By Yoon Ja-young
A media report stating that smart controlling systems installed in newly built apartments are vulnerable to hacking, is triggering concern that footage of residents’ private lives could be stolen and sold to shady online business operators, including porn sites.
IT Chosun, a news outlet specializing in IT, recently reported that video recordings of ordinary households in Korea are being sold on the Dark Web, or webpages not indexed by search engines, and that have hidden IP addresses. The hacker it contacted claimed that they had hacked most intercom systems with cameras in Korea’s apartments and that the footage had been extracted and sold.
The hacker presented thumbnails as evidence, including shots of naked people in their homes. The hacker requested 0.1 BTC, or a bitcoin worth around 8 million won, for the video footage from one day in someone’s home, according to the news outlet.
The systems installed at apartments first started as intercoms but now enable controlling various home devices, such as lighting and heating. Some new models even include cameras, which appear to be open to hacking to capture video footage. If a hacker succeeds in breaching the security of one home, they can also access footage of neighboring apartments connected through the building’s network, IT Chosun pointed out.
The news outlet reported that the hacker sent the list of hundreds of apartment buildings they have accessed to obtain video footage of people’s private lives around the country.
Though it has not been confirmed whether the systems of apartments in Korea were actually hacked, it is not the first time that the vulnerability of these home networks has been exposed.
Busan Ilbo, a local daily newspaper based in Busan and South Gyeongsang Province, reported in August that it had hired two graduate students majoring in computer science and tried hacking the home network system of an apartment complex in South Gyeongsang Province, for security purposes. Built in 2018, the apartment was equipped with the latest smart home network technology. The student hackers succeeded in opening the door of a home, and peeked into another through the camera installed for video calls between residents. The student hackers had prepared for only one day to analyze vulnerable spots in the system, and the newspaper reported that they could even turn on and off the gas valve and lights, as well as change the heating temperature.
Following the report, the Ministry of Science and ICT advised setting up passwords that are difficult to guess and regularly updating one’s system. Experts also advise residents physically to cover cameras when they are not in use.