~e; Fwd: [TSCM-L] Nanny-Cam May Leave a Home Exposed

From human being <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Sun, 6 Oct 2002 20:16:36 -0500

// forwarded article on video-wardriving. in the past few weeks
// i was wondering if, since radio signals can be picked up, if
// these wireless video cameras could, and this seems to indicate
// that it is indeed possible (and, legally, as of now). what is
// still in question is what equipment one needs, if it is highly
// specialized equipment such as TSCM (technical surveillance
// countermeasures) people use, or if it is readily available...

Begin forwarded message:

> From: "James M. Atkinson" <jmatk@tscm.com>
> Date: Sun Oct 6, 2002  6:41:20  PM US/Central
> To: TSCM-L Mailing List <TSCM-L@yahoogroups.com>
> Subject: [TSCM-L] Nanny-Cam May Leave a Home Exposed
> April 14, 2002, Sunday
> Nanny-Cam May Leave a Home Exposed
> By JOHN SCHWARTZ (NYT) 1758 words
> Thousands of people who have installed a popular wireless video
> camera, intending to increase the security of their homes and
> offices, have instead unknowingly opened a window on their activities
> to anyone equipped with a cheap receiver.
>    The wireless video camera, which is heavily advertised on the
> Internet, is intended to send its video signal to a nearby base
> station, allowing it to be viewed on a computer or a television. But
> its signal can be intercepted from more than a quarter-mile away by
> off- the-shelf electronic equipment costing less than $250.
>    A recent drive around the New Jersey suburbs with two security
> experts underscored the ease with which a digital eavesdropper can
> peek into homes where the cameras are put to use as video baby
> monitors and inexpensive security cameras.
>    The rangy young driver pulled his truck around a corner in the
> well-to-do suburban town of Chatham and stopped in front of an
> unpretentious house. A window on his laptop's screen that had been
> flickering suddenly showed a crisp black-and-white video image: a
> living room, seen from somewhere near the floor. Baby toys were
> strewn across the floor, and a woman sat on a couch.
>    After showing the nanny-cam images, the man, a privacy advocate who
> asked that his name not be used, drove on, scanning other houses and
> finding a view from above a back door and of an empty crib.
>    In the nearby town of Madison, from the parking lot of a Staples
> store, workers could be observed behind the cash register. The driver
> walked into the store and pointed up at a corner of the room. ''Take
> a look,'' he said. Above the folded-back steel security shutters was
> a nubbin of technology: a barely perceptible video camera looking
> down on the employees.
>    ''I can only imagine driving around the Bay Area with one of
> these,'' said Aviel D. Rubin, a security researcher at AT&T Labs,
> which identified the problem.
>    Around San Francisco, high-technology toys like security cameras
> are likely to be far more common. Mr. Rubin tries to help the
> business world recognize security threats and address them. Although
> there is no evidence that video snooping is widespread, it is so easy
> and the opportunity to do it is so great that it is a cause for
> concern, said Mr. Rubin, who was along for the ride.
>    Such digital peeping is apparently legal, said Clifford S. Fishman,
> a law professor at the Catholic University of America and the author
> of a leading work on surveillance law, ''Wiretapping and
> Eavesdropping.''
>    When told of the novel form of high-technology prying, Professor
> Fishman said, ''That is astonishing and appalling.'' But he said that
> wiretap laws generally applied to intercepting sound, not video.
> Legal prohibitions on telephone eavesdropping, he said,were passed at
> the urging of the telecommunications industry, which wanted to make
> consumers feel safe using its products. ''There's no corresponding
> lobby out there protecting people from digital surveillance,'' he
> said.
>    Some states have passed laws that prohibit placing surreptitious
> cameras in places like dressing rooms, but legislatures have
> generally not considered the legality of intercepting those signals.
> Nor have they considered that the signals would be intercepted from
> cameras that people planted themselves. ''There's no clear law that
> protects us,'' Professor Fishman said. ''You put it all together, the
> implications are pretty horrifying.''
>    With no federal law and no consensus among the states on the
> legality of tapping video signals, Professor Fishman said, ''The
> nanny who decided to take off her dress and clean up the house in her
> underwear would probably have no recourse'' against someone tapping
> the signal. Police officers with search warrants could use the
> technology for investigative purposes, as well, he suggested.
>    Surveillance has been a growing part of American life, especially
> since Sept. 11. Video cameras have been installed on city streets,
> and some cities and airports have tried to tie cameras into facial
> recognition systems, with mixed results. Privacy advocates argue that
> the benefit to security is questionable and the intrusiveness is
> high. But the cameras continue to proliferate -- with many people
> buying them for personal use. Surveillance cameras have also sprouted
> at intersections to catch drivers who speed or run red lights and as
> a part of many voyeur-oriented pornographic Web sites.
>    Ads for the ''Amazing X10 Camera'' have been popping up all over
> the World Wide Web for months. The ads for the device, the XCam2,
> carry a taste of cheesecake -- usually a photo of a glamorous-looking
> woman in a swimming pool or on the edge of a couch. But, in fact,
> many people have bought the cameras for far more pedestrian purposes.
>    ''Frankly, a lot of it is kind of dull,'' and most of the women
> being surreptitiously observed are probably nannies, said Marc
> Rotenberg, the executive director of the  Electronic Privacy
> Information Center in Washington. He calls the X10 ads ''one of the
> weird artifacts of the Internet age.''
>    The company that sells the cameras, X10 Wireless Technology Inc. of
> Seattle, was created in 1999 by an American subsidiary of X10 Ltd., a
> Hong Kong company. It is privately held and does not release sales
> figures. A spokesman, Jeff Denenholz, said the company had no comment
> for this article.
>    Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial
> public stock offering that was later withdrawn provide some figures,
> however. X10 lost $8.1 million on revenue of $21.3 million for the
> nine months ended Sept. 30, 2000, and said that 52 percent of its
> revenue came from wireless camera kits. At the camera's current
> retail price of about $80, that would translate to sales of more than
> 138,000 cameras in those nine months alone.
>    Rob Enderle, an analyst at the Giga Information Group, a technology
> consulting business, said he was a big fan of X10 -- which sells the
> most popular wireless cameras on the consumer market -- and its
> wares. ''Theirs is the least expensive option out there, and they
> actually do a good job,'' he said.
>    Mr. Enderle was surprised to hear of the cameras' lack of security,
> but said he did not see a cause for great concern. ''Clearly, if you
> are pointing that at areas like your bathroom or shower, there may be
> people enjoying that view with you,'' he said. ''But fundamentally,
> you shouldn't be pointing it that way anyway.''
>    The vulnerability of wireless products has been well understood for
> decades. The radio spectrum is crowded, and broadcast is an
> inherently leaky medium; baby  monitors would sometimes receive
> signals from early cordless phones (most are scrambled today to
> prevent monitoring). A subculture of enthusiasts grew up around
> inexpensive scanning equipment that could pick up signals from
> cordless and cellular phones, as former Speaker Newt Gingrich
> discovered when recordings of a 1996 conference call strategy session
> were released by Democrats.
>    More recently, with the advent of wireless computer networks based
> on the increasingly popular technology known as WiFi, yet another new
> subculture has emerged: people known as ''war drivers'' who enter
> poorly safeguarded wireless networks while driving or walking around
> with laptops.
>    In the case of the XCam2, the cameras transmit an unscrambled
> analog radio signal that can be picked up by receivers sold with the
> cameras. Replacing the receiver's small antenna with a more powerful
> one and adding a signal amplifier to pick up transmissions over
> greater distances is a trivial task for anyone who knows his way
> around a RadioShack and can use a soldering iron.
>    Products intended for the consumer market rarely include strong
> security, said Gary McGraw, the chief technology officer of Cigital,
> a software risk-management company. That is because security costs
> money, and even pennies of added expense eat into profits. ''When
> you're talking about a cheap thing that's consumer grade that you're
> supposed to sell lots and lots of copies of, that really matters,''
> he said.
>    Refitting an X10 camera with encryption technology would be beyond
> the skills of most consumers. It is best for manufacturers to design
> security features into products from the start, because adding them
> afterward is far more difficult, Mr. McGraw said. The cameras are
> only the latest example of systems that are too insecure in their
> first versions, he said, and cited other examples, including
> Microsoft's Windows operating system. ''It's going to take a long
> time for consumer goods to have any security wedged into them at
> all,'' he said.
>    Another wireless camera, the DCS-1000W from D-Link Systems Inc.,
> does offer encrypted transmission and ties into standard WiFi
> networks -- but it costs at least $350.
>    As a security expert, Mr. Rubin said he was concerned about the
> kinds of mischief that a criminal could carry out by substituting one
> video image for another. In one scenario, a robber or kidnapper
> wanting to get past a security camera at the front door could
> secretly record the video image of a trusted neighbor knocking.
> Later, the robber could force that image into the victim's receiver
> with a more powerful signal. ''I have my computer retransmit these
> images while I come by,'' he said, explaining the view of a would-be
> robber.
>    Far-fetched, perhaps. That is the way security experts think. But
> those who use the cameras and find out about the security hole seem
> to grasp the implications quickly.
>    Back at the Staples store in Madison, employees said they did not
> know that they were being watched by security monitors. The manager
> of the store, when asked whether he knew that his cameras were
> broadcasting to the outside world, seemed somewhat shaken, and
> excused himself to go into his office, he said, to put down  the
> small display carousel he was carrying.
>    He did not return.
> --  
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