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I Got Addicted to Hacked Webcams

by Eliza Huybers about a year ago in cybersecurity

And made a short film about it.

We’ve all done it before; stayed up til the wee hours of the morning in a bizarre realm of the internet.

It's fun to escape online. Everyone does it. Don't lie. Especially now that of us are stuck inside awaiting the diagnoses of a society suffering from a bad case of late-stage capitalism in the midst of a global pandemic. But I digress.

If you’re anything like me, you look for the weirdest of the weird. You need your fix of wild YouTube videos and creepy pasta Reddit threads.

But what happens when that failed Ocotopus mukbang doesn’t quite creep you out like it used to?

So.. I went out looking for my next obsession.

This is the story of how I found myself addicted to hacked webcams.

It started like any other Tuesday night, it was late and I was looking to procrastinate on an assignment I had due, (I’m a photography major at art school, so a lot of my research comes from internet holes. Yes it's research.)

From my Googled series in 2019.

Suddenly, I found myself on a website that hosts live-streams of thousands of unsecured webcams globally.

Curious and confused, I scrolled through the dozens of categories to choose from; mall, science labs, zoos. One thing linked them all - everything I was watching was happening right now, and the subjects had no idea I could see them.

I watched Japanese shoppers fuss over the last piece of fish at a grocers, backpackers at a laundromat in Paris, I even watched an entire elderly water aerobics class in South Korea.

I couldn’t believe I had all this hilariously bland reality tv all to myself. This was better than Fire Island, or The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (sorry Kyle I still love you).

My desire for the weird grew.. and the content became stranger and more specific; an abandoned waterpark in Italy, a horse giving birth in an Austrian stable (really?!)

Finally, I stumbled upon something that creeped me out more than a gender reveal party; I was looking at a webcam inside a primary school.

My face as I realised I had found a stream inside a primary school, NOT COOL.

The gravity of the situation I had found myself in finally hit me, so I closed the site and cleared all my cookies.

I realised that there was a whole world of security cameras out there, and a whole lot of them were being watched by weirdos on the internet.

I went to bed that night feeling conflicted about the whole thing. I wondered if I was also an unsuspecting guest character in an anonymous horror movie.

After a few days away, I found myself thinking about the frivolous fun I had watching my new friend at the post-office in Kuala Lumpur, or his hilariously similar DJ counterpart in Italy.

Two brothers. Bored at work. Separated by oceans.

I decided to peruse the guidelines of the website, to make sure I wouldn’t end up on some list just because I enjoyed watching people doing menial tasks.

I found a byline, a disclaimer if you will. The webcams hosted on this server were all meant to be in public places, and the website posed itself as a cautionary tale with a serious message to be taken away - it’s really easy to hack a webcam.

All of this innocent voyeurism had me thinking, what else could be out there beaming around the internet? Was there a video of me buying tampons at the supermarket? What about my own webcam?

This was the tip of the iceberg. I knew there was a deep, dark web out there - what I wasn’t ready for was how easy it was to access.

Stay tuned for part 2.

Eliza Huybers
Eliza Huybers
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Eliza Huybers
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