Russian webcam hackers spy on UK homes & offices

CCTV camera

Webcam and CCTV owners are being urged to secure access to surveillance devices after it emerged a Russian website is making the footage available for anyone to view online.

The website, called Insecam, streams live video from thousands of webcams without the owners' permission. The owners also have no idea their premises are being spied on.

In the UK, around 584 webcams are available to view, including feeds from offices, factories and even a pub in Egham. More ominously, children and babies can be seen sleeping in their beds.

According to Simon Rice, group manager for technology at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said the website accesses the footage by using the default login credentials, which are freely available online for thousands of cameras.

"With 350,000 of these cameras sold in the UK alone last year, this is a threat that all of us need to be aware of and be taking action to protect against," he 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, he added.

"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.

"In some cases, insecure cameras can be identified using nothing more than an internet search engine," said Rice.

"As a last resort, you can always cover the lens if you don't want to use the camera all of the time."

David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, said, to protect webcams from being hijacked, users can start securing their routers by changing the default password and of any other device, such as baby monitors and webcams.

"Hacking into a device's camera offers those with malicious intent access to our images, our most intimate moments, our identities and the people we want most to protect, such as our children," he said.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.