Fake CCTV Cameras

CCTV cameras in Moscow have been accused of streaming prerecorded video instead of live images.

What I can't figure out is why? To me, it seems easier for the cameras to stream live video than prerecorded images.

Posted on April 16, 2010 at 12:46 PM • 27 Comments

Comments

SparkyGSXApril 16, 2010 12:59 PM

Why? Well, maybe they just used camera decoys, saving money on the hardware. On the other hand, they should have known that someday, someone would figure out something was wrong, and they'd get caught doing it, so it doesn't seem very likely.

What I find most interesting about the story, is that it took four months (or maybe even more) *before* anybody noticed; what does this tell us about the system? Clearly, nobody watched the feed, and nobody requested footage from any of those cameras.

BradApril 16, 2010 1:09 PM

Take a few days of prerecording from each camera location, and stream the videos from a central location. That would leave them able to put fake/cheap equipment in the field, and they wouldn't need to pay to wire them up properly.

I agree with SparyGSX, I can't believe someone didn't check the system earlier. I suppose a cursory inspection would still show all the locations reporting and you'd be unlikely to notice until you look for a specific incident.

DanApril 16, 2010 1:18 PM

battery replacement? truck rolls are expensive, and if you stream pre-recorded video (from somewhere else) you can turn off every part of the camera but the red light and it will last 100x as long.

mcbApril 16, 2010 1:27 PM

Reminds me a little of the fella here in the States who installed fire protection systems in several buildings by supergluing sprinkler heads to the ceiling tiles.

dougApril 16, 2010 1:30 PM

If I were smuggling immigrants over the border, I'd try doing this with some of the border cameras.

mdbApril 16, 2010 1:32 PM

It is much easier on the person doing the monitoring, if he knows nothing will happen.

RookieApril 16, 2010 1:38 PM

80,000 cameras??!! Wow.

Well, you can change the Russian government, but you can't change their desire to monitor their citizens, I guess.

Michael KohneApril 16, 2010 1:45 PM

Because keeping actual cameras in operation is expensive (people like to break them). Streaming pre-recorded video (from before the camera broke) to the monitoring center is probably cheaper than replacing the camera.

Electric LandladyApril 16, 2010 2:02 PM

Hey, laying cable to 80,000 cameras doesn't come cheap, you know.

Or -- since it was only for a few months -- maybe the vendor was massively behind and this was their contingency plan.

TrZApril 16, 2010 2:17 PM

I believe this was the way the vendor chose to mask malfunction of cameras, instead of changing then. As the vendor was responsible for the whole network, the false video was fed right to the controlling equipment, not through the broken cameras.

TuttleApril 16, 2010 2:18 PM

They did that when the cameras were malfunctioning. Cheaper than to repair them.

AndreyApril 16, 2010 2:20 PM

Those cameras are installed at the entrances to the houses (thus, that much cameras).
The reason for faking feeds is simple -- organization responsible for setting up and maintaining cameras was paid based on number of working cameras. So if camera fails, they just stream pre-recorder video stream instead of fixing it.

BF SkinnerApril 16, 2010 2:41 PM

Well one day is pretty much like the rest, yeah?
and 99.9 per cent of the time nothing happens, right?
And if something were to happen it's even less likely to be happen when the camera is looking right at it, no?
And even if something were to happen when the camera was looking right at it a teeny tiny chance that someone would actually be watching the feed to notice it, see?

So why waste all that energy and wear out the objective of the lens with photons when you could rent out the the infrastructure to online sex shows? or maybe rent the real feed to someone with a better use for it than the city safety officers?

richg74April 16, 2010 3:27 PM

Covering for dummy cameras, or broken ones, is one reason I thought of. The other is that someone is paying the camera operator to use pre-recorded video for certain areas or times.

FladoApril 16, 2010 6:01 PM

Why: "framed by a rival"?
Not the simplest explanation, I agree, but why not?

Davi OttenheimerApril 16, 2010 7:25 PM

i agree with the malfunction comments above. auditing cameras usually uncovers 1) malfunction 2) alarms that are ignored

it is possible to figure a way to quickly and quietly reset all the alarms but it's very hard to hide the bad video/connections and uncommon for an auditor to run tests to see live video on every feed

DApril 16, 2010 9:17 PM

To pull this off for very long would require footage to match time of day and weather. No one was watching the cameras for any reasonable amount of time. That's the only reason it took so long to uncover.

pchriscoApril 16, 2010 9:19 PM

Waiting for the ash to settle so I can make my annual trip to Russia I can tell you the real reason: "Russians always cheat & steal - it is their national character held over from the time of serfdom". It is systemic, my son-in-law has a highly respected career as a money launder, a good friend works in a cafe serving watered down drinks and food not eaten by earlier patrons, everyone takes "black money" (cash they don't pay taxes on) at work, you must bribe the police if they stop you and the nurses if you are in a hospital, the father-in-law came out of retirement so he could steal from his employer the things he needed to finish up various projects on his country home and it just goes on and on. I do have one friend that does an honest job, he is the only exception. So fake cameras or re-streaming old video would be as they say in Russia "normal".

TV vetranApril 17, 2010 4:01 AM

The was a Lt Columbo plot based on this.
The murder put a tape on the live feed while he was doing the job.
IIRC Columbo spotted a detail on the desktop in the footage that couldn't have been there at the time of the murder - and they got the guy.

anyone else remember that episode?

lookerApril 17, 2010 7:45 AM

Could it have been a misconfiguration (intentional or not)?
Many CCTV installations can record images these days.

AlexanderApril 17, 2010 8:38 AM

I am from Moscow. The cameras was not actually have been installed. The money was simply stolen.

uk visaApril 17, 2010 8:55 AM

If Dmitry Kudryavtsev's cameras had been found to be fake in the search for evidence after the underground bombings; then he might have faced the charge of treason rather than fraud.

EnnorApril 17, 2010 9:11 AM

Any business here in Russia, and when I say any I mean ANY, is about getting quick money. Looking at tremendous sums that oil mining companies get here out of nowhere, everyone else wants no less. Of course, one of the ways to reach the goal is to sting someone rich enough. The only problem in this case was that local police is also powerful enough...

Throughout the entire Moscow, there were about 100K cameras in total plugged into this system. Yes, the russian government will go to infinite lengths to control their citizen - this is the only way for them to, how shall I put this, survive in these extremely hostile environments, but I'm not about that. There were about 30K fake cameras in the North-Eastern city sector alone, and I'm not sure how much was in others.

Each camera maintenance costs about 500 USD per month. If you have no real camera, no cables, no power supply etc., it appears to be a whole bunch of money going into one's pockets.

Of course, these guys are idiots since this could not be countinued forever. Summer and winter, for instance, have too different looks here. One of the common criminal errors, they thought they are invincible. Well, now they would have some time to reconsider, that's for sure.

SparkyGSXApril 17, 2010 11:05 AM

Wouldn't it have been easier to just duplicate the feed from another camera? That way, they wouldn't have to worry about time of day and weather issues, and the chance of someone spotting a duplicate feed in tens or thousands is almost zero. Of course, there is still a chance it would be discovered either by someone who knows what the street really looks like, or when they requested a recording from a place where a crime had occurred.

500 USD per camera per month? That's just crazy. If you install that many camera's, the initial cost would come down considerably, and when everything is in place, you should only have to maintain and replace the ones that are vandalized, or otherwise stop working.

I can imagine it's not cheap to get all the feeds to a central location for monitoring and recording, but I'd think you could get a nice deal with a telephone or cable company for many thousands of leased lines.

MikhailApril 17, 2010 3:31 PM

I'm russian and really amused with two things:

1. The story get attention after so much time (I've heard about it at least 3 month ago).

2. You didn't think about "political" risk of properly working system, especially in case of automatic traffic monitoring.
Suppose you rule the camera project and can install it properly, but automatic system will report LOTS of violations from authorities (even you own boss). There for, with working system you need to review every incident manually, to assure that no "special" people got invoice. And you have to pay for that manual review.

Should I explain that not working system set you free from all this problems?

EnnorApril 17, 2010 7:14 PM

SparkyGSX:

Oops, magnitude conversion error :) 50 USD / month / camera. You right, five hundred is way too much, even for a government-sponsored project.

EnnorApril 17, 2010 7:26 PM

SparkyGSX:

Oh my :) This is not the USSR, at least by name, but the majority of people are still the same. It means nobody trusts nobody, and twice that if we talk about the government.

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