Google rolled out fix for Nest cam look-through

June 21, 2019 by Nancy Cohen, Phys.org

Finders, weepers. That seemed to be a suitable tweak to the old saying, when the news hit that a former owner of a used Nest Indoor Cam could access the new owner's video feed.

Wirecutter had a "buyer beware" story and then an update earlier this week. Its message was that Google had responded to the problem and rolled out a fix.

A fix for what? "Nest cams could provide the original owner with limited access to the new owner's feed, though the issue has since been fixed by Google," said Android Police. (Ryne Hager remarked, "Usually, concerns regarding used hardware affect the security of the original owner, and it's interesting to see the tables turned here.")

In case you had not been following the story, it was reported that selling or giving away your old Nest Cam Indoor could result in strange things happening—-with the risk of compromised privacy to the loss of the new owners, whereby the former owner of one of the cameras could still look through it, even after selling it off. The new owner would have had no indication that a stranger could be able to look inside the home.

Google found a fix for all this, and the update was being applied automatically.

"We were recently made aware of an issue affecting some Nest cameras connected to third-party partner services via Works with Nest. We've since rolled out a fix for this issue that will update automatically, so if you own a Nest , there's no need to take any action."

Prior to Google's response, Rachel Cericola in Wirecutter had told readers that "If you buy and set up a used Nest indoor camera that has been paired with a Wink hub, the previous owner may have unfettered access to images from that camera."

According to Google, the issue has been fixed, said Cericola, but beyond that, she felt a general piece of advice was in order: "we advise anyone interested in smart-home gear to be especially cautious when considering buying or selling used items." That, she said, especially pertained to items such as cameras, devices with microphones, and smart locks.

What was the problem?

Ryne Hager in Android Police elaborated on what the problem was about.

"Even factory resetting a Nest Cam with the instructions provided by Google wasn't enough to prevent the original owner from having access via third-party integrations."

The new owner could set up the seemingly unlinked Nest Cam with a separate account and yet the original owner was still able to view some content. The latter was described as a stream of still images, via the preexisting connection to Wink.

Corinne Reichert, CNET News, walked through the winding timeline that first constituted the heads-up. "The Nest Cam bug was originally discovered by a member of a Facebook group for Wink users, who realized he was able to access a feed of the new owner's Nest cam via his Wink account, Wirecutter's report said."

Nest.com has moved to the Google Store. Nest and Google Home have joined together as Google Nest. Moving forward, you can learn about and buy all Nest products in one place: the Google Store. (Google integrated its smart home products into the Google Store.)

It's a bit head-scratching at first but once you get your head wrapped around it, the point seems to be that Google had changed Nest.com in favor of its online store.

Meanwhile, back at Wirecutter, they too issued an update with a Note:

"After our story broke yesterday, a Google representative sent us the following statement: 'We were recently made aware of an issue affecting some Nest cameras connected to third-party partner services via Works with Nest. We've since rolled out a fix for this issue that will update automatically, so if you own a Nest camera, there's no need to take any action.' We retested, using a Nest Indoor Cam and the Wink Hub, and can confirm that the issue has been corrected."

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