By Paul Van Osdol from wtae.com
Millions of webcams open to prying eyes on Internet
Experts say how you can protect your privacy
UPDATED 6:49 PM EDT Jul 06, 2015
PITTSBURGH —Action News Investigates has learned you may be letting the world into your living room without knowing it -- all because of webcams that are open to anyone on the Internet.
The Shodan website allows you to search the internet for webcams and other devices that have internet connections. Using Shodan, Action News Investigates found sites allowing remote access to places such as the East Allegheny and Mount Lebanon school districts.
There are an estimated 10 million web cameras and security cameras online, open to anyone who knows how to find them. Action News Investigates found dozens of them in the Pittsburgh area.
One woman probably had no idea images of her working in her kitchen were being broadcast live on the Internet. Nor did she realize her camera could be controlled by someone watching her.
There was also a webcam showing a Pittsburgh-area couple having dinner; a camera inside a Pittsburgh dog daycare; a security camera revealing people coming and going at the offices of a women's shelter; and a camera showing people at work inside a Pittsburgh-area business.
The people captured on those images were not identifiable. But others told Pittsburgh's Action News 4 investigative reporter Paul Van Osdol that they were disturbed to learn that their webcams might be open to anyone.
"That's kind of spooky -- real spooky," said Joe Riebling, of Bellevue.
“It's a big concern. I don't want people looking in on me,” said Lexi Rudolph, of Cranberry. "I think that should be fixed in some way."
Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Lorrie Cranor said it has never been easier to find webcams on the Internet.
“People don't have to be sophisticated to figure out how to see your camera,” Cranor said. "You just go to one place. It’s one-stop shopping and you can go look at everybody's cameras."
One of those websites is Shodan, which calls itself the search engine for the Internet of things. It has also been called the scariest search engine on the Internet.
Shodan founder John Matherly said the site is not meant for snoops and trolls. Instead, he wants to highlight security shortcomings on the Internet to help make people more secure.
“Many cameras, even if they advertise security features, they have very poor security, a very, very poor security record,” Matherly said.
How can you protect yourself to make sure your webcam is not open to anyone? It’s as easy as creating a password.
But experts say many people never take that simple step, or they use the camera's default password -- the one supplied by the camera company -- which is almost as bad.
“Default passwords offer you almost no protection because once you figure out what brand of camera it is, you know what the default password is and you're in,” Cranor said.
“If you change the defaults, that's 90 percent of the battle right there,” Matherly said. "Very, very simple to do."
The Oakmont Yacht Club has security cameras set up for members to keep an eye on their boats. The club's website says only members with passwords can access the cameras, but Action News Investigates was able to view one of the cameras online.
A yacht club official said he had forgotten to create a password for the camera when it was installed. After he typed in a password, the webcam was not accessible.
When Homewood bar owner Denise Durrett set up security cameras, she made sure they were password protected.
“We wouldn't want anybody to just hack into our camera system because then they'd be able to see what's going on and maybe infiltrate getting into the bar,” Durrett said.
Pittsburgh's Action News 4 asked information technology consultant Raymond Delien to check his laptop webcam.
"Just entered my password, so that's giving me one level of protection, right?" Van Osdol asked.
"Correct," Delien said.
"So there's no chance that someone on the Internet is looking at this right now?" Van Osdol asked.
“No, no chance," Delien said.It is also important to make sure your wireless network is secure with a password, Delien said.
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