Families are unwittingly broadcasting their everyday lives across the internet via hacked home security cameras.Footage from cameras linked into household computer networks is being streamed live on rogue websites, warn privacy watchdogs.
This allows anyone to spy on families in their own homes in real time.A Russian site seen by the Mail shows scenes from hundreds of cameras covering living rooms, bedrooms, gardens and driveways of homes across Britain.
The site also shows footage from inside offices – including images of unsuspecting workers – high street shops, gyms, pubs, takeaway outlets and even a horse in a stable.
Among the most shocking images are those from baby monitors which show children sleeping in their cots at home. Another shows an elderly woman sitting in her living room in Wakefield.
The site also broadcasts from cameras showing women working out on a treadmill in a gym in Manchester, a man sitting on the sofa in his living room in Renew, Scotland, and views in bedrooms, gardens and conservatories in affluent properties across South East England.As well as publishing live feeds of what happens in people’s homes, the site shows the exact location of the camera according to its longitude and latitude, and the post code of the property.
It is a potential goldmine for burglars wanting to break into a property which they know is unattended. The privacy alert comes from the country’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The cameras are often linked to the internet so owners can check what is going on at home remotely when they are at work or on holiday.
But, by not changing the default manufacturer’s password, they are wide open to hacking. Default login codes for many brands of camera are available across the web.
The site seen by the Mail shows scenes from 600 cameras from some of the 350,000 such devices sold every year in the UK. Dozens of other sites are thought to exist showing thousands more scenes.Astonishingly, the site appears to be generating money from adverts sponsored by the British Government warning the public about online privacy.
Adverts hosted on the site – which are being paid for with taxpayers’ money – link to a Government campaign called Cyber streetwise.com.It contains information for the general public and business owners on how to protect their private information.
Warnings over the Russian site were issued today by the ICO which told users to change their passwords or detach the cameras from the web.Simon Rice, group manager for technology at the office of the Information Commissioner said: ‘The ability to access footage remotely is both an internet camera’s biggest selling point and, if not setup correctly, potentially its biggest security weakness.
‘Remember, if you can access your video footage over the internet then what is stopping someone else from doing the same?
‘You may think that having to type in an obscure web address to access the footage provides some level of protection. ‘However, this will not protect you from the remote software that hackers often use to scan the internet for vulnerable devices.’
He said anyone with camera in their home worried that it might be hacked should turn off the remote viewing option. He also urged the public to change their settings so all devices were protected with a strong password.
Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘Few people would leave their front doors unlocked, yet failing to password protect your devices carries the same risks to both their privacy and security.‘As the capability of these devices becomes increasingly sophisticated, it is inevitable that users will inadvertently expose themselves and their lives to hackers.
‘This warning from the ICO should come as a timely wake-up call that the public need to start educating themselves about the technology they are bringing into their homes and how to keep it secure.The site itself claims to be operating to ‘show the importance of security settings’.On the front page it states: ‘Sometimes administrator (possible you too) forgets to set the default password on security surveillance system, online camera or DVR (digital video recorder).
‘This site now contains access only to cameras without a password and it is fully legal.’Such online cameras are available for all internet users. To browse cameras just select the country or camera type.‘This site has been designed in order to show the importance of the security settings. ‘To remove your public camera from this site and make it private the only thing you need to do is to change your camera default password.’
The site also hosts thousands of other cameras from other countries.