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 Backdoor Exploit on Sep 18, 2017
Full disclosure to the Hikvision backdoor has been released, allowing easy exploit of vulnerable Hikvision IP cameras. As the researcher, Monte...
September IP Networking Course on Sep 14, 2017
LAST Chance - Registration is ending. Register now. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance professionals...
Fortune 500 Company Bars Dahua and Hikvision on Aug 30, 2017
A Fortune 500 company has barred Dahua and Hikvision cameras from a large RFP due to cyber security concerns, IPVM has confirmed with the...
Security Press Wrong About New NY State Video Law on Aug 29, 2017
SecurityInfoWatch wrongly declared: N.Y. governor signs bill outlawing video surveillance of neighbors SDM wrongly affirmed: It is now illegal to...
Hikvision Happy With Bad Security Unless Hit With Bad Press on Aug 28, 2017
Hikvision is happy to have bad cyber security unless they are hit with bad press, as we detail inside. When you look at the pattern of their...
‘Experts' Fail On Dumbo IP Camera ‘Hack' on Aug 24, 2017
Dumbo, revealed by Wikileaks, has become big news. Unfortunately, 'experts' in the security industry have gotten it wrong, incorrectly contending...
Avigilon CEO Attacks Asian Companies Cyber Insecurity on Aug 18, 2017
Avigilon CEO is taking aim at their Asian competitors. And he is going directly after these company's cyber security issues. In this note, we...
Hikvision Responds To Cracked Security Codes on Aug 15, 2017
Hikvision has responded to IPVM's report on Hikvision's security code being cracked, both with a 2 page update to dealers and communication...
Vulnerability Directory For Access Control Cards on Aug 14, 2017
Knowing which access credentials are insecure can be unclear, especially because most look and feel the same. Even the most insecure 125 kHz types...
Hikvision Security Code Cracked on Aug 08, 2017
Hikvision's 'security code' feature has been cracked and a program generating security codes is being distributed online. IPVM has obtained and...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Avigilon Touting 'Made In America' on Sep 18, 2017
Canadian manufacturer Avigilon, who completed a US manufacturing facility in 2015, is now running a marketing campaign touting 'Made In America',...
Cloud Guy Prints Book, Misses Irony on Sep 15, 2017
On-premise security systems are dead. But $75 print books are alive and well. Such are the lessons from Brivo's CEO new book "The Five...
Forgotten Password Problem Importance on Sep 15, 2017
Forgotten passwords has become a major industry topic. For example, Hikvision has been emailing admin passwords in plain text until IPVM's...
September IP Networking Course on Sep 14, 2017
LAST Chance - Registration is ending. Register now. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance professionals...
Hikvision Launching Ezviz Pro on Sep 14, 2017
Hikvision is launching Ezviz Pro. In 2015, Hikvision expanded Ezviz, a direct to consumer offering, to North America. Now, Ezviz 'Pro' is...
Genetec Launches Community Connect Examined on Sep 14, 2017
Genetec has done best in large-scale, enterprise systems and relatively worse in smaller systems such as SMB. Now, Genetec is launching...
Master Keying Tutorial on Sep 14, 2017
Mechanical keys are the most fundamental, albeit unsophisticated, form of access control. Like access control, Master Keying allows large scale use...
Startup Turing Video Segway-Based Security Robot Profile on Sep 13, 2017
If security robots can not replace guards, perhaps the next best thing is a robot the guard can actually ride.  Turing Video has raised $5...
Fail Safe vs. Fail Secure Tutorial on Sep 13, 2017
Few terms carry greater importance in access control than 'fail safe' and 'fail secure'. Access control professionals must know how these concepts...

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