The notion of “the privacy of your own home” may be becoming a thing of the past. Cheap software has reportedly spread in the Chinese Internet, allowing web-connected cameras and home surveillance devices to be infiltrated.
Virtually anyone can buy the hacking software for just 188 yuan ($28) with an attached list of IP addresses and a manual on how to use the malware, China’s CCTV broadcaster reported after conducting an investigation. The malware scans for internet-connected webcams, giving its buyers easy access to them.
The tool has recently spread in Chinese online chat rooms such as QQ Messenger, along with usernames and passwords to affected devices, CCTV reported.
Lists of up to 200 to 400 compromised cameras and login credentials are given away each day, and are downloaded by hundreds of people, according to the Chinese media outlet.
Those with webcams and other easily hackable camera devices are advised to change their passwords immediately and often, as a safety precaution.
CCTV traffic monitoring cameras as well as other cameras in the city can be also hacked if their passwords are not safe enough, cybersecurity experts warned, as cited by South China Morning Post. Those who exploit these gaps in security to invade personal space can be sentenced to up to three years in prison in China, the newspaper added.
Hijacked webcams have long been a cybersecurity concern, particularly after analysts concluded that massive DDoS attacks in October 2016 were the result of smart devices – including webcams and thermostats – being infiltrated to carry out the attacks. More than 80 popular websites were affected, including PayPal, Reddit, Amazon, Spotify, and Twitter.
Webcam hacking even seems to be cause for concern for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. A sharp-eyed Twitter user noticed in June 2016 that a photo posted online by Zuckerberg showed his laptop in the background, with tape over the camera and microphone.