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  • Ondrej Kubovič

Internet of targets: Webcams and routers in the crosshairs of bad guys

Mass surveillance, stolen data, passwords and misused sensitive information; it seems that there is so much to worry about these days when it comes to your online privacy. All most people want is to browse the web and enjoy its treats instead of bumping into malware or other problems, right?

Then you read about things occurring online that make your fears grow even more. Two years ago a website appeared that has been streaming live footage of as many as 70,000 unsecured cameras connected to the internet. At that point, shots of company backyards, restaurants, schools – as well as thousands of private homes – became available online to anyone who cared to watch.

Since then, the number of cameras streaming on that site has been trimmed down to about fifth of its former size and the current list no longer contains any private homes. But this incident has proven just how vulnerable devices connected to internet, without protection and the care of their owners, can be.

More video, more vulnerability

Video rules the internet today and webcams are built into practically every new laptop, smartphone and tablet being sold to users. Apart from the upside this brings to remote communications between people, it has also led to multiple publicly renowned cases of misuse, where victims have been recorded in their most private moments and subsequently blackmailed by cybercriminals.

Also, today’s web contains even more devices, which prove to be vulnerable to cyberattacks, such as routers. The level of their possible misuse ranges from “just” hijacking the data bandwidth from the person paying the bill, to turning these devices into malicious botnets or even worse, exploiting them to launch DDoS attacks on other targets online.

Frankly, without protection or at least users’ minimum effort – such as changing the router’s default password – almost any device could end up in the crosshairs of the bad guys. A reliable security solution can prevent misuse by malware as well as help the owner recognize weak spots and fix them.

Security solutions

So what are the things you need to take care of right now? For starters, tape over your webcam until you can ensure it’s properly protected by security software. Just look at Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg or FBI director James Comey, both of whom use this minimalist approach.

Have you ever even thought about router security? Many users just plug the device in and forget about it. So do at least one thing: change the factory-set password protecting the router. It’s way too easy for attackers to find out the default names and passwords for almost any brand and type. And with online tools – such as Shodan – allowing them to search for internet-connected devices, security solutions are a must to help keep out malicious actors.

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