Is Hacking IP Cameras A Major Risk?

Author: John Honovich, Published on Aug 02, 2009

Fears are rising that IP cameras can and willl be hacked. At Defcon, a demonstration showed an IP camera's feed intercepted and replaced by a fraudulent video, allowing a hypothetical suspect to steal an object right in front of the surveillance camera; thus bringing Hollywood to 'real life.'

What Do You Think?

Demo of the Hack

Here's a demo of the hack (the theft occurs at the end of the clip). Note the company that does the hack sells software to prevent it.

Bigger Risks Routinely Accepted

As titilating as this demo may be, there are far bigger risks that most real-world security organizations accept every day, such as:

  • Most security cameras are not watched live. For all those cameras, there's no need for any fancy hacks. Just walk on in. On the way out, find the recorder and take it with you.
  • When security cameras fail, almost no one responds immediately. At best, a trouble ticket or call is opened and the camera is checked in the next few business days. If the cameras are being monitored live, simply shut down the recorder or the power to the recorder/cameras. Most operations will see this as a nuisance but will not shut down the building (casinos, as always, the exception).
Difficulty to Do in a Real Environment
It's one thing to do this in a demo, it's far harder to pull this off in a real environment. Let's say you are one of the very few organizations who both watches cameras live and takes immediate action to cameras going out. The attacker would still need to:
  • Get access to the internal LAN of the target organization.
  • Pull this hack off against many cameras. These types of organizations are going to have dense camera coverage, which means 3, 5, 10 or more cameras need to be commandeered.
  • The attacker will also have to figure out where these cameras are - which generally is not easy. Steal the CAD drawings? Hack in to the VMS system to see the layout? Certainly theoretically possible but not easy to do.
  • The demo presumes the use of standard signaling protocols and CODECs. IP video surveillance is famous for its lack of standards. The attacker will have to know which proprietary interface each camera uses and have solutions for each variety. Good luck.
If the attacker is this cunning, intelligent and determined, wouldn't there be higher value targets? Steal critical information, access financial accounts, etc. Or do this legally by becoming a quant at an investment bank?
Security Theatre
This type of attack is security theater - the type of risk that sounds exciting and threatening but is simultaneously unrealistic and ignores more fundamental risks that should be addressed. Maybe maximum level security operations should examine this but I suspect even they have more basic flaws in their video surveillance that need to be addressed first.


4 reports cite this report:

Wireless Video Surveillance Hijacking Threat on Mar 25, 2011
An Australian investigative report is highlighting the risk that video surveillance systems face from wireless hijacking. In this note, we examine...
Stopping Surveillance 'Videojacking' on Feb 16, 2011
A rising fear among security professionals is that surveillance video can be 'hijacked' and put on the Internet, resulting in embarassment or worse...
Network Security Concerns Examined on Nov 05, 2009
At an ISC West 2009 presentation, Slayton Solutions spoke in detail on the vulnerabilities of network security while using some highly uncommon...
Guidelines for Commenting on Reports on Aug 21, 2009
With over 2000 total comments so far, comments are one of the most useful and important elements of IP Video Market Info. When done appropriately,...

Related Reports on Hacking

"New Zealand Govt Uses Chinese Cameras Banned In US", Considers Security Audit on Oct 12, 2018
Newsroom NZ has issued a report: "NZ Govt uses Chinese cameras banned in US": This comes after the US federal government banned purchases of...
China Hacks Video Servers Causing Uproar on Oct 05, 2018
An incident causing an international uproar is hitting home in the video surveillance industry as a Bloomberg report, "The Big Hack: How China...
Genetec Takes Aim At 'Untrustworthy' 'Foreign Government-Owned Vendors' on Sep 24, 2018
Genetec is taking aim at 'untrustworthy' 'foreign government-owned vendors'. This is not a new theme for Genetec as nearly 2 years ago, Genetec...
Hikvision FIPS 140-2 Cybersecurity Certification Examined on Aug 27, 2018
A week after the US government passed a law banning Hikvision, Hikvision announced it had obtained a FIPS 140-2 certification from the US...
Sony Gen 5 IP Cameras Critical Vulnerabilities on Jul 26, 2018
Cybersecurity vulnerabilities remain prevalent in video surveillance devices. Now Talos researchers have discovered multiple vulnerabilities in...
July 2018 IP Networking Course on Jul 12, 2018
Registration is closed. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance professionals.  Lots of network training...
Hikvision Corrects False Cybersecurity Announcement on Jun 18, 2018
Hikvision has corrected a false cybersecurity announcement that claimed a British government-sponsored program endorsed the cybersecurity of...
The Dumb Ones: PSA's Bozeman On Cybersecurity on Jun 15, 2018
The smart ones are the hundred people who flew to Denver and spent $500+ on a 1.5-day conference featuring (now US government banned) Dahua as a...
Debating Relevance of China Hacking US Navy Plans on Jun 11, 2018
"Chinese government hackers have compromised the computers of a Navy contractor, stealing massive amounts of highly sensitive data related to...
Remove Dahua and Hikvision Gov Installs Required By US House Bill Ban on Jun 06, 2018
The final released US House Bill HR 5515 verifies that it not only prohibits the purchasing of Dahua and Hikvision products, it requires removing...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Hanwha Dual Imager Dome Camera Tested (PNM-7000VD) on Oct 18, 2018
Hanwha has introduced their first dual-imager model, the PNM-7000VD, a twin 1080p model featuring independently positionable sensors and a snap-in...
Camera Height / Blind Spot Added to IPVM Camera Calculator on Oct 18, 2018
IPVM has added camera height and blind spot estimation to the Camera Calculator. This is especially helpful for those who need to mount cameras up...
Axis Strong US Growth, Flat EMEA - Q3 2018 Financials on Oct 18, 2018
This spring, Axis had its best financials in many years (see Axis Strong Q2 2018 Results). However, over the summer, Axis had many products sold...
Best Alternatives to Banned Dahua and Hikvision on Oct 17, 2018
With the US government ban and a growing number of users banning Dahua and Hikvision, one key question is what to use for low cost? While Dahua and...
Video Quality / Compression Tutorial on Oct 17, 2018
While CODECs, like H.264, H.265, and MJPEG, get a lot of attention, a camera's 'quality' or compression setting has a big impact on overall...
Knightscope Winning Investors, Struggling With Growth on Oct 16, 2018
While Knightscope's new financials show the company only winning 11 new customers in the past 12 months, the company continues to win new...
Integrator Laptop Guide on Oct 16, 2018
This 18-page guide provides guidance and statistics about integrator laptop use. 150 integrators explained to IPVM in detail about their laptops,...
Huawei Admits AI "Bubble" on Oct 16, 2018
A fascinating article from the Chinese government's Global Times: Huawei’s AI ambition to reshape industries. While the Global Times talks about...
ADI's Financials Revealed + W-Box Growth Priority on Oct 15, 2018
  ADI is one of the most powerful distributors in the security industry but how big are they? How much profit do they make? How much do they sell...
Dahua Face Recognition Camera Tested on Oct 15, 2018
Dahua has been one of the industry's most vocal proponents of the value that AI creates: As part of this, Dahua has released a facial...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact