Nina In New York: We’re Being Watched

Nina In New York: We’re Being Watched

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
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By Nina Pajak

Happy Friday! Prepare to be terrified.

Russian hackers, which you might know from such catastrophic incidents such as “the Target hack,” “the Home Depot hack,” and “the JPMorgan hack,” have launched a website featuring video streams from thousands of privately-used webcams.

According to them, these cameras, which are trained on everything from sleeping babies to breakfasting couples to hospital patients to store interiors and children’s play areas in countries all over the world, were not hacked. Rather, the owners used the default passwords to set them up, which means that anyone can find out the login information online. The website claims its mission is actually to expose this problem to webcam users. And just to prove how correctly placed their hearts are, they go on to provide exact location information for each not-exploited webcam subject whom they have so graciously helped.

I’ll pause a moment while you frantically take stock of every webcam in your home and wonder if you adequately password protected them, and then consider every other camera in your home and wonder whether they are, in fact, also webcams and you didn’t realize it and therefore accidentally inadequately password protected them.

Uh. I’ll be right back.

With webcam technology only gaining in popularity these days, I imagine it’s going to be a difficult thing to avoid in the coming years. Home security systems increasingly include cameras that allow you to see from anywhere in the country whether your faucet is leaking, your back window is open, or your nanny is watching The Price is Right while your kids play real-life Operation with the kitchen shears. That’s not even taking into account the roughly kazillion internet-enabled cameras that allow us to chat with friends on our phones, tablets and computers. My daughter officially doesn’t understand audio-only phone calls. Video chatting is already a way of life. How can we know whether we’re protected? How can we know which devices are vulnerable? How can we not freak out ALL THE TIME? And even if you manage to control the sanctity of your home, many of the affected cameras are located in public places.

And then there’s the cloud! Oh dear god, the cloud. I still don’t even know what it is or whether I’m on it!

At least my child is still young enough that much of these security holes and pitfalls will be exposed and our behavior corrected by the time she’s old enough to give me a real heart attack vis-a-vis technology. Also, there’s not yet any school to pull her out of in order to relocate to an undisclosed island location where the only clouds carry monsoon rains. I’ll just make sure to get all caught up on Gilmore Girls on Netflix before I go.

Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!