Ring's smart doorbell is a cautionary tale for China sourcing

The Ring Doorbell was found to be sending data to China and it is possible that a software update cannot fix it.

March 24, 2017

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The Ring Doorbell was found to be sending data to China and it is possible that a software update cannot fix it.

The Ring Doorbell can also act as a security camera. Image Source: Ring

One of the major weaknesses of the Internet of Things is security. This isn't a secret. There have been myriad articles on the security weaknesses of IoT devices, but early adopters have been driving growth in this area thus far and they don't seem perturbed by this.

Some security concerns for products coming out of China, though, result from features, not bugs. That's what happened recently with the Ring Doorbell, which was discovered to be sending data through China.

Ring is a US-based company that makes a smart doorbell with a video camera attached. In addition to giving users a way of seeing and conversing with visitors, it can act as a security camera with motion detection that can alert homeowners. The doorbell was a popular product at the Consumer Electronics Show this year. The company recently raised $109 million in Series D funding and wants to file for an IPO by the end of the year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The idea behind the China snafu was that if Ring loses data, it sends the last of the data packets to an unroutable IP address. In this case, it was actually sending data packets to an address owned by China search giant Baidu.

The result is behavior that could give hackers backdoor access to the smart home device. It's also possible that this vulnerability can't be fixed until users change the hardware.

This serves as a cautionary tale for buyers to know how their “connected” devices work and how data is routed over them. For the average smart home device like smart sockets and light bulbs using ZigBee, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to connect to local devices, this kind of thing shouldn't be a big worry. Larger companies like Ring that provide services over the Internet, however, need to start delving deeper into their IoT products.

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