Is Hacking IP Cameras A Major Risk?

By 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 [link no longer available]. 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

4 reports cite this report:

Wireless Video Surveillance Hijacking Threat on Mar 25, 2011
An Australian investigative report is highlighting the risk that video...
Stopping Surveillance 'Videojacking' on Feb 16, 2011
A rising fear among security professionals is that surveillance video can be...
Network Security Concerns Examined on Nov 05, 2009
At an ISC West 2009 presentation [link no longer available], Slayton...
Guidelines for Commenting on Reports on Aug 21, 2009
With over 2000 total comments so far, comments are one of the most useful and...

Related Reports

PRC Warns Against China Video Surveillance Hacks, Hikvision Targeted on Feb 14, 2020
Hackers are targeting China video surveillance manufacturers and systems,...
Lasers Impact on Surveillance Cameras Tested on Sep 25, 2019
Hong Kong protests have brought global attention to video surveillance and...
Hidden Camera Detectors Tested on Nov 18, 2019
Hidden cameras are a growing problem as cameras become smaller, cheaper and...
Uniview Deep Learning Camera Tested on Jul 14, 2020
Uniview's intrusion analytics have performed poorly in our shootouts. Now,...
Budget Covert Cameras Tested on Nov 26, 2019
Covert cameras under $100 are widely available online but are they any...
Breaking Into A Facility Using Canned Air Tested on Jan 28, 2020
Access control is supposed to make doors more secure, but a $5 can of...
China Surveillance Vulnerabilities Being Used To Attack China, Says China on Apr 07, 2020
While China video surveillance vulnerabilities have been much debated in the...
Propped Doors Access Control Tutorial on Jan 07, 2020
Doors should keep 'bad guys' out, but a common access control problem is...
The Cowardly, Greedy "Leaders" of Video Surveillance - SIA on Nov 19, 2019
The video surveillance industry suffers from cowardly, greedy 'leaders'...
Dahua Smart Motion Detection Camera Tested on Mar 03, 2020
Dahua has introduced Smart Motion Detection, AI-based VMD, claiming to use an...
YCombinator AI Startup Visual One Tested on Apr 02, 2020
Startup Visual One, backed by Silicon Valley's powerful Y Combinator, aims to...
US Issues Criminal Charges Against Aventura For Fraudulently Selling Hikvision And Other China Products on Nov 07, 2019
The US government has made an unprecedented move on the video surveillance...
Hikvision Dual Lens Face Recognition Camera Tested on Nov 19, 2019
Hikvision's Dual Lens Facial Recognition camera, claims that it "adopts...
ONVIF Exposure To "Devastating DDoS Attacks" Examined on Sep 06, 2019
ZDnet reported "Protocol used by 630,000 devices can be abused for...
TVT / InVid Facial Recognition Tested on Mar 25, 2020
Facial recognition is frequently sold for thousands of dollars per channel...

Recent Reports

Bedside Cough and Sneeze Detector (Sound Intelligence and CLB) on Oct 28, 2020
Coronavirus has increased interest in detecting symptoms such as fever and...
Fever Tablet Thermal Sensors Examined (Melexis) on Oct 28, 2020
Fever tablet suppliers heavily rely on the accuracy and specs of...
Verkada Fires 3 on Oct 28, 2020
Verkada has fired three employees over an incident where female colleagues...
Recruiters Online Show LIVE Thursday! on Oct 27, 2020
IPVM's 7th online show resumes Thursday with 12 recruiters presenting...
Eagle Eye Networks Raises $40 Million on Oct 27, 2020
Eagle Eye has raised $40 million aiming to "reinvent video...
Hikvision Q3 2020 Global Revenue Rises, US Revenue Falls on Oct 27, 2020
While Hikvision's global revenue rises driven by domestic recovery, its US...
VICE Investigates Verkada's Harassing "RawVerkadawgz" on Oct 26, 2020
This month, IPVM investigated Verkada's sexism, discrimination, and cultural...
Six Flags' FDA Violating Outdoor Dahua Fever Cameras on Oct 26, 2020
As Six Flags scrambled to reopen parks amid plummeting revenues caused by the...
ISC Brasil Digital Experience 2020 Report on Oct 23, 2020
ISC Brasil 2020 rebranded itself to ISC Digital Experience and, like its...
Top Video Surveillance Service Call Problems 2020 on Oct 23, 2020
3 primary and 4 secondary issues stood out as causing the most problems when...
GDPR Impact On Temperature / Fever Screening Explained on Oct 22, 2020
What impact does GDPR have on temperature screening? Do you risk a GDPR fine...
Security And Safety Things (S&ST) Tested on Oct 22, 2020
S&ST, a Bosch spinout, is spending tens of millions of dollars aiming to...
Nokia Fever Screening Claims To "Advance Fight Against COVID-19" on Oct 22, 2020
First IBM, then briefly Clorox, and now Nokia becomes the latest Fortune 500...
Deceptive Meridian Temperature Tablets Endanger Public Safety on Oct 21, 2020
IPVM's testing of and investigation into Meridian Kiosk's temperature...
Honeywell 30 Series and Vivotek NVRs Tested on Oct 21, 2020
The NDAA ban has driven many users to look for low-cost NVRs not made by...