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For Sale: Access to Moscow’s CCTV Network on Black Market

Black market sellers offering live feeds of Moscow’s 170,000 cameras and searches for facial recognition matches.

Moscow has around 170,000 CCTV cameras installed across the city. Svetlana Kholyavchuk / TASS

Access to Moscow’s network of more than 170,000 surveillance cameras is being sold on the black market, investigators have found.

Researchers at MBKh Media — an investigative media outlet run by Kremlin opponent and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky — found that live access to any one of Moscow’s public surveillance cameras, which come with full footage from the past five days, is being offered on internet forums for just tens of dollars.

Unlimited live access to the entire network was on sale for 30,000 rubles ($470), MBKh Media said.

The investigators also gained access to Moscow’s network of 3,000 facial recognition cameras, courtesy of black market sellers.

In a test purchase, MBKh journalist Andrey Kaganskikh was able to order still images from the network, including the date, time and address every time a person matching a photo he provided was caught by Moscow’s facial recognition system.

Despite not being able to find Kaganskikh himself, the system returned 238 photos, along with the time and date stamps for every image, of other men — and women — the system determined was a match.

Sellers were offering live footage of individual cameras by providing a hidden link to that camera’s feed, MBKh Media found, while access to the entire network is offered through the sale of usernames and passwords belonging to government-accredited officials who are authorized to access the network.

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