OK, this is seriously creepy.
Privacy watchdogs are issuing warnings about a Russian website that has breached thousands of personal webcams, CCTVs at gyms and offices and even video baby monitors and is live streaming the feeds online. Yes, your baby cam might be providing a live feed to weirdos all over the world right now.
Here’s what you need to know.
BBC is reporting that the site is streaming footage from nearly 5,000 cameras in the U.S. alone and includes live feeds from a child’s bedroom, a gym and a local pub in the U.K. Other breached cameras are streaming from France, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Kenya, Paraguay and Zimbabwe.
We have chosen to not link to the site here, to protect whatever privacy these victims have left.
Can you imagine some creep watching you at the gym? Or watching your baby sleep? Ick.
According to reports, hackers were able to access the cameras because they had no password or were still using the manufacturer’s default password.
The administrator of the site spoke with the BBC and says he doesn’t think he’s a hacker at all. The passwords on the cameras were either so weak or nonexistent that accessing them didn’t rise to the level of actual hacking. So at least he’s a jerk with a sense of hacker integrity.
What can you do to protect yourself?
First, go to every webcam and baby monitor in your house and set a decent password. That means something with both upper and lowercase letters and a mix of numbers and other symbols. And whenever you have an opportunity to set up a two-step authentication process, you should take the time.
Second, there’s a setting on these devices that allows remote access. If you don’t absolutely need to remotely access the footage, turn that setting off. Many cameras offer a variety of other security features, so pull out that manual and familiarize yourself with how your equipment works.
There’s no better way to protect your family’s privacy than by having a good password on your connected devices, according to Kevin Haley, Director of Security Response at software security giant Symantec.
“It’s a simple as that,” Haley says. “People need to do that to every device they own that’s connected to the internet, even their cable modems and routers. Additionally, people should check for updates to the software used to run these devices. Applying patches if available will close known security holes the bad guys might be able to use.”
Haley offers another tip that anyone can use—no Geek Squad required: tape.
“You also should consider covering your web camera with tape, a sticky note or a gadget created just for this purpose — when you are not using them, of course,” he adds. “Even if you do get hacked, it physically foils the hacker.”