Surveillance Cameras &Can Be Hacked: Experts

Martin Croucher & Afshan Ahmed
Filed on February 6, 2009 | Last updated on February 6, 2009 at 02.00 am

DUBAI - High-tech surveillance cameras introduced by government organisations are liable to being hacked by cyber criminals unless top security precautions are made, internet experts have warned.

Sensitive images recorded from motorways or financial institutions could be altered or removed if individuals succeed in hacking into the internet-based networks on which the cameras operate.

Government bodies across the UAE have previously used analogy CCTV cameras but according to suppliers, the trend is shifting toward internet-based cameras.

If security officials and police have the right password details, they are able to access these cameras remotely from their own laptops.

However, the greater flexibility has stoked fears that they could be open to hackers.

“The way these cameras are connected together is like two computers or two phones connecting through a network,” said Fadi Aloul, Assistant Professor of Computer Engineering at the American University of Sharjah.

“If network security isn’t configured properly there’s definitely a way that it can be hacked. A hacker just needs to hack into the server and send false images or pictures onto the network, or disrupt the way the camera records images. ”

“A hacker can disrupt one of these cameras without even having to physically touch it.”

Last month, it was announced that the 232 traffic cameras currently being employed by the Roads and Transport Authority will double over the next year.

These cameras use wireless technology rather than fibre-optic cables and can be access remotely by police and traffic officials.

Surveillance camera specialist MVP Tech has in the past provided internet-based cameras to Dubai Municipality. Director Saed Kidan said the company had recently signed a contract with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) to provide a “large number” of high-tech Axis cameras, although he wouldn’t specify the amount.

He said: “These cameras are not like webcams, as they are not connected to the world-wide web. They all use private networks which are encrypted. Therefore a hacker would have to break into this private network if he was to manipulate the cameras.”

He added that much of the security software came directly “off the shelf” but stressed that protection was very strong.

“There’s no way that just anyone could hack this, even a military agency would have a hard time.”

However former hacker-turned-security consultant Gunnar Porada said that a lot would depend on whether the encryption had been hacked before, therefore providing steps for others to follow. “It’s much harder to protect systems than it is to hack them,” he said. “The hacker just needs to find one mistake within plenty of possibilities.”



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