As a surprise to some and totally baffling to security specialists, there are over 30 Million surveillance cameras in the United States that aren’t password protected. More surprising is that computer scientists are currently creating new technology that would give law enforcement the ability to tap into any one of these cameras. Normally, pointing out how many unsecured cameras are in use is followed by a story of a foreign hack where access to those cameras was leveraged by bad guys. This time, it’s the good guys trying to make use of this ‘weakness’.
This new approach is being designed to help first responders with information to swiftly respond to crimes. David Ebert, an electrical and computer engineer at Purdue University, believes that it makes sense to help people by taking advantage of information (ie- from surveillance cameras) that’s already out there. If the camera feeds are accessible anyway, why not leverage them for the betterment of society?
While some are anticipating the implementation of the new technology to help in crime scenarios, others are worried about the potential abuse of the access. As with the majority of ‘solutions’, technology works wonders, unless in the wrong hands. The capability would be very useful for first responders but at the same time, it leaves open the potential for misuse if access is not controlled.
Determining how this technology can be used without simultaneously providing options for abuse is what the developers at Purdue University are figuring out. Currently, Purdue has very tight restrictions on the use of their system and a registered user must also agree not to use the platform to determine the identity of any individual that is shown in the video feeds.
Even those initially opposed to this technology are shifting their positions as the details emerge. Gautam Hans (Policy Counsel and Director of CDT which champions online civil liberties and human rights) agrees that there is no reason to fight this technology but, instead, to accept it and learn how to make it a safe and effective tool. Perhaps this will mean people are offered incentives to provide unfettered access to their cameras so that this type of system can continue to function should camera security finally get ahead of the hackers. Either way, the future is coming and even the weaknesses in systems are going to be leveraged for some kind of benefit. How secure are your cameras?