Technology… is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.
– Carrie Snow, comedian
Carrie Snow is right on the money with this observation about technology. We love it and we hate it, don’t we?
I’m thinking specifically today about cameras. The very items we invest in to keep us safe, to look after our homes when we aren’t there, to video chat with family and friends, to hold conference calls across the country — heck, even the baby monitors we use to keep a careful watch over our children and grandchildren — can be invaded and used for the exact opposite of our intentions.
As we see in Deep Cover Jack, the good news is that “the bad guys” also use surveillance cameras. Which means the good guys can hack in and get a look.
So how does all of this work anyway?
It’s not as difficult to hack into a surveillance system as you might think. In fact, some of the most popular brands of closed circuit devices are extremely vulnerable to hackers. Such cameras are used at banks, hospitals, hotels, and other businesses. If they’re installed with the default settings, hackers can tap into the video remotely. That’s because the default settings often involve very weak passwords, and come with internet access automatically enabled. That’s fantastic news for hackers.
“The idea of covering a home with more security sensors does not translate into a more secure home.”
–Logan Lamb, Cybersecurity Researcher
But in more high security situations, like at Abbot Cape in Deep Cover Jack for example, their security systems are more advanced, right? Are hackers still able to get in?
Determined hackers can always find vulnerabilities. Bugs in the security system’s configuration can make them susceptible to hacking, to the point that someone can access the camera’s view. Unencrypted signals are another potential weakness. If you don’t have a firewall turned on, hackers can even tap into your laptop’s camera. A key indicator that someone is looking through your camera is if the LED light beside your camera turns on. But the best hackers know how to prevent that light from coming on. As referenced in Deep Cover Jack, they can even listen in on your life via your computer’s microphone.
So have we lost all hope? Do we surrender our lives to surveillance-hacking spies? No. But we still need to assume there’s a possibility someone is listening or watching and take appropriate precautions. One thing you may notice in Deep Cover Jack is that Otto and Gaspar are more aware and perhaps even more accepting of The Boss’s constant monitoring of them than in previous books.
So, don’t surrender to hackers, but don’t make it easy for them, either.
Here are some tips about how to protect yourself:
Turn on your firewall in your computer’s settings.
Don’t open attachments sent to you from unknown email addresses.
Put (non-transparent) tape or a sticker — or even a Band-Aid! — over your computer camera’s webcam.
Don’t accept cameras from strangers.
Don’t buy used surveillance camera or used web cameras.
And one final tip that I think you’ll appreciate:
Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don’t abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book.
– Patti Smith