You can imagine my surprise after I paid my 50pence to use the public bathroom, walked in and found myself staring at not just one but three ceiling mounted video surveillance cameras. I had to get real close to their enclosures to convince myself that I wasn't seeing things. Not only was it really there, but it was a Pan-Tilt-Zoom model with a microphone to top it off. Must get some great noises coming from there. It has also been reported that London officials are now installing cameras with speakers to allow them to talk as well as see and listen. Perhaps its just me, but I had absolutely no idea that this was legal anywhere, let alone in downtown London, UK. Sure I knew that London has more cameras per square mile than any other country on the planet, but in bathrooms?! How are they getting away with that one? It is appalling!
According to the London Assembly of Liberal Democrats, London has been outfitted with over 500,000 surveillance cameras. Other put the number much higher at 1.4million cameras but nobody is telling what the real number is. Another few 10,000 cameras have been installed in taxis and police cars as well.
Sounds a bit big brother to me folks, downright scary in fact. Now it gets scarier when you consider that the vast majority of these camera feeds are not sent encrypted across the wire. This makes hacking these video feeds trivial, just a simple wire tap.
Here's a scenario, I wake up, walk out of my hotel room and see a camera in the hallway watching me. I get into the elevator and look up to smile at the camera there, I walk through the lobby and out to the street. Along the way half a dozen cameras watched me walk less than 200ft. I get in my cab and the camera in there watches me all the way to my destination. I walk into the building followed by 4 cameras. I use the public restroom, 3 cameras watch me in there. I head up the elevator to my office on the 2nd floor and smile at the camera there. I walk down the hall to my office while under surveillance the whole way. I close my office glass door. Turns out the camera in the building has a vantage angle through my glass door and the outside camera on the opposite street corner pole has a clean shot into my office through the windows. I'm feeling a lot of love right now. So I logon to the internet and start surfing. Hmmm. Now I guess they are watching physical me and virtual me at the same time as they inspect the bits and bytes I send ripping around the network.
Just in the last couple years, U.S. cities (like my hometown of Denver) have begun installing their own public video surveillance systems in a big way. Now I need to check and see if U.S. cities are also watching you in the public bathroom.
Here is a shot I took in a London public bathroom. Notice the two cameras on the ceiling. Another one was behind me on the other wall facing towards these cameras. They had all of the angles covered that’s for sure. Don't want to miss any of the action.
So what do you think of all this? Good, bad, who cares?
The opinions and information presented here are my PERSONAL views and not those of my employer. I am in no way an official spokesperson for my employer.
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Go to Jamey’s Blog for more articles on security.
Jamey Heary, CCIE #7680, sits on the PCI Security Standards Council- Board of Advisors where he provides strategic and technical guidance for future PCI standards. Jamey is the author of Cisco NAC Appliance: Enforcing Host Security with Clean Access. (Check out all of Jamey Heary's books from Cisco Press.) He also has a patent pending on a new DDoS mitigation technique.
Jamey sits on several security advisory boards for Cisco Systems and is a founding member of the Colorado Healthcare InfoSec Users Group. He is an experienced speaker who is recognized as an expert in network security architecture, regulatory compliance, and routing and switching. His other certifications include CISSP, CCSP, and he is a Certified HIPAA Security Professional. He has been working in the IT field for 15 years and in IT security for 10 years. Jamey is currently a Distinguished Systems Engineer at Cisco Systems.