"I always feel like somebody's watching me And I have no privacy Woh, I always feel like somebody's watching me Who's playing tricks on me?"
-Rockwell, "Somebody's Watching Me"
The state of internet security today brings me back to my childhood in the 80's. The year was (ironically enough) 1984, and one-hit wonder Rockwell, along with Michael Jackson, released hands down one of the most iconic and catchiest tunes of the decade.
The lyrics perfectly capture the paranoia that was brewing but had not yet been fully unleashed via the internet, still in it's commercial infancy. I can't help thinking that Rockwell was something of a visionary each time I hear this song.
Post 9/11, security cameras sprung up everywhere. In our state of shock and despair, the surveillance society truly took root, and became embedded in our culture. Sure, we know in the back of our minds that these cameras are everywhere, but for the most part, we don't think about it. But in the past five years, home security kits including security cameras, have become increasingly popular and affordable. We can now utilize monitoring technology to protect our homes that previously was only the domain of banks and corporations.
But, these devices, internet capable and connected to our home and business networks, also present risks. Out of the box, they are hard coded with default credentials, which if not changed, present a trivial obstacle to hackers. Once in, your security cameras can then be used against you, with the attacker now able to see whatever your cameras can see. What was designed to add security to your life, can easily be used to detract it, or at the very least, to invade your privacy.
Another use for breached security devices, was clearly illustrated last week, when security journalist Brian Kreb's website was knocked offline by the largest ever DDoS attack recorded. In this attack, millions of internet connected devices, including security cameras, were hijacked and used to generate an immense amount of traffic which brought his site to its knees. Many of the devices used in the attack are believed to have been using default login credentials.
So what can you do to protect your internet connected security cameras, and in turn your privacy, and perhaps even your safety? At a bare minimum, take the time for the following:
1. ALWAYS change the default credentials, both the username and the password. There are numerous sites on the internet which keep track of the default login credentials for security cameras, routers, wireless access point, and just about any computing device you can think of.
2. Apply security patches and updates. Internet connected devices are, at their core, computers. And like any computer, they run on software, which often needs to be updated in order to remain secure. Treat all of your internet connected devices with the same care as you would your desktops, laptops, servers, and tablets.
3. Build and maintain a secure network. This includes changing default login credentials on all devices on your network, including (but especially) on your router, wireless access points, and other networking equipment, which, if breached, could allow an attacker access to other devices on your network.
Taking these basic, precautionary measures is a good start to prevent your network from being hijacked by opportunistic threats which crawl the internet for poorly guarded systems.