The Search Engine For Hacking IP Cameras (Shodan)

By IPVM Team, Published Sep 10, 2013, 12:00am EDT

With the US FTC cracking down on an IP camera manufacturer for security / privacy violations, concern over camera vulnerabilities have increased significantly. In this note, we review an online tool that is rapidly gaining in popularity as the search engine to quickly find and compromise online devices like IP cameras. We show you how it is done with a video screencast that demonstrates how lightning fast this engine makes hacking cameras.

Background of Shodan

Shodan is a search engine that allows you to find devices connected to the Internet. This could be IP cameras, routers, and servers, but also more interesting devices like traffic lights, SCADA systems, and medical equipment. 

It was originally created by computer programmer John Matherly to allow companies to find devices connected to the Internet using their software. On its website, Shodan says it now indexes more than 500 million devices monthly. When an exploit is discovered, Shodan is often used to do a quick search of how many vulnerable devices are out there and connected to the Internet. 

Where it Becomes a Problem 

Many of the devices indexed on Shodan do not need credentials to access. For example, control systems for dams or crematoriums or refrigerators or home heating systems. Usually physical controls for these devices are in places where access is limited to authorized users. However, they are also connected to the Internet, for remote monitoring or mobile apps, etc. This leaves them exposed to anyone who comes across them on Shodan. For devices that do use login credentials, it is important to change default password settings.

Matherly says he tries to keep people from using Shodan for bad by requiring users to create a login and limiting the number of search results a person can get without buying a subscription. Matherly hopes people will be reluctant to hack devices if they have to provide financial information. That seems like a small setback from someone with the technical know-how to login and operate the controls to a utilities company. 

'Hacking' a Router in Less Than 60 Seconds

We recorded this example to show you how it works:

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Shodan and IP Cameras

Security researchers still have not found a way [link no longer available] to keep connected devices from showing up on Shodan, so the next best step is to make sure those devices are secure. The problem with IP cameras is that many of them, whether for convenience or ignorance, use default passwords. Default credentials are readily available online (e.g., our Default Passwords Directory). For now, the popular and publicized targets for hackers and the curious have been at-home web cameras like TRENDnet and Foscam and not higher end cameras, but higher end cameras are exposed as well. 

Here is an example of some search results from this week showing four Axis cameras currently connected to the Internet and their locations. Three of these cameras were inaccessible. The fourth is still using default login credentials. 

For the camera using defaults, not only can you access a live feed and setup, but you can also operate PTZ controls. 


Impact on Surveillance Users and Manufacturers

We know that researchers use Shodan to assess the number of devices vulnerable to an exploit. We also know a lot of users are just curious about what they can find. Unfortunately,there is no way to be sure how many people are using it for more malicious reasons. The easiest way to curb unwanted access would be for surveillance manufacturers to require end users to change default credentials during set up.

2 reports cite this report:

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