9 Investigates

Hackers can use your smart devices against you

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — You probably have them in your home: smart devices connected to the web. They provide all sorts of convenience and you can control many of them remotely. But criminals can also tap into them and use them to disable your electronics, spy on your family, or even let themselves into your home.

Victoria Schweizer said it's "creepy" knowing hackers could break into home security cameras or even tap into children's toys.

"What if somebody gets your password and can easily see if you're home, if your child is upstairs?" Schweizer said. "It's not worth it.  It's just not worth it to me."

The FBI has warned parents that toys with microphones could record conversations, potentially picking up things like a "child's name, school, likes and dislikes."

[READ: FBI Warning on Internet-Connected Children's Toys]

The FBI said it raises concerns about children's privacy -- especially child identity theft -- and even their physical safety.

Cyber criminals could hack into your home security system or smart garage opener and get inside your home.

"It's my home. It's my family. It's my son," Russell Schrader, head of the the National Cyber Security Alliance, said.

Schrader said hackers can even use a smart thermostat to target you.

"They realize that it's set at 50 [degrees], but outside, it's 30 or it's 20 and they figure out, 'Ah ha, nobody's home. Alright, it's open pickings,’” Schrader said.

In 2016, cyber criminals reportedly hacked millions of smart devices -- including home security systems and even printers -- knocking several companies offline for hours, including Amazon.

Frank Cicero, an executive with Skylink, a company that makes smart devices, including garage door openers, door and window sensors, and security cameras, told Action 9 that outsmarting hackers is always at the forefront.

“I always look at the point, ‘What could a bad guy do? How could we not make this open?” Cicero said.

For example, Skylink didn't want those "bad guys" to snoop around your house, see you have Amazon's Alexa, and yell to it to open the garage for them. Skylink made software to prevent that.

"You can close it, but you can't open the garage by Alexa," Cicero said.

A more well-known company, LG, reportedly had a close call last year. Security experts picked up on a glitch. Hackers could have accessed home appliances and robotic vacuums. The company made changes before it was too late, but it's still a reminder to consumers to be "smart" about smart devices.