(CBS) — Internet security cameras are amazing technology, but if your webcam isn’t properly setup, you may not be the only person in the world watching.
Surfing for cameras connected to the web is something hackers have been doing for years, CBS 2’s Ed Curran explains what you need to do to protect yourself.
Chicago-based webcams are among 70,000 worldwide hacked by a Russian website.
“It’s incredible. It’s actually scary that you can just be a voyeur in someone else’s home today,” said ABT Electronics salesperson Melissa Alper.
Alper sells cameras and they’re a great tool for checking online to see what’s going on at your house.
“You want to see if your kids are ok, they come home from school on time, what your pets are doing,” said Alper.
So the irony of all this is that you install a camera to make your home more secure. Yet, if you don’t do the right thing anybody with a tablet, a smartphone, a computer worldwide can watch your every move.
Too often cameras are installed without changing the default name and password. We used a popular search engine to find webcams in a private office, in a college fitness center, and even one in a bedroom no password required. It’s risky for businesses.
“People can watch your day to day operations and how you handle your business,” said Greg Porthan, ABT’s Camera Installation Manager.
To protect privacy, Porthan installs webcams with unique names, passwords and firewalls.
“Our stuff is more protected than the average do it yourself person will do it,” said Porthan.
Jay Rutili of Forest Security believes the more precautions you take the better.
“That camera’s getting its video image through your network. So it’s not just the camera, it’s the router, the video network,” said Rutili.
And, if it’s on the internet, “If that video signal isn’t encrypted, somewhere along the way, even when it gets past your house, it could potentially be intercepted,” warned Rutili.
Besides encrypting signals, Rutili avoids Wi-Fi and prefers to hard wire his cameras
So, the message here is use this webcam technology with caution. When possible, have a professional install it. Don’t put a camera in a private area like a bedroom, and finally….
“Change your username and passcode on a regular basis,” urged Alper.
Also be careful about the camera on your computer. You can disable it or cover the lens if you’re not using it for Skype or Facetime.
After an international outcry, the Russian website says it will no longer show cameras in private areas. But, be careful, internet search engines can still easily find vulnerable webcams.