Friday, October 10, 2008

UK Hackers Use Surveillance Images For Mischief

Christopher Werth writes on

Britain has been crowned the most-watched society in the world. The country boasts 4.2 million security cameras (one for every 14 people). A typical Londoner makes an estimated 300 closed-circuit television (CCTV) appearances a day, an average easily met in the short walk between Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament. Polls seem to reflect the public's fine with it. But how useful is CCTV in stopping crime? Not very, says Scotland Yard.

At the same time, a new class of guerrilla artists and hackers are commandeering the boring, grainy images of parking lots and corridors for their own purposes. For about $80 at any electronics store and some technical know-how, it's possible to tap into London's CCTV hotspots with a simple wireless receiver. Dubbed "video sniffing," the pastime evolved out of the days before widely available broadband, when "war-chalkers" scouted the city for unsecured Wi-Fi networks and marked them with chalk. Sniffing is catching on in other parts of Europe, as well as in New York and Brazil, spread by a small but connected community of practitioners.

"It's actually a really relaxing thing to do on a Sunday," says Joao Wilbert, a master's student in interactive media, who slowly paces the streets in London like a treasure hunter, watching a tiny handheld monitor for something to flicker onto the screen. These excursions pick up obscure, random shots from restaurants and hotel lobbies, or of a young couple shopping in a housewares department. Eerily, baby cribs are the most common images. Wireless child monitors work on the same frequency as other surveillance systems.

More here.


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