Visit exotic foreign lands, via unsecured networked video cameras

Posted by in Best Of, Musings

Every now and again, I will read a news article about the proliferation of security cameras and CCTV around the world. Perhaps the reporter laments on the invasion of personal privacy; or perhaps they harangue on the development of a nanny state. Great Britain is especially vulnerable to such criticisms, with some studies claiming that Britons are recorded on CCTV cameras as often as 300 times a day. Even the lower estimate presented in the linked article, of Britons being recorded a ‘mere’ 70 times a day, is unsettling to the privacy-minded.

But there is a silver lining to this video camera revolution; cyber tourism. Many security cameras are networked, and of all the tens of millions around the globe, some never have their image feed or control interface password-protected. Here’s a little trick to find some of these unsecured networked camera feeds. All you need to do is use Google to search for the following text, and click through some of the links:

inurl:”ViewerFrame?Mode=” -inurl -intitle

I can’t begin to explain how much fun it is to peek into random foreign cities through the choppy security camera footage! There’s just something so thrilling in the fact that these pixelated scenes are actually happening, right now, live before your eyes. Many of the cameras are on motorized mounts, allowing the operator to pan and zoom as he pleases. I watched students walk to class at a college in Pennsylvania; windmills turning in Arizona; snow falling in Russia; people sitting in a waiting room somewhere in middle America; and the sun rise over early morning traffic in Japan. For one of the Japanese feeds, I googled the name of a business and found the location on Google Street View near Fukuoka, in southern Japan. Now I felt like more than just a cyber tourist; I felt like a cyber detective as well! This particular camera appears to be nothing more than a webcam set up by a hobbyist, rather than a real security camera, so I don’t see any harm in sharing it directly:

The feed (How log the feed will stay live and unlocked is anyone’s guess)

The location

One of the blogs I read mentioned that this sort of cyber tourism could exist in a legal, or at least ethical, gray area. One could imagine all sorts of terrifying Hollywood-thriller scenarios of criminals exploiting this painfully simple security hole for burglaries or worse. Of course the odds of a criminal stumbling upon any actionable data in this manner are long indeed; but this is still a good time to remind you to always reset the default password on networked hardware. There will always be some equipment owners who skip this vital step, but don’t let it be you, unless you want your front lawn to be the next stop on someone’s virtual world tour!