Stolen videos captured by tens of thousands of security cameras at private properties throughout China are now for sale across social media, marketed as sex tapes.
That’s according to the South China Morning Post, which reported that the cost of each “tape” varies, depending on how salacious the material is — nudity and sex acts can fetch around $8 a piece, while just watching someone in a hotel room might just run around $3, the paper said.
The stolen security video clips are packaged together and sold as “home video packages” the Post reported. Real-time access to live camera streams is also available for “set meal” price tags; camera ID numbers and passwords for 10 different households cost $11; 10 hotels and 10 household camera credentials are $23; and for $39, the hackers will give buyers access to 20 hotels and 20 households.
Tens of Thousands of Stolen Videos
In just one 20-day period in February, the Post reported that one seller shared 8,000 videos in one group chat. The members of this chat group were VIPs, the Post added, who would then turn around and sell those videos to others.
“If you want to earn money, you can be my agent — getting them at a lower price from me and selling at a higher price,” the seller said, according to the paper. “I have so many video clips that you can’t finish them all within six months even if you watch 24 hours a day.”
Most of the videos were taken in Guandong, Hunan and Hubei provinces, the paper added.
The seller explained that besides hacking into vulnerable home-security cameras, there are groups of people installing cameras in random places across the country.
“I have a dozen people traveling around the country and install [sic] cameras wherever they go,” the seller bragged to his customers, the Post said. “Even if the hotel finds out, what we will lose is just a camera which is a few hundred yuan. We cut a couple of clips to sell online and we will cover that loss.”
A lawyer with the Shanghai Hiways Law Firm, Zhang Tao, said selling the videos is illegal and the sellers are criminally liable under Chinese law.
Lax Video Security in U.S.
Stealing private security-camera footage isn’t limited to China. Last January, an employee of security services provider ADT was fired and charged with accessing security cameras to watch women during “their most intimate moments,” according to the charges from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In this instance, the former employee would use his own email address as the default on the video network giving him real-time access to the feed.
And misconfigured baby monitor cams, discovered in February, were flagged for the potential to allow someone unauthorized to view the camera’s video stream.
And just last month, a breach at Silicon Valley startup Verkada handed over the feeds of 15,000 cameras in place at companies, including Tesla and Cloudflare, to attackers.
Video feeds potentially contain a treasure trove of sensitive — and intimate — data. Basic password and security protections are a must.
Researchers at Bitdefender found another bug in ADT’s LifeShield Security cameras at the end of January and warned customers about the privacy risks of ubiquitous video surveillance.
“Gaps in this fragile ecosystem can have unforeseen consequences and might even turn devices that protect our privacy into tools that violate it,” the researchers said.
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