Ring’s Security Woes Cause Some Tech Review Sites To Reconsider Glowing Endorsements

Ring’s Security Woes Cause Some Tech Review Sites To Reconsider Glowing Endorsements
Photo: Stephen Brashear (Getty

At least two tech review sites are considering plans to rescind their recommendations of Ring home surveillance cameras, a leading digital-rights organisation announced this week.

In the wake of reporting by Gizmodo and other outlets this year concerning Ring’s troubled security and privacy practices, Fight for the Future has launched a campaign calling on tech review sites, such as Consumer Reports and PC Magazine, to suspend their recommendations of Ring products.

“Tech reviews and guides play an important role in people deciding which devices to buy,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future.

Ring, acquired by Amazon in 2018, has recently become the target of hackers looking to harass and frighten owners of its home security devices. Thousands of passwords belonging to Ring owners have been shared online, granting virtually anyone access to indoor camera feeds. Startling footage acquired by a local Tennessee news outlet this month showed a voice emanating from a Ring camera equipped with a speaker installed in a child’s bedroom.

Ring has placed the blame for such incidents on the device owners themselves, saying that they failed to adopt unique passwords or use the two-factor authentication feature offered by the company. Ring otherwise says its devices are helping curb crime in neighbourhoods by dissuading package theft and home invasions.

The company’s partnerships with some 700 law enforcement agencies across the country has drawn equal scrutiny from privacy advocates and organisations like the American Civil Liberties Union. Ring seeks agreements with police departments that ultimately grant it control over what public officials can say about its products.

A group of U.S. senators, worried that control of Amazon’s vast surveillance network could fall into the hands of hackers and foreign spies, expressed their concerns to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in a letter last month. “Ring devices routinely upload data, including video records, to Amazon’s servers. Amazon therefore holds a vast amount of deeply sensitive data and video footage detailing the lives of Americans in and near their homes,” the letter said.

Last week, the tech review site Wirecutter announced it was suspending its recommendation of Ring products citing a report about a data leak by BuzzFeed’s Caroline Haskins. This prompted Fight for the Future to contact other review sites and ask them to rescind their recommendations.

In a press release, Fight for the Future also pointed to a blog by Gizmodo’s Adam Clark Estes, which instructs readers to avoid purchasing Ring devices for themselves or anyone else and look at buying other similar devices, such as the Nest Hello doorbell, instead.

“Just steer clear of Ring,” Estes wrote.

Fight for the Future said Consumer Reports and Tom’s Guide, two popular review sites, were discussing options internally. Several other sites, including PC Magazine, Safety.com, and Digital Trends, reportedly didn’t respond to the group’s messages.

“The reviewers we’ve reached out to recommended Ring as the best in their category. Meanwhile, report after report details security issues, concerns, and leaks with Ring technology,” Greer told Gizmodo. “These devices are not safe. It’s important reviewers honour the public trust and suspend their recommendation.”