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Ring Fired Four Employees Who Abused Access to Customer Videos

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

January 10, 2020 -- Ring, the Santa Monica-based surveillance doorbell company, fired four employees who viewed video that "exceeded" what was necessary to do their jobs, company officials said.

The revelation came in a letter from officials of the Amazon-owned company to U.S. Senators who in November had questioned the security of the company's surveillance devices, which customers often place inside their homes.

The concerns were raised after online news sites reported that hackers had broken into customers' accounts and used their surveillance devices to harass them.

"Over the last four years, Ring has received four complaints or inquiries regarding a team member's access to Ring video data," Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, said in the company’s response dated January 6.

“Although each of the individuals involved in these incidents was authorized to view video data, the attempted access to that data exceeded what was necessary for their job functions,” Huseman said.

“In each instance, once Ring was made aware of the alleged conduct, Ring promptly investigated the incident, and after determining that the individual violated company policy, terminated the individual.”

Huseman said the company now limits “such data access to a smaller number of team members” and will assess whether those employees "have a continuing need for access to customer information.”

Amazon also said it will require users to enter a code sent to their cell phones to help confirm they are the authorized user, though the "two-factor authentication" applies only to new products.

Last January, The Intercept reported that according to one source Ring provided its Ukraine-based research and development team "virtually unfettered access" to video footage taken by "every Ring camera around the world."

At the time the videos in a folder on Amazon’s S3 cloud storage service were unencrypted, according to the source.

Ring addressed the issue in its letter to the Senators Monday.

"The R&D team in Ukraine can only access publicly available videos and videos available from Ring employees, contractors, and friends and family of employees or contractors with their express consent," Huseman wrote.

Last July, the founder of Ring said it was critical for the company to protect customers from hackers and malware ("Founder of Santa Monica-Based Ring Addresses Rising Privacy Concerns," July 15, 2019).

The comments by Ring’s founder and chief inventor Jamie Siminoff came as the company faced increasing criticism that both hackers and company employees could access the online information.

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

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