Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Is your toilet spying on you?

  • Print

A middle-aged man wearing a sweatshirt removes an elderly woman's clothes and begins wiping her body late one night at a house in Hyogo Prefecture. Could they be mother and son? Soon after, the man fills a washbowl with water and carefully washes her hands. They then eat a meal together. On another day, the woman is seen sitting on a chair for a long time.

These scenes are part of the footage aired around the clock on the Internet. For five years and eight months, the two did not realize their daily lives were being broadcast live via a camera set up inside their house.

In March 2008, the man signed up for a service enabling users with computers and smartphones to remotely monitor what elderly family members were doing through footage transmitted from cameras set up inside their homes. The man paid a monthly fee of about $8 for the service.

However, the man did not know if users do not change the initial settings of the service, the footage will be automatically broadcast online, allowing anybody to watch.

According to the Yano Research Institute, a market research company, about 400,000 network cameras are now sold annually. Cameras produced by Panasonic Corp. -- a leader in the field -- are all initially set to allow everyone to watch the footage online.

Some websites have even compiled videos from such cameras. One such site shows footage of children taking a nap at a kindergarten in Tokyo and a woman relaxing as a hairdresser washes her hair. Some cameras allow remote users to change the viewing angle or zoom in.

Such risks are not limited to network cameras. The number of electrical appliances connected to the Internet -- such as TVs and multifunction printers -- has steadily increased.

In February 2013, major household equipment manufacturer Lixil Corp. released a high-tech toilet on which users can control the temperature of the toilet seat and the volume of water, using their smartphones as a remote control. However, it took only six months for a security company to discover that the toilets "can easily be controlled from outside" because the initial password for administrators was set as 0000.

"It is not rare to find the passwords of Internet-connected electrical appliances left unchanged from such simple passwords," said Fumiaki Yamasaki, a specially appointed professor at the University of Aizu who specializes in information security.

According to Yamasaki, it is even easy to find the default passwords for such appliances based on makers or models of machines online.

Despite such concerns, appliances are becoming more IT-friendly by the day. In Japan, the Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law banned such electric appliances as air conditioners and refrigerators from allowing remote access, but the regulations were relaxed in May 2013.


-- Washington Post-Bloomberg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 11, 2014 D6

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Raw video: Wading through flooded underpass at Main and Higgins

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A female Mallard duck leads a group of duckings on a morning swim through the reflections in the Assiniboine River at The Forks Monday.     (WAYNE GLOWACKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Winnipeg Free Press  June 18 2012
  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 090728 / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS White Pelicans belly up to the sushi bar Tuesday afternoon at Lockport. One of North America's largest birds is a common sight along the Red RIver and on Lake Winnipeg. Here the fight each other for fish near the base of Red RIver's control structure, giving human fisher's downstream a run for their money.

View More Gallery Photos


What do you think of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s comment that Tina Fontaine’s slaying was a crime, and not part of a larger sociological problem?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google