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Founder of Santa Monica-Based Ring Addresses Rising Privacy Concerns

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

July 15, 2019 -- Amid growing privacy concerns, the founder of Santa Monica based Ring said on Monday that it is critical for the surveillance doorbell company to protect customers from hackers and malware.

The comments by Ring’s founder and chief inventor Jamie Siminoff were made during Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado, according to Fortune magazine.

They came after the company -- which was bought by Amazon last year for $1 billion -- faces increasing criticism that both hackers and company employees can access the online information.

Earlir this year, Israeli security researchers hacked an Amazon Ring video doorbell in real time at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"The successful exploit took advantage of a security vulnerability that could leave audio and video transmissions exposed to third-party attackers," A.J. Dellinger wrote in a March article published in Digital Trends.

"Being able to access video and audio from the doorbell makes it easy for a hacker to spy on the homeowner and any other member of their family," Dellinger wrote.

It also allows attackers to "inject their own footage" of someone the family trusts "to trick the homeowner into unlocking the door remotely," he said.

Yossi Atias, general manager of Dojo by BullGuard, the security firm that hacked the video, said the vulnerability exposed from the conference stage "reveals even highly secure devices are vulnerable to attack.”

The dramatic hack came two months after the Intercept reported that Amazon had given researchers in the Ukraine “unfettered” access to its customers’ feeds.

Ring also allegedly gave engineers access to some customers’ live Ring feeds by using the person's email address, according to the Intercept.

A Ring spokesperson denied the company had given employees access.

"We implement systems to restrict and audit access to information," the spokesman said in a statement to WIRED magazine, which cited the Intercept report.

"We hold our team members to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our policies faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties," the spokesperson said.

At Monday's tech conference in Colorado, Siminoff "was less clear clear about handling the racism and discrimination that sometimes infects (Ring's) Neighbors app," according to the Fortune article.

Some Ring users have used the app to "racially profile visitors to the neighborhood and accuse them of petty crimes," the article said.

Siminoff said the company has strict guidelines for using the forum, which is policed by moderators around-the-clock.

“We realize crime and safety really requires compassion and balance,” he said. “We always welcome and listen to feedback.”

Siminoff said the company's success depends on protecting customers from hackers and malware and providing privacy-friendly products, according to the magazine.

“If we ever breach those things, then we’ll lose trust,” said Siminoff. “Then people won't buy our products.”

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