More than 15,000 webcams, many of which are located inside people's homes, are potentially accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Researchers at Wizcase who discovered the cameras say many are vulnerable to attackers who could steal data or adjust the settings.
"These devices seem to be prone to being accessed remotely if no additional security measures are taken after installation," said Wizcase Web security expert Chase Williams in a blog post. "Quite a few" have easily predictable and default credentials to achieve admin access, he said.
Several types of popular webcams are affected: AXIS net cameras, Cisco Linksys webcam, IP Camera Logo Server, IP WebCam, IQ Invision Web camera, Mega-Pixel IP Camera, Mobotix, WebCamXP 5, and Yawcam. Thousands of these devices are exposed around the world, Williams wrote, and they compromise data belonging to individuals, families, and businesses.
Researchers at Wizcase, which tests and evaluates cybersecurity tools and products, were able to access cameras inside the kitchens, living rooms, and offices of private family homes, where they could see people talking on the phone and kids peering into the camera lens. Some of the webcams they analyzed provided a direct look into storage units, churches, mosques, tennis courts, museum security feeds, hotels, parking lots, and more.
While they couldn't determine a device's owner based on technical information alone, researchers could use context from videos and administrative access to unearth user data and estimate the webcam's geolocation. In rare cases, they could figure out its owner. In exploring implications for these devices, Williams pointed to the potential for settings and credentials to be changed, government agencies to monitor users, stores to peek into competitor businesses, or personally identifiable information to be used in identity theft.
"As people continue to connect their household devices to the Internet, you can expect to see more of this sort of privacy breach, particularly as organizations lacking the skills or experience to build such products leap onto the IoT bandwagon," says Stephen Gailey, head of solutions architecture at Exabeam.
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