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January 02, 2006

Hackers Vs. Video Surveillance Cameras

An Austrian civil liberties group called Quintessenz has been hacking into, downloading imagery from and then sabotaging lawful police surveillance cameras in public places.

When the Austrian government passed a law this year allowing police to install closed-circuit surveillance cameras in public spaces without a court order, the Austrian civil liberties group Quintessenz vowed to watch the watchers.

Members of the organization worked out a way to intercept the camera images with an inexpensive, 1-GHz satellite receiver. The signal could then be descrambled using hardware designed to enhance copy-protected video as it's transferred from DVD to VHS tape.

The Quintessenz activists then began figuring out how to blind the cameras with balloons, lasers and infrared devices.

It's interesting that these folks don't seem to have anything to say about asshole tourists in various cities who practically shove their videocams in your face as you go about your business, without asking permission, or simply tape streams of passing pedestrians without asking anybody if it's okay, and those are not illegal activities.

The videocams police set up to record activities in public places are not, therefore, infringing on anybody's privacy. Anything you do in a public area is just that, public, including strong armed robbery, drug dealing, unlawful obscenities, hooking, picking pockets or engaging in terrorist acts. Picking out suspicious persons or known suspected criminals on realtime video can prevent everything from felonious assaults on innocent citizens or prevent multiple murders.

And, just for fun, the group created an anonymous surveillance system that uses face-recognition software to place a black stripe over the eyes of people whose images are recorded.

In my opinion, these people are obstructing legitimate law enforcement tools and protective venues endorsed by the majority of their fellow citizens and in so doing, creating public endangerment.

If interference with any of these cameras results in the monitoring authorities' not being able to identify someone about to commit, or in the process of committing a crime or terrorist act, or to spot one of said situations in time to prevent it, the saboteurs -- yes, that's what these "civil liberties activists" are -- the penalties for this sabotage should be equal to the punishment merited by the perpetrators they have protected.

Posted by Seth at January 2, 2006 02:24 AM