Security cameras are intended to increase safety in our communities – but they aren’t always the most secure. Many of the cameras placed in public spaces, homes, offices, and businesses are actually operating without password protection (or are still using the default password set by the manufacturer). These open security cameras are unprotected from malicious individuals and vulnerable to prying eyes. The result? As we go about our daily business, we may in effect be broadcasting our lives to the public.
To better understand this epidemic, we analyzed approximately 6,000 open security cameras across the United States broadcasting from homes, businesses, educational institutions, parking lots, churches, and more. Which states and cities have the most unsecured surveillance cameras? Which types of locations do they frequently broadcast from? And which types of businesses are playing roulette with your privacy? Keep reading for the disconcerting results.
Mapping Unsecured Security Cameras
This heat map demonstrates the widespread use of privacy-threatening open security cameras. At first glance, it’s easy to see that unsecured camera technology is a nationwide issue. Many of the regions with high concentrations of open security cameras are located near major U.S. cities. In the Northeast, Southeast, and parts of the Midwest and Western United States, major cities often play host to important international airports, trade ports, and industry hubs.
Popular cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Miami all fall within the range of the darkest red on the heat map. Factors like population density and security needs in cities like these probably factor into the prevalence of open security cameras. Where there are concentrated communities of citizens engaging in high-profile activities like international trade or technological innovation, a higher level of security is likely. What’s surprising is that more people in these heavily populated cities haven’t taken the extra step to introduce password protection to their security camera feeds.
Which States Have the Most Unsecured Cameras?
Except the District of Columbia and Massachusetts, the 10 states with the most open security cameras per capita aren’t necessarily home to major U.S. cities or even cities with high population density. North Dakota ranks first, with 7.8 unsecured camera feeds recorded in operation per 100,000 residents. D.C., Montana, and Alaska all fall between five and six unsecured cameras. The remaining states (Wyoming, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, and Oregon) all have between 2.7 and three open security cameras.
Regardless of its comparative size and population density, you might expect Washington, D.C., by its very nature, to prioritize security. On the contrary, D.C. ranks No. 2 among the top 10 states with open security cameras. Considering the sensitive nature of life in our nation’s capital, one would hope that Washington’s security camera feeds were password protected.
Which Cities Have the Most Unsecured Cameras
Taking a closer look at the cities in the United States with the most open security cameras reveals some surprising results. Instead of headline cities like Los Angeles and New York, the top 15 list of cities with the most unsecured cameras per capita contains some less immediately recognizable places. Walnut Creek, California, for example, tops the list with nearly 90 unsecured cameras per 100,000 residents. Richardson, Texas, and Torrance, California, are neck and neck for second place with nearly 73 open security cameras each.
These small-town locales may reflect the possibility that low-profile cities without international pressures and headline attention hold tech privacy and security as a lower priority. However, some of these cities are in states with international hubs, like California and New York, and others are major cities in their own right, such as Newark, Orlando, Pittsburgh, and Boston.
Top Spots for Unsecured Cameras
The idea that smaller towns with less global attention may consider technology privacy a lower priority is supported by an understanding of where security cameras are in use in the U.S. Almost 27% of unsecured cameras broadcast from businesses or places where transactions occur, like offices, restaurants, and stores.
At the same time, more than 42% of open security cameras are broadcasting from public spaces or shared facilities like parks, outdoor areas, and parking lots. It seems possible that many security cameras are used by privately owned businesses or even local governing bodies but are not integrated into larger security strategies by professionals who might make password-protected privacy a priority.
Meanwhile, about 15% of the nation’s unsecured cameras are located in the homes of unsuspecting Americans. Many experts would probably attribute that number to new connected devices and the technology networks that have been dubbed the Internet of Things. As the technology we use to keep our families safe and make our lives easier develops, it seems that security protocols haven’t necessarily kept up. Open security cameras in homes is a terrifying thing, particularly considering they might be hidden in baby monitors, webcams, or high-tech recording gadgets.
Top Businesses With Unsecured Cameras
Of the businesses with open security cameras in operation, over 38% are located in warehouses or industrial facilities, while retail and clothing stores comprise another 35%. It’s possible that many of these cameras are in place to deter theft. If cameras are a small part of a business’s deterrent strategy, it’s possible that business owners and warehouse managers might not feel privatizing their footage is important. However, giving potential robbers live video feeds of their targets is a bad idea.
Open security cameras are a widespread problem, and should be a top concern for Americans concerned with their own privacy. Even if you take particular care to remove the unsecured cameras from within your home, the grocery store you visit every week might be broadcasting your shopping habits to the online world.
Drawing attention to open security cameras in your hometown or even your place of work is just one way to help keep American cities that much safer. If you haven’t changed your camera’s password protection from the out-of-the-box default, you’re probably not secure. And if you do come across unsecured camera devices in your own home or a business that you own, creating a password is often all it takes to keep your video feed private.
We pulled data from approximately 6,000 unsecured security cameras in the United States from Insecam.org, mapped their locations, and analyzed the locations where these cameras are being broadcasted from. The number of viewable camera feeds on Insecam.org continually fluctuates as users can submit cameras to the directory and the site removes feeds by request.