Parents reassured after live footage from Blackpool schools' CCTV cameras was 'hosted on US website'
Live internet footage from CCTV cameras at three Blackpool schools was taken offline within minutes of teachers becoming aware of the security blunder, it has emerged.
Streams from the unsecured cameras, hosted on an US-based website, reportedly showed hundreds of resort pupils going about their day. The cameras are linked to the internet so they can be monitored externally, it is understood, but should not have been made available for wider viewing. Steps have been made to secure the streams including, it is thought, stronger passwords to prevent widespread access.
Bosses at St Mary's Catholic Academy and the neighbouring Christ The King Catholic Academy this morning moved to reassure worried parents, and said most of the cameras available to view online were outside - with the only one inside showing a stairwell. Stephen Tierney, chief executive officer at the trust that runs the two schools, pictured, described the security breach as 'unacceptable', but moved to allay parents' fears. It comes after pictures appeared in the national media of cameras in toilets, which sparked a handful of calls to the school this morning.
Mr Tierney said: "Most of the CCTV shown footage is external and a number of the the areas covered can be seen as you walk past the school. "Many of the photographs are from other schools; St. Mary's has no boys' urinals in the school nor CCTV in toilets."
He said the streams were taken offline within an hour. The photographs of cameras in toilets are understood to have come from a school outside of Lancashire. Highfield Leadership Academy in South Shore said in a statement on its website: "Firstly, we would like to reassure everyone that the health and safety of our students is our top priority, and that the issue with the CCTV system, which is operated by Eric Wright Facilities Management, affected a small number of cameras located outside of the school.
"These cameras only film external areas of the school site, which can already be seen from the street. At no time has it been possible to view the areas covered by internal cameras. "However, we take these matters very seriously and can confirm that Eric Wright Facilities Management undertook an immediate and thorough investigation in response to these reports.
"They rectified the matter and updated their processes so there can be no recurrence of this lapse. We have been given full assurances that there will be no repeat of this incident. "We hope this has reassured you, but we would like to reiterate that health and safety is paramount for us.
We agree that, although the areas affected are external, such a lapse is unacceptable." Jeremy Hartley from Eric Wright, which is responsible for the cameras at all three schools, said: "As soon as our systems were alerted, the camera feed was immediately taken offline and our technology experts were on site to investigate the breach and to determine the cause." One parent, whose daughter left Highfield in September, said: "A school cannot have CCTV equipment that is broadcast-able to the wider internet.
They are breaking the trust we put in the school as parents." The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said: "We are aware of a website streaming footage from internet-connected security cameras from around the world, including sites in the UK, and are looking into the details. "This may include contacting suppliers, manufacturers and users where they can be identified.
"We will also be liaising with our colleagues in other countries to consider what steps can be taken on an international level.
"The ICO advises anybody who purchases an internet-connected device which has the capability to stream live video to immediately change passwords and usernames from default settings and to set a strong password - one that should not be known by anyone else or be easy to guess."