Google's portal to global surveillance cameras
Blogs and message forums buzzed this week with the discovery that a pair of simple Google searches permits access to well over 1,000 unprotected surveillance cameras around the world - apparently without their owners' knowledge.
Searching on certain strings within a URL sniffs out networked cameras that have Web interfaces permitting their owners to view them remotely, and even direct the cameras' motorized pan-and-tilt mechanisms from the comfort of their own desktop.
Video surfers are using this knowledge to peek in on office and restaurant interiors, a Japanese barnyard, women doing laundry, the interior of an Internet co-location facility, and a cage full of rodents, among other things, in locales scattered around the world.
News of the panoptical search queries apparently began on a community web forum, then spread to the widely-read BoingBoing weblog Wednesday and Thursday.
One of the Google search strings circulating summons a list of nearly 1,000 installed network cameras made by Swedish-based Axis Communications, the other turns up about 500 cameras sold by Panasonic.
According to their websites, both companies offer the ability to password-protect the Web interfaces to their cameras, and Axis has a feature that blocks access to webcams from all but approved Internet IP addresses. It's not apparent whether the security features are enabled by default. A FAQ on Panasonic's website includes a warning that their network cameras may not be right for "sensitive applications," and sports a broad disclaimer: "No specific claims are made pertaining to specific levels of security the camera offers."
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