Beware! The Russians are watching us...

Big brother: The webcam broadcast from the Blackpool office

Big brother: The webcam broadcast from the Blackpool office

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An office in Blackpool is among hundreds of places where webcams have been hacked into and are being broadcast on a Russian website.

The website, seen by The Gazette, appears to show a live feed from a room which displays a geographical location centered on Adelaide Street in the town centre.

It is not clear, however, exactly where the webcam is situated, but all businesses and home owners are now being urged to check their security settings.

The site currently has 584 feeds from UK premises, showing children’s bedrooms, lounges and kitchens plus business premises such as offices, factories and shops.

It targets cameras whose owners are still using the manufacturer’s default password, providing information needed to hack into people’s private camera systems, plus GPS locations and postcodes.

The UK’s privacy watchdog has said people should upgrade passwords.

Simon Rice, the Information Commissioner’s Office group manager for technology, said: “The website, which is based in Russia, accesses the information by using the default login credentials, which are freely available online, for thousands of cameras.

“This is a threat that all of us need to be aware of and be taking action to protect against.”

Many people use webcams to monitor their homes remotely while they are away, viewing the footage over the internet.

But Mr Rice warned: “The ability to access footage remotely is both an internet camera’s biggest selling point and, if not set up correctly, potentially its biggest security weakness.

“Remember, if you can access your video footage over the internet, then what is stopping someone else from doing the same?

“You may think that having to type in an obscure web address to access the footage provides some level of protection.

“However, this will not protect you from the remote software that hackers often use to scan the internet for vulnerable devices.

“In some cases, insecure cameras can be identified using nothing more than an internet search engine. As a last resort, you can always cover the lens if you don’t want to use the camera all of the time.”

As well as the almost 600 British cameras, there are more than 10,000 others from around the world on the website.

Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Few people would leave their front doors unlocked, yet failing to password protect your devices carries the same risks to both privacy and security.

“This warning from the ICO should come as a timely wake up call that the public need to start educating themselves about the technology they are bringing into their homes and how to keep it secure.”