New York City

Schumer warns of webcam, ‘Smart’ TV, baby monitor hackers

December 1, 2014 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
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U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer on Sunday called on device manufacturers to adopt improved safety and security standards to help prevent hackers from breaking into individuals’ camera-enabled devices, and live streaming personal lives for all to see.

Schumer said that newer “smart” televisions and other devices, such as baby monitors or webcams, now equipped with built-in cameras, microphones and Internet access, are valuable innovations but have posed a threat to New Yorkers since their development, and that concern became a reality last week when the Russian website www.insecam.cc hacked into homes and streamed live footage from thousands of cameras ranging from baby monitors, webcams and surveillance cameras. Hackers were able to access cameras when default passwords set by manufacturers remained unchanged once set up in a home or business.

Schumer said although one website has since been changed, there is nothing to prevent the occurrence of similar privacy breaches, which expose thousands of New Yorkers to voyeurism, robbery and even blackmail.  Security settings, set by the device manufacturers, must change to protect consumers. Schumer on Sunday called for television, camera and baby monitor manufacturers to improve security standards on these devices.

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Specifically, the senator said manufacturers should require consumers to automatically set a unique password when installing one of these products. Schumer also applauded the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for its work protecting consumers’ data security and privacy, including recent enforcement actions.

“Popular items on our shopping lists this holiday season include ‘smart’ television, webcams and baby monitors, but rather than adding convenience and security to our homes, these devices roll out the welcome mat for potential voyeurs, robbers, blackmailers and other criminals,” Schumer said.

“The recent privacy breach by Russian hackers unfortunately demonstrated the urgency that we must take in improving security settings on these great devices, and I am urging these manufacturers to better protect consumers by making immediate changes to new camera-enabled devices, in conjunction with experts at the FTC,” the senator continued. “A change in security policy, as simple as requiring consumers to set a unique password upon setup of their device, could prevent similar cyber-attacks from being successful in the future.” 

Schumer noted that these devices also collect sensitive data that could be exposed if the devices are hacked. According to experts at the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, “smart” televisions log the amount of time you watch TV, the content of what is being watched and more.

According to recent reports, hackers in Russia broke into more than 70,000 cameras across the world, including more than 4,000 cameras in the United States, by using camera manufacturers’ default passwords. Live video feed from the hacked cameras had at one time been streamed on the foreign website ‎www.insecam.ccThe site says its purpose is “to show the importance of settings and changing the security settings on internet cameras.”
 
Live-streamed footage on the site included everything from babies sleeping in their cribs to footage of store employees working behind a counter to the hallway of a high school. The website, www.insecam.cc, recently announced that they had removed all cameras that use default password settings and now, only public cameras without any password protection are available on the site.

 

-Information from Sen. Schumer’s Office


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