There aren’t many places we go in public nowadays that are “off the grid.” Cameras track our movements through a myriad of applications — store security (inside and out), ATM transactions, traffic cams, you name it.
Who hasn’t seen crime procedurals on television where a suspect’s movements are tracked across town from one camera feed to the next. If it is on TV it must be true, right?
Until recent times, such camera systems were hardwired to some sort of analog monitoring system. These systems were mostly self-contained and reasonably secure.
More prevalent today are wireless setups, where each camera has its own IP (Internet Protocol) address and can stream video directly to a remote network device that manages the camera and its recording schedule.
Just as hackers can wreak havoc by finding and tapping into unsecured computers through IP addresses, the same can be done with cameras that don’t have the proper security protocols in place.
According to Tom Connor of Ars Technica, IP cameras can be located quite readily by anyone who has basic computer skills and knows what to search for online. Says Connor, “. . . users need only load a simple browser-based applet (typically Flash, Java, or ActiveX) to view live or recorded video, control cameras, or check their settings.”
He also noted that IP devices come with easy-to-follow instructions to set onboard security that, when done properly, will lock out uninvited intruders. Unfortunately, many camera owners never bother to take the few minutes necessary to do so.
Connor followed up by searching for and tapping into unsecured cameras worldwide, from small villages in far-away places to doctors’ offices to aquarium tanks.
Among the cameras he accessed were three red-light cameras in an unnamed Texas town. The lack of IP security enabled Connor to change the camera settings which, thankfully, he didn’t follow through with.
As if we didn’t need another reason to oppose red-light and speed cameras.