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Wyze apologizes after yet another camera security issue

Uh-oh, is it Wyze to trust them with your home security any more?

wyze cam mounted on the wall
Image: Joe Rice-Jones/KnowTechie

Smart home electronics maker Wyze Labs apologized over the weekend after a security issue briefly allowed some customers to see images from other cameras.

The incident happened after Wyze was impacted by a Friday server outage at Amazon Web Services (AWS). The blackout caused Wyze’s line of Internet-connected security cameras to go offline.

While the company was working to bring them back online, a glitch permitted some customers to view still images captured by cameras that were not on their accounts.

In an email, a Wyze spokesperson said a bug with its caching system was ultimately responsible for the issue:

“The incident was caused by a third-party caching client library that was recently integrated into our system. This client library received unprecedented load conditions caused by devices coming back online all at once. As a result of increased demand, it mixed up device ID and user ID mapping and connected some data to incorrect accounts.” 

Wyze spokesperson

The incident affected around 13,000 customers who received thumbnail images from cameras that were not theirs.

Of those, about 1,500 users tapped on the thumbnails, with a smaller number able to view video from other cameras.

The Wyze spokesperson continued: 

“We know this is very disappointing news. It does not reflect our commitment to protect customers or mirror the other investments and actions we have taken in recent years to make security a top priority at Wyze.”

Wyze spokesperson

A History of Security Issues

Three similar white webcams with red recording lights, mounted on adjustable stands, presented against a gradient purple background with a watermark.
Image: KnowTechie

Wyze cameras have gained a notable following because of their ease of use and relative affordability. Its flagship indoor-outdoor camera costs less than $50 and can often be found for as little as $25.

The cameras are widely supported on smart platforms powered by Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, among others.

But the cameras are not without some faults, and Wyze has faced criticism several times over the past few years for falling short of their commitment to security.

Two years ago, Bitdefender issued a public notice describing “several vulnerabilities that let an outside attacker access the camera feed or execute malicious code to further compromise the device.”

Among other things, Bitdefender said a hacker could access the contents of an SD card inserted into specific Wyze cameras.

In a statement, officials at Wyze said they were “constantly evaluating the security of our systems and taking appropriate measures to protect our customers’ privacy” and had fixed many of the issues in Bitdefender’s note.

One Wyze camera model could not be updated with a security patch, and the company said it would no longer support the affected model.

Last September, Wyze found itself in hot water again after several Reddit users said they could watch live video of cameras not tied to their accounts.

In a post on Wyze’s community forum, a spokesperson said the issue affected the cameras of 10 people, which were viewable by as many as 2,300 users for 40 minutes. Wyze took down the web portal temporarily while fixing the issue.

Damaged Reputation

wyze sense camera system
Image: Joe Rice-Jones / KnowTechie

For years, Wyze received high praise from tech reviewers (including KnowTechie) for its ease of use, comprehensive support, and low price relative to other security cameras on the market.

However, the numerous security issues have cost Wyze its standing in the security world, and some reviewers have since walked back their endorsements.

Notably, after last September’s security issue, the New York Times’ consumer blog Wirecutter said it would stop recommending Wyze cameras in its guides.

Rachel Cericola, an editor at Wirecutter, justified the move by saying Wyze did not adequately address the issue by reaching out directly to Wyze customers or providing “meaningful details about the incident:”

“We believe Wyze is acting irresponsibly to its customers. As such, we’ve made the difficult but unavoidable decision to revoke our recommendation of all Wyze cameras until the company implements meaningful changes to its security and privacy procedures.”

To be clear, Cericola said the recommendation wasn’t being pulled because Wyze had a security issue — many companies, large and small, face bugs and issues, especially regarding consumer technology.

No one hopes for a severe security issue, but the occasional glitch will likely happen sooner than later.

Instead, Cericola said the recommendation was being pulled because of how Wyze chose to respond to the September security issue — or, more specifically, the company’s lack of response:

“The greater issue is how this company responds to a crisis. With this incident, and others in the past, it’s clear Wyze has failed to develop the sorts of robust procedures that adequately protect its customers the way they deserve.”

Regarding security cameras and similar technology, customers have a reasonable expectation that the technology is — well, secure.

And when it isn’t, companies have a duty to fully inform customers about what happened and provide remedies to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Cericola said other companies have developed protocols for responding to security incidents, and Wyze needed to do the same if they wanted a Wirecutter endorsement again.

What are some alternatives to Wyze security cameras?

eufycam 3 security cam
Image: Eufy

For those thinking of switching away from Wyze, here is some good news: There is no shortage of smart security cameras on the market, and some offer comparable features to Wyze’s line-up.

Homeowners who want a security camera system that can record on local storage (like an SD card or a hard drive, instead of saving recordings to the cloud) should consider Eufy’s line-up of surveillance cameras.

The EufyCam S210 has two surveillance cameras, and the Eufy Home Base includes 16 GB of onboard storage (Eufy says it will soon offer a dongle allowing users to add more storage).

Eufy also sells indoor and outdoor security cameras with micro-SD cards (not included) instead of the Home Base.

Those who prefer to stream and store surveillance footage in the cloud have even more options, including security cameras from Arlo, Amazon’s Ring and Blink brands, and Google Nest.

Subscription prices range from $ 3 to $25 per month, depending on the system you purchase and the number of cameras on your plan:

  • Ring Basic: $4 per month or $40 per year (one camera)
  • Ring Plus: $10 per month or $100 per year (unlimited cameras)
  • Nest Aware: $10 per month or $100 per year (unlimited cameras, 30 days storage)
  • Nest Aware Plus: $20 per month or $200 per year (unlimited cameras, 60 days storage)
  • Arlo Secure Monthly: $8 (one camera) or $13 (unlimited cameras)
  • Arlo Secure Annual: $90 (one camera) or $150 (unlimited cameras)

Each platform offers many of the same features, including high-definition (or, in some cases, 4K) video streaming and recording and dedicated mobile apps for viewing live and recorded footage.

Most cameras also allow users to download the video for offline playback, which can be helpful when providing video evidence after a fire, flood, or break-in.

Those platforms also have some notable differences: While Ring and Blink are both Amazon brands, their cameras are incompatible with each other’s platforms — so you’ll need separate apps and subscriptions if you mix Ring and Blink cameras.

Ring and Blink cameras are also not compatible with Google Assistant devices like the Nest Hub, and Nest cameras are not compatible with Amazon’s Echo Show devices or Fire TV sticks. 

Homeowners who use Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices should pick Arlo cameras over the rest: While they are more expensive, they’re some of the few smart cameras on the market compatible with Echo Show and Nest Hub devices.

Those who prefer Amazon’s Alexa devices should pick Ring or Blink, and those with Google Assistant devices like the Nest Hub should go with Google Nest cameras.

Have any thoughts on this? Drop us a line below in the comments, or carry the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Matthew Keys is an award-winning freelance journalist who covers the intersection of media, technology and journalism. He is the publisher of TheDesk.net and a contributor to KnowTechie, StreamTV Insider (formerly Fierce Video) and Digital Content Next. Matthew is based in Northern California.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. esentia

    February 21, 2024 at 10:36 am

    It’s commendable to see Wyze taking responsibility and issuing an apology after facing another camera security issue. Transparency and accountability are crucial in the tech industry, and your coverage of this incident keeps users informed. Here’s hoping for swift resolutions and continued improvement in safeguarding user privacy and security.

    • Kevin Raposo

      February 22, 2024 at 8:20 am

      Thanks for the comment, Randy!

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