The UK's privacy watchdog is warning about a website which is streaming live footage from unsecured web cams — from devices used in corporate CCTV systems to those in baby monitors.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said the website, which is based in Russia, accesses the information by using the default login credentials for thousands of models of cameras, which are freely available online. According to the BBC, around 500 of the feeds are from the UK and 5,000 from the US.
The ICO said that 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." It warned webcam users to make sure they are using strong passwords and not the default password their system shipped with.
"If you don't, you're potentially leaving your information vulnerable," the ICO warned.
While the ability to access footage remotely can a big selling point for webcams, the ICO warned if they are not set up correctly it can also be their biggest security weakness, as it's possible to scan the internet — or even simply use a search engine — to discover vulnerable devices.
The privacy watchdog also noted that "webcams aren’t the only devices that hackers may be able to access remotely," and pointed to the increased use of cloud storage as another source of information leaks.
"The use of the cloud and all of these devices further increases the amount of information that’s potentially available if you fail to take adequate steps to keep your information secure," it said.
It's a foretaste of the security worries that are likely to become more commonplace as we put more household devices online as the internet of things takes shape: increasingly the question will be how to ensure that security is tight by default rather than left to the (not necessarily tech-savvy or security-aware) consumer.
Of course it's not the first time webcam footage has made headlines. Recently it was revealed that UK surveilance agency GCHQ had intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of users.