You expect security cameras to keep an eye on your home, not open your home or your backyard pool for the entire world to see — but an open Wi-Fi camera can do exactly that.
“Oh my gosh, that’s shocking!” reacted Becky Galli when we pulled up a website that had a running list of open Houston cameras. “I hope we don’t have any cameras in our back yard now.”
The website insecam.org has been around for a few years. It tries to catalogue every open network Wi-Fi-enabled camera around the world. I.T. security professor Chris Bronk said the popularity of these cameras, of which there are more than a billion around the world, comes with inherent risk.
“You want to know that someone is showing up on your front door and you want that to come to your Android or your iPhone, but you don’t want it on some random website,” he said. “That’s the hard work security experts have to worry about, filling these gaps.”
Bronk, a University of Houston professor, said only a tiny fraction of cameras are not secure. Insecam.org shows around 75 cameras in the Houston area right now, ranging from a TranStar camera and a camera overlooking Pleasure Pier in Galveston to several backyards and a number of front porches. One camera shows a doctor’s office, another shows the front of Discovery Green and still others show local businesses.
“That’s unfortunate. It’s not surprising for me. I understand these things happen,” said Houstonian Stephen Sye.
What can you do? Professor Bronk said resetting your password should be your first move. Also, make sure you have the most up-to-date software for your camera system. If the software is no longer active or you can’t set passwords, it’s time to go shopping so your backyard doesn’t end up on the internet.