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A Complete Stranger Controlled This Woman's Home Security System, but They're Not the One She's Angry With


September 30, 2020

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A Complete Stranger Controlled This Woman's Home Security System, but They're Not the One She's Angry With

* Woman shocked to find complete stranger could control her home’s security system.
* You may have a new home, but does its old owner still have access?

Imagine being contacted by a complete stranger via Facebook, and them telling you that they have complete control over the security system in your new home.

Chances are that you would be at the very least concerned, or at worst petrified.

And that’s what happened to Taylor Fornell, only weeks after she moved into her new home in Stony Plain, Alberta.

As CBC News reports, Ms Fornell was approached by a man who demonstrated that he was able to unarm her security system, unlock her doors and windows, and even track when she left her home.

Fortunately for Fornell, the man was Rob Hall, the previous owner of the property.

Hall had not contacted Fornell because he wanted to scare her with the power he wielded over her home’s security, but rather because he wanted to warn her.

Hall says that he contacted Vivint, the company which installed and managed the home’s security system weeks before Fornell moved in, but his access to the system had not been revoked.

“I felt a little sick to my stomach… It’s just really creepy and a breach of trust,” Fornell told CBC News.

I guess it’s a relief that Fornell’s home did not contain security cameras, or Hall would have found himself warning her that he could even secretly spy on her.

In an ideal world, a home’s security system should be entirely reset when the home changes ownership just like you would hope other connected items – such as a luxury car – would be disconnected from its previous owner’s app when resold.

The problem is that the company managing the home security system may not be aware that ownership has changed. Furthermore, there’s not really much of a financial motivation for a security firm like Vivint to revoke access.

Yes, if the <em>new</em> owner of a home or car gets in touch to say that they want to take over the subscription of, say, a home security system you can imagine that the likes of Vivint would pay more attention… but if all they receive is a notification that someone no longer requires the service they may be more lax.

According to Hall, however, his contract with Vivint had already expired when he called them on May 21 requesting his access be cut off, and followed up later that day with an email.

He thought the expiry of his account would be automatic, but a month later he was shocked to find he could control the home’s security system and reached out to Fornell via Facebook.

Vivint said it demanded 30 days’ notice for cancellation, but that it could cut off access immediately if required. The company says it is reviewing its process in light of reports from Taylor Fornell and other home owners who have had similar experiences.

My advice? If you take ownership of a home, or car, or anything else that might still be accessed by a former owner, make sure to change passwords where possible – just like you might consider changing the locks.

And ask service companies to hand over control of any internet-enabled services to you – and you alone.




Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s.

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