The Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) took action to turn off a couple of residential webcams that Russians had used to adjust their missile attacks on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
Ukraine has a long-standing law in place that forbids citizens from filming or taking photos of military operations, which also includes the aftermath of attacks. One reason is that such images could inadvertently give Russia information on defense capabilities.
That’s also why video captured by webcams can be used to obtain strategic information and why Ukraine has been warning people to stop the online broadcast of such devices. According to a report iby SSU, Russian hackers took over a couple of residential webcams in Kyiv and used the information in the January 2 attacks.
“One of the devices was located on a balcony of an apartment building and was used by a local condominium to monitor the surrounding area,” said the SSU. “Through hacking, the aggressor gained remote access to control this webcam. After tampering with its settings, the russian intelligence services changed the viewing angle and connected it to the YouTube streaming platform.”
“In this way, the occupiers covertly recorded all visual information within the camera’s range. Another surveillance device was blocked at a residential complex in Kyiv. Local residents were using it to monitor the adjacent car park. SSU cyber units established that the enemy had remotely controlled the webcam to covertly record the view of the surrounding area, including critical infrastructure facilities,” the SSU added.
While this might seem like an improbable scenario, it turns out that it’s a common attack tactic that’s been deployed often during the conflict. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started, the SSU has blocked the operation of more than 10,000 IP cameras that could have been used to spy on defenses.
In many situations, these are harmless devices, watching over parking lots or other residential areas. But since these are IoT devices, they’re always connected to the Internet and can be taken over by third parties.