You’ve seen it in movies and television probably dozens of times: video surveillance systems being hacked into by both heroes and villains and being fooled into showing looped footage allowing said hero/villain to proceed undetected. This time around, life is imitating art as a security researcher demonstrated at the Black Hat security conference held this past weekend. In his presentation, dubbed “Exploiting Surveillance Cameras Like a Hollywood Hacker”, former NSA worker Craig Heffner demonstrated how he was able to research and exploit readily available internet-enabled video cameras commonly used for security surveillance in homes and businesses around the world. Given the well-honed skeptical nature of Black Hat attendees, Mr. Heffner provided a live demonstration wherein he focused a compromised camera on a bottle placed on stage. While the audience watched via the security console, Heffner hacked the camera to display a spoofed image of the bottle (the “Hollywood” part), and then proceeded to “steal” the bottle while the security camera continued to display an unmolested bottle.
What this means for you:
Unfortunately, Heffner was able to exploit cameras from many manufacturers primarily because the device firmwares contained hard-wired passwords and other backdoor mechanisms. Thanks to the internet, Heffner was able to download copies of many camera firmwares and research the vulnerabilities without even owning the actual device. Heffner contends that he has yet to come across a model of internet security camera that he cannot hack, primarily because the manufacturers have been careless in removing the backdoors and weakness, and that the basic operating system varied in only minor ways from model to model. If you are actively using any of the cameras listed in Heffner’s presentation, you may want to consider disconnecting them from the network (which essentially defeats the “Internet-enabled” part), or disabling them completely until the manufacturers patch the obvious security weaknesses.
Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net