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New Surveillance System May Let Cops Use All Of The Cameras (engadget.com) 117

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired: [Computer scientists have created a way of letting law enforcement tap any camera that isn't password protected so they can determine where to send help or how to respond to a crime.] The system, which is just a proof of concept, alarms privacy advocates who worry that prudent surveillance could easily lead to government overreach, or worse, unauthorized use. It relies upon two tools developed independently at Purdue. The Visual Analytics Law Enforcement Toolkit superimposes the rate and location of crimes and the location of police surveillance cameras. CAM2 reveals the location and orientation of public network cameras, like the one outside your apartment. You could do the same thing with a search engine like Shodan, but CAM2 makes the job far easier, which is the scary part. Aggregating all these individual feeds makes it potentially much more invasive. [Purdue limits access to registered users, and the terms of service for CAM2 state "you agree not to use the platform to determine the identity of any specific individuals contained in any video or video stream." A reasonable step to ensure privacy, but difficult to enforce (though the team promises the system will have strict security if it ever goes online). Beyond the specter of universal government surveillance lies the risk of someone hacking the system.] EFF discovered that anyone could access more than 100 "secure" automated license plate readers last year.
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New Surveillance System May Let Cops Use All Of The Cameras

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  • by dwillden ( 521345 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @08:02AM (#52148091) Homepage
    And only one individual a Billionaire who runs around in tights fighting crime will use it.

    "Trust us, we'll only use it for good(ish) purposes!"
    • Also... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pr0t0 ( 216378 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @11:00AM (#52149361)

      You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people, people like you. Crimes the government considered "irrelevant." They wouldn't act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up... we'll find *you*.

      • That show is literally designed to convince people that complete surveillance is a good thing. It was entertaining, but I could not get past what it really was.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why do these researchers do this when all it will do is benefit an authoritarian government?

      • Because, for the most part, smart people do not believe that "they" will be some of the proles who are controlled and monitored. Useful idiot is a term that comes to mind.
  • no, no, and again no. The Police State doesn't need any help.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's a potentially bigger issue here. Despite the terms of service, this seems like a tool that could easily be used by criminals. I think it's likely that stalkers and other creeps would use this to track victims.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There's a potentially bigger issue here. Despite the terms of service, this seems like a tool that could easily be used by criminals. I think it's likely that stalkers and other creeps would use this to track victims.

      "Person of Interest" seems to have become a training manual for law enforcement just as "1984" has been the policy manual of government for decades.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Big Brother isn't coming. It's here.

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @08:14AM (#52148125) Homepage Journal
    Why are Universities implementing garbage like this? This is just a webcam search engine mashed together with a police database. Universities are supposed to be doing novel research, not re-implementations of existing ideas.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It is a little more than that. It attempts to login to millions of random cameras and if there is no password then it is added to their database. In addition, it adds in official police cameras that can also be used if they're available in that same zone. Then, it overlays reported crimes in that area. When a police officer specifies a zone they want to watch, it provides a the reports for that area and a list of cameras official or compromised for them to view automatically. Clever actually. Good thing the

      • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @11:26AM (#52149587) Homepage Journal

        Security camera systems should:

        o be wired (ethernet or HD video), not wifi or OTA video
        o if data, be connected locally only, via LAN
        o if data, not be hooked to "the cloud" ("cloud" is a synonym for "I have no privacy or security... or clue, but I digress")
        o if data, never be accessible from outside the LAN
        o if data, be behind a dedicated firewall (ideally, multiple firewalls) or on a completely isolated network
        o be recording locally (DVR or equivalent) on a physically secure DVR/etc.
        o utilize armored, hidden cabling and armored, difficult to access camera mounts

        Skip any of this, and you're just inviting unauthorized use of your video feeds.

        • Recommended addition:
          - Encrypt the video transport, even if physical network is wired, armored & hidden as suggested.

          Sure, in addition to providing reliability, wiring may provide some incidental reduction in attack surface. But this isn't 1991... CPU is cheap. There is zero reason a modern network should rely on "hardened perimeter"/"gooey, nougat interior" design.
        • Security camera systems should:

          o be wired (ethernet or HD video), not wifi or OTA video o if data, be connected locally only, via LAN o if data, not be hooked to "the cloud" ("cloud" is a synonym for "I have no privacy or security... or clue, but I digress") o if data, never be accessible from outside the LAN o if data, be behind a dedicated firewall (ideally, multiple firewalls) or on a completely isolated network o be recording locally (DVR or equivalent) on a physically secure DVR/etc. o utilize armored, hidden cabling and armored, difficult to access camera mounts

          Skip any of this, and you're just inviting unauthorized use of your video feeds.

          I "pass" all of those in my home security system. Even though my cameras have WiFi, it is disabled (and the antenna removed and plugged-off), and the feed is through shielded Cat 5e. The cable exits out the back of the camera-bracket and straight through the wall of my house. The camera is 30 ft. in the air. It would take someone several minutes of ladder-hauling and setup (all in plain-view of my neighbors) to get physical access.

          Oh yes: I most definitely have a password.

          If I ever go on vacation, I wil

    • Well, now, that all depends on the nature of the grant, doesn't it? It's not just "publish or perish" any more. It's (to a large extent), "how much grant money do you bring in"?

      That's the two main ways to tenure. Either you publish a lot of papers (usually peer-reviewed ones) or you bring in a ton of grant money. If you can't or won't do either, don't expect to get tenure unless you have some really juicy blackmail on the Dean.

    • Why are Universities implementing garbage like this? This is just a webcam search engine mashed together with a police database. Universities are supposed to be doing novel research, not re-implementations of existing ideas.

      One word: Indiana.

      Being an Indianan myself, I can say that.

      CAPTCHA: Reinsert

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 20, 2016 @08:15AM (#52148133)

    Remember when Google combined two sets of public data: the white pages, and city maps; so that any stalker could enter your phone number and receive driving directions to your home? Remember what happened? Civilization collapsed. The world ended.

    If you don't want your IP camera to become a tool of the man, than stop hanging it out on the public Internet where Shodan and CAM2 can find it. Subnet you freaking network; firewall that crap off.

    • How about a red LED hard wired to the CCD power or whatever so it cannot be shut of with software or even a firmware update?

    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      That example is a bit complicated as Google did pull the easy access to that reverse phone data and now you have to click through to some shady sites if you want to get the same data.

      But maybe that is a good example. I would much rather just have the information available, so that everyone knows they can be tracked and watched in public places than to have just the police or those with some ill intent have the same easy access to the information. Maybe the public can use the information for good purposes

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        London’s Surveillance Fails – Only 1 Crime Solved per 1000 Cameras [singularityhub.com]
        By Aaron Saenz, Sep 01, 2009

        London has a million of these cameras. They don't seem to be working.

        The UK has 4 million CCTV cameras. Some of them even work.

        Some people don't mind being watched. Apparently London criminals are among those. According to several major UK news outlets, an internal Metropolitan Police report was released last week that admitted less than 1 crime was solved per year for every 1000 CCTV cameras in London.

        • by bigpat ( 158134 )

          Good article, but it is somewhat besides the point. To sum it up it basically says the resolution of the cameras hasn't been good enough to be used to identify people in court. But that is a relatively short term problem as 4k cameras will probably become the new norm. And since people don't have any privacy in public places or on other people's private property, then constant public surveillance is the norm and will only get more effective. The other issue that I think is relevant is that the police an

  • Fakes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by coofercat ( 719737 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @08:18AM (#52148155) Homepage Journal

    If I grok the summary correctly, they're going to use any cameras without a password to augment their existing capability. That means persons-unknown-to-them can control the output of those cameras, and thus alter the reality (as they see it) of whatever the camera is pointing at.

    As an example, let's say there's a passwordless camera pointed at a pawn shop. I decide I want to rob said pawn shop, so I convince the camera owner to delay the feed by 15 minutes (which they do, perhaps by inserting an extra frame every so often for a couple of weeks so no one notices). I then rob the pawn shop, and get 15 minutes head start on the lazy cops sat in the office eating snack and talking about sports and their cheating spouses. The police-owned cameras (and in fact all the others) just see my van drive down the road and turning onto some dirt track where there are no cameras at all. GENIUS!

    To MalQuote: "advice from and old tracker: if you want to find someone, use your eyes".

    • That's a good point, but a lame example.

      Set up a fake camera that is connected to an Oceans11-DVD and you'll either have the police out of the way for your real heist (The "bomb" inthe school in Die Hard 3) or do it often enough until they won't react anymore when they see your actual operation.

  • It's funny to me how selective people are with their privacy. Allow the government to have a physical spy network? Bad! Allow Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter to control, monitor, and exploit every respect of their lives?.... I hear the new iPhone comes out in September! I bet it's shiny!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jonwil ( 467024 )

      Anyone who cares about the spying (both government and corporate) should go read "Data and Goliath" by Bruce Schneier. And if you have friends or family who believe that the spying is a good thing, give them a copy and get them to read it.

      It explains (in plain English anyone can understand) exactly why the government and corporate spying is bad, why it wont do what "the man" says it will, why it is the exact opposite of what you want to do if you want to catch terrorists and why Snowden did a good thing (re

    • It's funny to me how selective people are with their privacy. Allow the government to have a physical spy network? Bad! Allow Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter to control, monitor, and exploit every respect of their lives?.... I hear the new iPhone comes out in September! I bet it's shiny!

      Lame example. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter are not the same as "the government". If you can't see the difference, there's nothing I can do for you.

      • by tom229 ( 1640685 )
        It's the punch you don't see coming that gets you. If you're worried about the government, you'd be prudent to apply that double to private enterprise. They have their own unique incentives.
  • The summary says there's a public camera outside my apartment. Really? That's weird, I don't even live in an apartment.
    But seriously, it seems a strange thing to say. Why would most apartments have public cameras outside? I'm not even sure what that means? 'Public' as in government funded? (Then wouldn't the police have direct access anyway?) Or are they just meaning publicly accessible, as in webcam available on the Internet? But then, who is installing all these cameras outside everyone's apartments? Seem

    • They are cheap wifi security cameras and they are installed by the buildings maintenance guy because some tenant's car got hit and run in the parking lot but has no idea how to secure them

      • Ah, I forgot about parking lots and other common areas like the pool, and maybe entrances gates if the apartment is in a gated complex. Also didn't really realize wifi with default connection to the Internet is now the standard way to connect cams (but it's obvious in hindsight that that's what cheap consumer stuff uses these days).
    • Are you really that out of touch with what is going on in your neighborhood? Here is what my neck of the woods is doing: http://www.bpdny.org/Home/Serv... [bpdny.org] . I can promise you that your local PD isn't that far behind. Baby boomers are stupid and paranoid and "Generation X" is full of sycophantic cattle who can't even remember how to think for themselves. Case in point, you actually thought that these cameras would not only be visible and obvious, but that they would be required to follow any kind of governme

      • Wow, no, I was not aware of programs like that. I have no trouble imagining people signing up their privately owned cams in this depressing day and age.
    • by jonwil ( 467024 )

      I dont know about having cameras outside individual apartments. But many newer apartment buildings (higher-class ones especially) have cameras outside the apartment buildings covering entrances and lobbies and things to keep track of who comes and goes. Makes insurance (both body corporate insurance and individual insurance for apartment owners/occupiers) cheaper and gives the cops footage they can study if someone tries to break in.

      Usually its the apartment building that owns and runs the cameras (i.e. the

      • I figured they might mean entrances and lobbies of high-rise type buildings where everyone enters the same door and goes to their unit via internal hallways.
        I thought I was poking fun at the writer who assumed that (nearly) all the readers lived in such buildings, as I have only seen such things in movies and TV shows (usually NYC based). I don't live in an apartment at all now, and the ones I did live in in my youth were all small buildings with each unit having an individual external door, and I was tryin

  • by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @08:25AM (#52148177)

    I mean honestly, if there is one thing we know, it is that the police would never violate our right to privacy.
    http://www.theguardian.com/com... [theguardian.com]
    I cannot imagine them logging onto random "hot girl" cams to monitor their "safety".
    Knock knock... Are you OK miss?
    Yes, but how did you know I slipped in the shower?

  • Unless the owner gave you explicit permission to use the camera.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    (2) intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains-
    (C) information from any protected computer;
    • That's cute how you think law enforcement is concerned with actually enforcing laws against themselves.

      We can't even get cops to keep their body cameras on when they're supposed to be using them, despite the fact that it cuts down on allegations of police abuse. But heaven help you if a cop catches you filming them, even in a jurisdiction where it's completely legal to do so.

    • Unless the owner gave you explicit permission to use the camera.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      (2) intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains-
      (C) information from any protected computer;

      The implication is that by not changing the default password, you are giving implicit access. Not sure how it would end up in court, but it would not be a cheap case.

    • (C) is not applicable here as these devices are NOT protected

      There is no way to determine if this has been on purpose or by accident.

      So... do you have explicit owner's permission to use slashdot and access the slashdot servers?

      Granted that having a styled website, rss feeds, entries in the Google index and probably a facebook page are strong hints that /. is supposed to be public, but even that is still not explicit but implicit permission. And none of these is required for actual public sites and services.

      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        Well this argument did not work for Weev. He ultimately got the conviction overturned on an unrelated technicality but AT&T did not protect the URLs he accessed and the prosecutor and court system still came down on him.

        If you accept the precedent of the first trial than yes unless there is a statement some place that specifically identifies a www resource as "for use by the public" you can't legally access it without some kind of individual permission. Its a stupid vague law to begin with and the cas

  • Fundamental problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @08:37AM (#52148245)
    A significant problem with law enforcement nowadays is that the "policeman on the beat" is no longer "on the beat. She or he is isolated from the community being served and protected by the police.

    .
    The type of surveillance mentioned in TFA extends that isolation, further removing the police from the people and communities they have sworn to protect and serve.

    The communities are not a zoo and the police are not the zoo keeper. Yet that is the model that seems to be emphasized by the current trends in law enforcement.

    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      A significant problem with law enforcement nowadays is that the "policeman on the beat" is no longer "on the beat. She or he is isolated from the community being served and protected by the police.

      .

      The type of surveillance mentioned in TFA extends that isolation, further removing the police from the people and communities they have sworn to protect and serve.

      The communities are not a zoo and the police are not the zoo keeper. Yet that is the model that seems to be emphasized by the current trends in law enforcement.

      Yes, lack of direct face to face involvement in the community is a general problem. But cameras are useful after the fact for evidence of a crime or patterns of crime and stopping people with a pattern of crimes is an important part of crime prevention.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    All of my home cameras are not password protected, but there is no way in hell these computer scientists or even all the best hackers in the world could gain access to them.

    They are on a separate network that has NO internet access. It's just the cameras and the NVR. Passwords are for pussies, fully segregated and isolated networks are where the real men live.

  • before the system is enhanced with on-the-fly password cracking to make the spying more universal? Presumably, (hopefully?), a lot of the passwords in use won't be easily cracked; but these days even a script kiddie could probably whip something up that would guess 25% of them, or more, in a short period of time. And I would guess most of the security on those cams isn't sophisticated enough to turf the attacker after too many wrong attempts, so basic brute-forcing would likely do a pretty good job.

    But then

  • congress critter: we err on the side of caution and dont prosecute most situations where a cop kills someone
    beat cop: but, sometimes, we can be really wrong. the consequences of doing this puts us beyond the law.
    senator: we just authorized MRAP's and machine guns for you guys and hey while youre at it why not grenade launchers
    beat cop: This isnt rambo...how does a tank help us solve a domestic violence issue? most of the stuff we deal with stems from drug abuse and unemployment...cant you guys help fix
    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      Hmm every cop I know personally would respond more like this:

      congress critter: we err on the side of caution and don't prosecute most situations where a cop kills someone
      beat cop: Thank you for that our jobs are often difficult and hazardous and we really try to do a good job at treating everyone fairly and respectfully but, sometimes, we can be really wrong. We are professionals and certainly should be given at least the same presumption of innocence and prosecutorial digression everyone else gets and prob

  • Interestingly enough CA LE agencies refuse to release their data because it's part of an active investigation, which as the EFF article points out involves al the cars in CA.

    Securing the cameras to protect individual privacy is important, but there is a much more important thing at stake here; namely being sure that no public figures actions can be monitored and thus causing people to question what they are doing. Imagine the horrors if the voting public knew that fine upstanding god fearing elected officia

  • With the rulings on accessing open wifi access points that just because it's not password protected it's not implied that you have authorization to use it. Wouldn't a system like this follow that same train of thought and therefore be a felony to implement?

  • It's just a matter of time before they will hook these feeds into an AI (ala "Person of Interest") to process those feeds. Does putting something on the internet without a password make it a public asset? Makes you wonder how long it will take before they will be able to readily access even password protected cameras without a warrant."

    Everyday, I walk through the Skyways of Saint Paul. There are cameras every hundred yards or so and at every turn and it's a bit disturbing. Still, the little cretins hav

  • Isn't it already legal to connect to IP Cameras that aren't password protected? I don't see this as being any different from connecting to any other website. You're not breaking into anything.
  • Looks like ctOS [chicago-ctos.com] will finally be a reality! I think it's really great that they're so close to Chicago, too--I can't wait until it goes live. After all, #ctOScares.
  • Why do all the cameras need to be private? Just open them up to everyone.
  • In my city the police have an agreement with many downtown businesses to monitor their security cameras live. I once toured their "command center" where the walls are lined with dozens of monitors showing video feeds from all over the city. The room is staffed 24/7 365 days a year. One of the workers who monitor the cameras (among other duties) remarked that they were essentially useless. The city never bothered to label them, so no one knew where any of the cameras were located.
  • Hmm so when someone access a URL that isn't authenticated, the argument it was public did not work for Weev. Remeber when the conviction was over turned it was on a technicality related to venue.

    So its not okay for you and I to access resources that are not explicitly advertiezed as for use by the public but your local cops can (or university researchers for that matter)? That is some BS right there.

    These guys at Purdue are clearly a public menace and should be locked up!

  • Unlimited surveillance without explicit permission? What could possibly go wrong with this forward-thinking idea?

    No way would they ever use it to go fishing for people to prosecute, that would just never, ever happen. *cough*

  • ...the terms of service for CAM2 state "you agree not to use the platform to determine the identity of any specific individuals contained in any video or video stream."

    No problem, we'll just convert the video to a series of still frames. Problem solved!

  • Do research programs not have to have some ethical considerations or scientists not have to have taken ethical training? I see so many things done now just because we have the ability to do it without it looking like anyone even thinking if it was a good idea to attempt it in the first place.

    Hey, here's a great idea! If someone doesn't set a password on their security camera then let's just include it in a list and let the police view it. Why not just say that if someone left their door unlocked that the po

  • Batman: Beautiful, isn't it?
    Lucius Fox: Beautiful... unethical... dangerous. You've turned every cellphone in Gotham into a microphone.
    Batman: And a high-frequency generator-receiver.
    Lucius Fox: You took my sonar concept and applied it to every phone in the city. With half the city feeding you sonar, you can image all of Gotham. This is *wrong*.
    Batman: I've gotta find this man, Lucius.
    Lucius Fox: At what cost?
    Batman: The database is null-key encrypted. It can only be accessed by one person.
    Lucius Fox: This

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