Saturday, 20 October 2012

Watching you watching me, from web cams to space cam

People watching is a good sport sometimes its enjoyable to see a soap opera out in front of you other times its a uncomfortable feeling that someone is watching you. Considering that security cameras or public street cameras are passively watching for any wrong doing its hard to argue the negative aspects as aids law enforcement to recognize the bad guy. Some cameras with a link to the internet can actually stream live footage of the scene across the world. There are literally thousands of webcams and security cameras that broadcast images of offices, parks, street corners, and other public and private areas over the Internet. Since many cameras use known protocols to transmit live video streams over the web, it's quite easy to search for publicly accessible webcams. Sometime, it's even possible to control the cameras online.
Images of children in their bedrooms have been freely available on the web, following a security breach by webcam. The breach affects thousands of feeds, and was caused by an error in code introduced nearly two years ago. IP cameras may be accessed online in real time. The flaw was first discovered by the Consolecowboys hacking blog, which details how the cameras' video streams are accessible to anyone with the correct net address - and how the Shodan search engine can be used to discover vulnerable cameras. In particular, the firmware for 22 webcam models sold by Trendnet since April 2010 has a bug that allows anonymous connections to be made to the cameras, without requiring a password. According to a statement published on the company's website earlier this week, "Trendnet's security team understands that video from some Trendnet IP SecurView cameras may be accessed online in real time. Upon awareness of the issue, Trendnet initiated immediate actions to correct and publish updated firmware which resolves the vulnerability."
Also three of the most popular brands of closed-circuit surveillance cameras are sold with remote internet access enabled by default, and with weak password security - a classic recipe for security failure that could allow hackers to remotely tap into the video feeds, according to new research.
according to researcher Justin Cacak, senior security engineer at Gotham Digital Science, the cameras, used by banks, retailers, hotels, hospitals and corporations, are often configured insecurely - thanks to these manufacturer default settings,. As a result, he says, attackers can seize control of the systems to view live footage, archived footage or control the direction and zoom of cameras that are adjustable.
Cacak and his team were able to view footage as part of penetration tests they conducted for clients to uncover security vulnerabilities in their networks. The team found more than 1,000 closed-circuit TV cameras that were exposed to the internet and thus susceptible to remote compromise, due to inherent vulnerabilities in the systems and to the tendency of the companies to configure them insecurely.
CCTV video surveillance systems are deployed at entrances and exits to facilities as well as in areas considered to be sensitive, such as bank vaults, server rooms, research and development labs and areas where expensive equipment is located.
 Typically, the cameras are easily spotted on ceilings and walls, but they can also be hidden to monitor employees and others without their knowledge. Obtaining unauthorized access to such systems could allow thieves to case a facility before breaking into it, turn cameras away from areas they don’t want monitored or zoom in on sensitive papers or prototype products at a workstation. The cameras could also be used to spy on hospitals, restaurants and other facilities to identify celebrities and others who enter.
The same camera that can secure businesses and home property could work against us. The use of camera in my opinion is a double edge sword, on one side it can be exploited for criminal ends or fulfill dark sexual voyeurism or it can educate.

UrtheCast is a Canadian based company that will distribute the operational software for the first publicly accessibly HD Cameras to be installed on the International Space Station. This is an international project involving several nations. The UrtheCast service will be accessible online and will allow users to access the two UrtheCast cameras from their homes to examine places or events.
The medium-resolution camera takes still images while the high-resolution camera captures video that shows detail as small as 1m across, which is similar to that of Google Earth. To ensure they’re pointing in the right direction, and to cope with vibrations on the Space Station, the cameras will be linked to star trackers. These are small cameras that take images of space and locate patterns of stars in order to calculate which way the main cameras are pointing. The cameras will capture raw data and compress it using the JPEG2000 algorithm. Data from each camera will then be stored on a computer and transmitted when the Station is in sight of a receiver on the ground. This will happen at least once per orbit, or every 90 minutes.
From the receivers, the data will be uncompressed and uploaded to servers. On the UrtheCast website, you’ll be able to fast-forward, pause, rewind and skip the near-live footage. You’ll also be able to tag segments of video on Facebook and Twitter, and track the Space Station’s position to see when it will next pass over an area of interest. Hopefully the camera will be built by the UK's Rutherford Appleton Laboratories (RAL)  and will be installed on the Russian module of the ISS. The platform will utilize some measure of open source coding. Being hailed as a live google earth cam, it means we can see a unique perspective on the planet we inhabit. The success of Google earth progressed to street view and the accessibility of the world at every corner. Could UrtheCast do the same and bring live feeds of the world?, it could expose areas to natural disasters or political upheaval. Having one Point of View its likely that the camera will be streaming places of interest instead of secret areas. In the end I am hopeful that the live cam of the world might educate us maybe on environmental issues, rather then petty human crimes...

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