The Kill Chain is the cybercrime thriller from Scotland’s newest writer, GJ Scobie, which is due to be published by Darkstroke on the 16th July 2022. This blog post is one in a series called Facts behind the Fiction, in which I take an aspect of the plot and provide factual background material, giving an insight into the real world of cyber security and those who work tirelessly to defend our networks and data.
So, what is covert filming?
This is the act of capturing on film the actions and activities of individuals without their knowledge or prior consent. There are a couple of points worth considering here. Cameras are everywhere. Many people have them installed around their property. Local authorities, businesses and shops have them installed in town centres; the roads are monitored, along with bus and train stations and inside the buses and trains themselves. Seeing drones in the sky is not unusual these days and these are likely filming. Almost everyone carries a mobile phone and are regularly taking pictures. Cameras are everywhere. As a society we accept this is the way it is, though our movements being captured by cameras installed by neighbours contained within internet-enabled doorbells pointing out into the street is a more contentious point. Most of this type of surveillance is considered normal and most of it is not covert. What happens with the footage and how it is used is not so clear or understood.
Along with this is covert filming. This can be part of a police investigation or installed as part of anti-terrorist measures. It’s state sanctioned, but unlike the examples above, not as obvious and generally hidden from view. Then we have the filming that takes place which if known about would not be tolerated or accepted. Cameras can be fitted to anything. They are so small these days, they can easily be hidden in everyday objects. There have been cases of Airbnb properties fitted out with covert cameras. Some businesses have spied on their employees. Hotel in-room Tapia robots have been hacked to spy on guests. A vulnerability in Amazon Ring allowed hackers to spy on owners. In 2016 the Mirai Botnet DDoS attack took advantage of the fact thousands of cameras had been installed with the default names and passwords still in place. If you are installing internet-enabled cameras, make sure you change the access credentials and secure them from possible compromise.
You have your laptop and phone to consider. These are connected to the internet and have cameras. They can be compromised, hacked and then controlled remotely by cyber criminals. I have a sliding cover on my laptop camera which hides the lens when not in use. Having a flip-top case on your phone may also be a good idea if you are worried about this. If you have internet-enabled cameras in your home then check the security. These can be hacked. Your TV may have a camera installed; you may have children’s toys with cameras in them. Your own cameras monitoring your property, inside and out could also be compromised. This could include baby monitors. This type of hacking is covert filming and we all need to be aware of the possibility and take what steps we can to secure the devices we have in our homes.
Alongside all of this comes the development of facial recognition software and how this data may be used. Strangers wearing glasses fitted with surveillance tools connected to the internet, profiling you as you walk by. The use of our own image without our consent, simply because we posted it. And it’s not just the collection of data that is concerning, but the profiling and inferences about ourselves that may be established and passed off as fact and sold on to other agencies. There are many fascinating and disturbing areas to consider here. Without giving anything away, as this is a facts behind the fiction series, in my novel The Kill Chain, covert filming is featured. I hope this novel helps to raise awareness of this undoubtedly murky aspect of cyber security.
Next time, Botnets. What are they?