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Big Brother Is Watching (But It's Not The One You Need Worry About)

We all know by now that if you walk down most streets in our capital cities you are being watched on camera. But it could be happening in your own home, and cybercriminals are using your devices against you.

“Any camera that’s on your internet at home can be accessed,” said Norton by Symantec's Melissa Dempsey.

“With all of the new devices and technologies and no standards in place, hackers and other cybercriminals are looking at these as easy entry points into (the) home.”

That includes devices such as baby monitors, home surveillance systems, personal laptops, and even your phone. Dempsey said incidents are on the rise.

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“They just work off a standard wifi network, completely without security and it’s really quite simple for anyone who is in range of that network, so perhaps parked out in a street, to eavesdrop into that communication,” said Nigel Phair, the director of UNSW’s Cyber Institute.

And he’d know. For 21 years he worked for the AFP, heading up investigations at the Australian High Tech Crime Centre for four years.

Here’s the problem: most of us don’t regularly, or haven’t at all, changed our wifi and router passwords. We leave cameras on devices uncovered and don’t pay attention to which apps have permission to access our phone camera.

This to the hackers is a much easier target for blackmail, or in the case of robbers, an opportunistic way to scope your house to see if you are home.

“We love using innovation, we love using new technology but none of it is built with any security in mind and is inherently risky to use,” Phair said.

And if that wasn’t enough, it seems Big Brother is now all grown up.

Sydney City Council’s emergency management centre is one such case. It now costs $1.85 million dollars a year to operate, with $5 million dollars of infrastructure out in the field.

It’s recently undergone an upgrade of its 100+ cameras. Each is now worth $10,000 each and are so high-tech they can pick up specific people or details from blocks away.

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It’s operators search for incidents, relay any problems to police, and can even track offenders who try to run using this equipment.

“We prevent crimes against the person -- assaults, robberies brawls, (we) find people that we are concerned about: that's what our purpose is,” David Cornett, Sydney City head of emergency management says.

The ‘chief’ as he endearingly is known as down there, is proud of their work.

“Not many people get to say they've saved somebody's life and every person in this room can say that they've stopped someone from getting hurt and potentially saved their lives,” he said.

So it seems while Big Brother is watching, but perhaps it's not the one you need to worry about.