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

Last Day - IP Networking Course May 2017 on Apr 26, 2017
Today is the last day to register for the May IP Networking Course. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video...
Chinese 'Attacking Us From Every Direction', Says US FBI on Apr 25, 2017
"Chinese eating our lunch. Attacking us from every direction" said the US FBI's Deputy Director Andrew McCabe at the ASIS 2017 CSO Summit. .@FBI...
Dahua Manager: Lots of Backdoors Beyond Dahua or Hikvision on Mar 29, 2017
A Dahua technical manager has fired back at criticisms of Dahua's backdoor, posting publicly what many at Dahua have privately been saying for the...
Uniview Weak Local / Strong Remote Password Policy Tested on Mar 14, 2017
With the continuing onslaught of cyber-security breaches (see Dahua backdoor recently discovered, Hikvision defaulted devices getting hacked)...
Genetec Comments on Washington DC MPD Hack on Mar 13, 2017
This January, the Washington DC police video surveillance system was hacked with ransomware, impacting 123 of 187 cameras. Last month, IPVM...
Hikvision New Security Vulnerability on Mar 12, 2017
Hikvision has disclosed a new security vulnerability that affects 200+ of their IP cameras over the past few years. In this note, we examine the...
FLIR Responds to Dahua Backdoor on Mar 10, 2017
FLIR is the first Dahua OEM partner to issue a statement following Dahua's backdoor disclosure: Certain FLIR and Lorex branded products that...
Hikvision Firmware Decrypted on Mar 09, 2017
A developer has decrypted Hikvision's firmware, allowing examination of Hikvision's device source code and contents. In this report, we overview...
Dahua Backdoor Uncovered on Mar 06, 2017
A major cyber security vulnerability across many Dahua products has been discovered by an independent researcher, reported on IPVM, verified by...
Who Is Hacking Hikvision Devices? on Mar 06, 2017
Someone or organization is mass hacking Hikvision devices, actively and systematically running a script / program across the Internet that looks...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Instant Cloud For Hikvision - Manything on Apr 28, 2017
One ISC West exhibitor had a very specific and clear pitch - cloud for Hikvision: In this note, we examine their offering, key differentiators,...
Milestone GPU Enhanced VMD Tested on Apr 28, 2017
In their 2017 XProtect release, Milestone announced support for hardware accelerated video motion detection, touting a 2X increase in server...
Burglar Alarm Zoning Guide on Apr 28, 2017
The function of an alarm panel is to gather information from sensors and respond to this information by triggering actions. While it is possible to...
Avigilon Discontinuing Rialto Analytics Line on Apr 27, 2017
Avigilon is informing dealers/partners that the legacy VideoIQ Rialto products have been discontinued, recommending the newer ACC ES Analytics...
A Marketing Home Run For Knightscope - Man Attacks Robot on Apr 27, 2017
We criticize Knightscope regularly - their lack of revenue, their trying to fool mom 'n pop investors, their associating themselves with a clueless...
The World's First Fashion IP Camera From Amazon on Apr 27, 2017
Some analytics cameras can tell you if a person is jumping a fence, or loitering in a secure area, but none of them can tell you if the person...
Last Day - IP Networking Course May 2017 on Apr 26, 2017
Today is the last day to register for the May IP Networking Course. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video...
Hikvision EZVIZ Amazon Scam Revealed on Apr 26, 2017
Hikvision is violating US Federal Trade Commission guidelines and Amazon rules with a "Honest" Review Program scheme that provides gift cards to...
Anixter CEO Admits Price Deflation and Non-Exclusive Integrator Sales on Apr 26, 2017
Anixter's CEO has admitted to (1) price deflation impacting IP camera sales and (2) not always being 'exclusive' with security integrators. In...
Xandem Next Gen Intrusion Tested on Apr 26, 2017
Xandem's "full coverage motion tracking technology" is unlike any intrusion technology we have seen. We bought their new system and tested it...

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