanded.
Amador remembered how the doorbell camera started talking, with a voice stating, "I'm outside your front door."
The woman said that it was “scary” to be on the receiving end of ransom demands from the security device, but she wonders how long her privacy had been breached.
“The fact that the person was watching and we don’t know for how long is even scarier.”
When a couple in Georgia installed their Ring device to keep a sentry on Beau, their puppy, they claim that a hacker’s voice chimed in out of nowhere.
“I see the blue light come on and so I’m texting my boyfriend saying, you know, ‘Why are you watching? We’re laying down. We’re about to go to sleep,’” the woman, who asked not to be identified, told WSB-TV.
Her boyfriend was taken aback, she said.
“He’s like, ‘What are you talking about?’"
It then dawned on her that her boyfriend wasn’t the one watching her.
And moments later she said she heard the sound of clapping and a voice telling her, “I can see you in bed… Come on! Wake the f--- up!”
The woman said she was “terrified.”
“I literally could not move my body,” she told the television station.
When the Brown family installed their Ring device in their Cape Coral, Florida home, it wasn't long before a voice on the other end started hurling racist epithets at them.
“Is your kid a baboon, like the monkey,” asked a hacker speaking through the doorbell device, allegedly directing the hateful speak at the family’s 15-year-old son.
The hacker supposedly ranted on for three minutes before the Browns decided to shut it off, and take the batteries out of it.
They noted that their son wasn’t in the frame of the camera, leading the family to suspect their privacy had been violated by the voyeur for a while prior to hearing the voice.
In a statement specifically regarding the incident involving the LeMays in Mississippi, the Amazon-owned Ring told Oxygen.com its "security team has investigated this incident and we have no evidence of an unauthorized intrusion or compromise of Ring’s systems or network."
The statement suggested there was at least one incident where "malicious actors" obtained "some Ring users' account credentials" from "separate, external, non-Ring service" and they say "reused them to log in to some Ring accounts."
The company suggests that lax password measures can be easy pickings for hackers.
"Unfortunately, when the same username and password is reused on multiple services, it’s possible for bad actors to gain access to many accounts," according to the statement.
Ring suggest in a recent blog post that customers use “two-factor” authentications and strong passwords that are frequently updated to ward off these kinds of intrusions.
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