Russians Hacking Into Home Webcams Sparks U.K. Warning

U.K. privacy regulators warned people to tighten security on their computers after a Russian website streamed live footage from hacked webcams and closed circuit television.

The site, which shows images from hundreds of cameras in British bedrooms, shops and workplaces, uses default log-in details to access the cameras, the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office said.

“I’m very concerned about what this shows and I want the Russians to take this down straight away,” Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, said on BBC radio’s Today program. “We now want to take very prompt action working with the Federal Trade Commission in the States to get this thing closed down.”

While the website has been in operation for a month, U.K. authorities were alerted to its existence just 24 hours ago through data agencies in the U.S. and Australia, Graham said.

“They say that they are making a point about the need to take security measures, well OK you’ve made the point, but you’re streaming live action from nearly 600 web cameras in the U.K.,” Graham said.

A group of sophisticated Russian hackers rifled the computer banks of JPMorgan Chase & Co. unhindered for more than two months this summer and attacked at least 13 other U.S. and European financial institutions with mixed success. The bank later disclosed that the hackers stole the names and contact information of 83 million customers but did not access account numbers or passwords.

The ICO published guidance on its website on how to strengthen passwords and increase security on remote access camera systems. About 350,000 security cameras and web-cams are sold each year in the U.K., the ICO said.

“We all need to be aware of the threats that exist to our personal information,” Simon Rice, group manager of the ICO’s technology team, said in a statement on the ICO’s website. “If you don’t, then you’re leaving your information vulnerable and no one likes being watched by a stranger.”

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