In the fast-paced digital era that we’re now living in, taking a few extra steps to protect your privacy at all costs is no longer a recommendation – it is a requirement. So much personal information is flowing back and forth across the Internet that someone wouldn’t have to peek in on your life for very long to do a significant amount of damage.
Consider your smartphone, for example. If you connect that phone to a public Wi-Fi network, all it would take is one person with the right software and a little bit of basic knowledge to “pull” every kilobyte of personal data down off that network. If you log into your online banking service to check your account statement, suddenly someone else has access, too.
But when people concern themselves with online privacy, they typically turn their attention toward the most obvious culprits: desktop and laptop computers, smartphones and tablets. What you might not realize is that criminals could potentially be spying on you inside your home WITHOUT using these devices at all. Your TV, that fancy new Internet-connected baby monitor and even your TEA KETTLE could all be piping information directly into the hands of a malicious third party without you even having a hint at what is going on.
Your Home Might Be Online Right Now
United Kingdom-based publication The Daily Mail recently discovered a website based in Russia that hosted both live video feeds and recordings from cameras all across the UK. One stream was from a camera focused on a North Yorkshire industrial park, and viewers could watch employees load up furniture to get ready for a delivery. Another feed was from inside a high-end tobacco shop in the heart of London, and viewers could watch as the clerk stocked the cigars and whiskey that would be necessary for the day ahead.
The problem is that none of these feeds were designed to be public – they were all streaming illegally via this one Russian website.
To make things worse, two of the feeds in particular targeted children. One was focused on a school in the Midlands, allowing viewers to watch children as they played with outdoor playground equipment between classes. Another was a feed clearly from a private residence with sub-feeds labeled “Car,” “Door,” “Path” and “Patio.”
None of the people who were being viewed seemed to be aware of the problem, which is part of the reason why this is something that needs to be addressed at all costs.
The cameras in question were essentially hijacked because whoever installed them failed to change the default username and password for their particular models. When you purchase a Sony Internet-streaming video camera, the default password is typically the same for every other model sold anywhere else in the world. This information essentially becomes common knowledge in an instant, which is why you’re supposed to change it. When you don’t, you run into problems like this one.
Now, consider the fact that over the next few years there will be an estimated 75 billion everyday items connected to the Internet. Everything connects to the Internet in an attempt to make your life better. The baby monitor that lets you check in on your kids while you’re at work. The tea kettle that lets you prepare a nice hot cup of your favorite drink from your smartphone while you’re on your way home. You can begin to see why this situation is so severe.
Protecting Yourself Means Being Proactive
Whenever you purchase a new Internet-connected device, it is important for you to change the default username and password as quickly as possible. Failure to do so could result in a massive privacy violation. Likewise, place a piece of electrical tape over all cameras and microphones when you’re not actively using them. Remember, you really never know who might be listening.