A website in Russia has been set up which is streaming video hacked from cameras in private homes and businesses across the world. The streaming footage being shown is the result of personal webcams, baby monitors, and surveillance or CCTV cameras being taken over by hackers spying on the private lives of citizens without consent.
The Russian-based site being used to transmit the live video footage is accessible to anyone who has an internet connection. Viewers are also required to log into the site. Upon log-in, anyone can see feeds from what are expected to be private places within homes and other areas where there are cameras hooked into the internet.
The feeds are being collected from across the world. It is alleged that more than 4,000 American homes and businesses have had cameras hacked. France has had 2000, the Netherlands nearly 1,600 and the UK has had approximately 500 home and business cameras compromised. The numbers of those affected is steadily climbing.
Numerous American businesses which include stores in Amarillo Texas, a number of colleges and universities, including schools in parts of Iowa, and unsuspecting households are being recorded without their knowledge. Peering eyes are also focused in on babies through baby monitors which are normally set up as a layer of protection for parents against threats such as unwelcome intruders.
In Virginia there are several minutes of detailed footage of a baby frolicking in a room. Babies in Utah are shown who are restfully sleeping and live feeds from Florida are streaming images of babies in cribs. Making matters worse is the fact that the cameras this Russian site are hacking into across the world broadcast unfiltered, unrestricted images linked to live feeds that provide precise location coordinates that coincide with online maps.
The live feeds are being acquired by hackers that have cracked pass codes which are either weak, using the default code, or on those cameras without any pass code at all. The hackers are then able to bypass the camera’s safety features by using sophisticated software and online search devices to operate and control camera settings.
Camera brands most commonly announced as those being hacked include the Fos-cam, closely followed by Linksys brand and finally Panasonic. Any camera model, however, could be hacked into without proper precautions being taken.
A spokesperson from Linksys Corporation announced that they are trying to identify which of their manufactured IP cameras are being readily hacked. The spokesperson added, “We [think] they are obsolete cameras no longer being manufactured.” Older, obsolete cameras provide little means for Linksys to press customers to switch default passwords. Linksys does intend to continue stressing the importance of passwords to the buying public. In many cases, insecure cameras can be found by simply using a standard engine.
The hackers may simply be bored, technologically savvy teenagers or a more sinister organization involved in a form of espionage. Russia is infamous for its ties to strategic espionage as depicted in Ellis Henican’s book, based on a true story, How to Catch A Russian Spy. Cyber security expert Carolyn Baylon warns that cyber espionage is on the rise and is a progressive weapon ideal for stealing data and gathering intelligence. With advancing technology, governmental espionage allows intruders to see most anything anyone might be doing.
Christopher Graham, UK Information Commissioner, along with other leaders have stated they will work together with Russian authorities in an effort to remove the site. However, reports from sources such as Sky News state that the alleged site administrator refuses to terminate the live feeds until cameras worldwide are properly password protected.
With this Russian site taking over unsecured cameras across the world by means of hacking, Baylon encourages that people take precautions. Placing a cover over web cams when not in use is one such precaution. A piece of non-adhesive tape over the lens also works fine. Baylon adds, “The real problem is most people are not yet sensitized to this issue.”
By D’wayne Stanelli