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

Hikvision Barred From US City Housing Authority Bid on Feb 14, 2017
A US city's housing authority has barred Hikvision products from their bid, due to 'increasing security concerns.' In the past few...
Hikvision Pledges 'Never' 'Backdoors' on Jan 27, 2017
With criticisms rising, Hikvision has gone on the record publicly declaring: Hikvision never has, does or would intentionally contribute to...
Suffering Criticism, Hikvision Keeps Insecure Online Service Up [Now Down] on Jan 03, 2017
Hikvision suffered severe criticisms for its abrupt plan to discontinue its Hikvision Online service, with 3 core functions to be removed on Dec...
Hikvision Discontinuing Online Service on Dec 12, 2016
Hikvision has declared it will discontinue its Hikvision online service, just days after IPVM's Hikvision Cloud Security Vulnerability...
Sony IP Camera Backdoor Uncovered on Dec 06, 2016
A backdoor has been uncovered in ~80 Sony IP camera models, attackers can remotely enable telnet on the camera, and then potentially login as root,...
XiongMai Master Password List Emailed By Chinese Spammer on Dec 05, 2016
XiongMai created an international uproar as their devices drove massive botnet attacks of major Internet sites. After pledging to recall cameras...
Hikvision Cloud Security Vulnerability Uncovered on Dec 05, 2016
A security researcher uncovered a critical vulnerability in Hikvision's global cloud servers. This vulnerability allowed an attacker to remotely...
Hikvision 'Phone Home' Raises Security Fears on Nov 10, 2016
The escalating attention towards Hikvision's China government ownership and Genetec's removal of Hikvision due to cyber security concerns has...
Genetec Expels Hikvision on Nov 08, 2016
Genetec has removed support for Hikvision devices, deeming them 'untrustworthy', citing customer concerns about Chinese government ownership /...
Now Knocking A Country Offline - The Video Surveillance Driven Botnet Wreaks Havok on Nov 03, 2016
The video surveillance driven botnet is now attacking an entire country. The Mirai malware that took advantage of poor security in Xiongmai, Dahua...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Vivotek 3MP 180 Wall Mount Camera Tested on Feb 28, 2017
Purpose-built wall mount panoramics have become an attractive niche to cover entranceways. In 2013, we bought and tested Vivotek's 1MP...
New Technology: QTSI Seismic Acoustic Perimeter Detection on Feb 28, 2017
Detection of objects across hundreds of acres through obstacles? Perimeter security startup Quantum Technology Sciences (QTSI) claims their system...
20 Manufacturer Favorability Ranked on Feb 28, 2017
20 security industry organizations' favorability was ranked based on direct feedback from over 100 integrators. In-depth comments revealed insights...
Hikvision Pyronix Releases 'Huge' New Panel on Feb 27, 2017
Hikvision's 2016 acquisition Pyronix has been touting their 'huge' new large system panel. Indeed, the new Euro 280 claims features that are better...
Bosch Favorability Results on Feb 27, 2017
Bosch is one of the most well known brands in the industry and they have combined recently with Sony in video surveillance. But how has Bosch...
ADT CEO: My Daughters Better At Installs Than Most 20 Year Techs on Feb 27, 2017
Times have changed. At the Barnes Buchanan conference, ADT's CEO Tim Whall made an interesting and, surely to some, controversial observation....
Avigilon Favorability Results on Feb 27, 2017
One of the fastest growing companies has turned into one of the rockiest, as cooling growth, management turnover and a roller coaster stock price...
Honeywell Sues Alarm.com For Violating Anti-Trust Laws on Feb 24, 2017
Is Alarm.com about to dominate the smart home software market? That is what Honeywell alleges in its new lawsuit, first reported by...
Axis: "Everything is IP" - False on Feb 24, 2017
Axis is congratulating itself, with executive Fredrick Nilsson declaring: "Now the conversion is all done and everything is IP and analog is...
Advertising Like Avigilon at the ISC West Airport on Feb 24, 2017
Avigilon has grabbed a lot of attention over the last few years advertising at the Las Vegas airport when attendees fly in. But how does that...

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