At least 350 private Colombian cameras have been accessed by “hackers,” according to local media after global privacy watchdogs warned about a Russian website transmitting signals of thousands of private cameras worldwide.
The private cameras include home webcams, security cameras, gyms, and many others connected to the internet are being streamed on a Russian-based website accessible to anyone.
Colombia is not the only country affected. The site appears to have access to 4,600 cameras in the US, 2,000 in France, 1,500 in the Netherlands, 500 in the UK, and many others. Cameras from as many as 250 countries and territories are listed on the website.
Though the website appears to be Russian-based, the administrator has contacted the BBC and claimed that he is not Russian.
Not all of the feeds listed on the site are functioning.
Authorities across Europe have already moved to apprehend the responsible parties. At this moment, arrests have been made in the UK, Estonia, France, Romania, Latvia, Italy, and Norway. The BBC reports that 15 individuals have been arrested so far.
UK authorities, who first reported the breaches, noted that the issue is not truly “hacking” but “hijacking.” The perpetrators have been able to gain access because many of the owners did not change their passwords from default settings.
The method used is known as “ratting,” using “remote access trojan” software to remotely control affected computers.
The “trojan” file is downloaded onto a victim’s computer when he or she clicks on an infected link or opens an infected message.
“Victims are typically infected by being convinced to click on a link purporting to be a picture or video, or disguised as a legitimate file, but is instead an installer for the Rat,” the NCA explained in a statement reported by the BBC.
This breach of private security reiterates the importance of being aware of personal privacy on the internet. Earlier this year a similar breach resulted in the posting of many celebrities’ personal pictures.
Chase Rhymes, chief operating officer for a webcam manufacturing company released a statement, saying: “An analogy best describing this would be just because someone leaves their window open it does not give permission for an unauthorized individual to set up a camera outside their window and broadcast the feed worldwide.”
His company, Foscam, was listed along with Linksys and Panasonic as the webcams most accessed by this breach.
But this also means that owners should educate themselves on how to mitigate their risk as tempting targets for unscrupulous perpetrators. In this case, it is as simple as regularly updating your password.