Webcams exposed: Insecure devices stream private video online - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Webcams exposed: Insecure devices stream private video online

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SAN DIEGO, Calif.  (CBS 8) -- You wouldn't want a stranger spying on your family through a living room window but that's exactly what's happening on the World Wide Web.

Thanks to an increase in the use of home surveillance webcams, experts say there are hundreds of thousands of insecure cameras streaming video online.

“They turn the camera on. They put it up in their living room, bedroom, or over their baby crib, and they walk away,” said San Diego computer security expert Daniel Tentler.

A webcam can give you a sense of security; but ironically, it can be the very thing that gives strangers an inside look into your home or business.

A simple search on the internet is all it takes to find open, insecure web cams streaming video of children inside a daycare center in Oklahoma, coeds working out in a gym at a university in Utah, or a dog taking a nap inside a home right here in San Diego.

Tentler said, in computer security circles, it's really no secret that the internet is flooded with exposed webcams.

“When it became common knowledge on the internet that you could just find webcams and connect to them and watch them, this whole subculture of people have come out that pretty much just watch the webcams for interesting things,” he said.

Tentler ran a search on a well-known search engine and found hundreds of thousands of unprotected web cams.

For some of the video feeds, it's difficult to know whether the webcam was meant to be a public or private feed.

CBS News 8 found a dining hall webcam at Point Loma Nazarene University, for example, that shows students in a public area on campus.

Other webcams appear to be feeding video to the world without the owner's knowledge; like the webcam we found at a funeral home in New York showing a coffin against the wall, or a webcam showing patrons drinking at a bar in Dallas.

We also found a webcam mounted in a family's living room in Florida showing a teenage boy playing video games for hours. No password was required to see the video feed.

“And this camera is publicly available on the internet and anybody who knows the IP address can just browse to it and watch the camera,” said Tentler.

So, how how can you prevent strangers from seeing right into your home or business? Experts say there's one simple solution.

“Add a password. If it has to be connected to the internet and there's no getting around it, make it password protected and make the password complex,” Tentler said.

On most of the exposed web cams, the owners never bothered to change the default password on the device.

By creating a new password, the video feed is shut down so strangers can't look in.

“Make sure that people can't just go to your webcam and watch your family and your kids and your house. Take 60 seconds to change the password,” said Tentler.

All the webcams aired in the report did not require any passwords to get in.

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