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Smile! You’re on camera. At least, your license plate is.
You might have heard of automatic license plate recognition — known as ALPR (or ANPR in the U.K. for number plates). These cameras are dotted across the U.S., and are controlled mostly by police departments and government agencies to track license plates — and people — from place to place. In doing so, they can reveal where you live, where you go and who you see. Considered a massive invasion of privacy by many and legally questionable by some, there are tens of thousands of ALPR readers across the U.S. collectively reading and recording thousand of license plates — and locations — every minute, the ACLU says, becoming one of the new and emerging forms of mass surveillance in the U.S.
Cameras - Internet - Data - Vehicles - Drivers
But some cameras are connected to the internet, and are easily identifiable. Worse, some are leaking sensitive data about vehicles and their drivers — and many have weak security protections that make them easily accessible.
Security researchers have been warning for years that ALPR devices are exposed and all too often accessible from the internet. The Electronic Frontier Foundation found in 2015 dozens of exposed devices in its own investigation not long after Boston’s entire ALPR network was found exposed, thanks to a server security lapse.
But in the three years past, little has changed.
“It doesn’t surprise us to hear that the problems are still ongoing,” said Dave Maass, a senior investigative researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “What we tend to find is that law enforcement will get sold this technology and see it as a one-time investment, but don’t invest in cybersecurity to protect the information or the devices themselves.”
Darius - Freamon - Security - Researcher - ALPR
Darius Freamon, a security researcher, was one of the first to find police ALPR cameras in 2014 on Shodan, a search engine...
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