Hackers Can Spy on Your Security Cameras Through Walls, According to New Research

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BOSTONNew research from Northeastern University shows there might be “a massive gap in our security infrastructure –– and it comes from the very devices designed to protect it.”

Kevin Fu, a Northeastern University professor of electrical and computer engineering who specializes in cybersecurity, has figured out a way to eavesdrop on most modern cameras, from home security cameras and dash cams to the camera on your phone, according to a blog post on the university website.

The technique, called EM Eye (short for Electromagnetic Eye), can capture the video from another person’s camera through walls in real time, according to the blog post.

Anyone with a few hundred dollars of equipment, a radio antenna and a little bit of engineering know-how could do this, says Fu. The problem is not the lens but the wires inside most modern cameras, he says.

“With your typical security camera, on the inside there’s a camera lens and then there’s got to be something else on the inside, like a computer chip, that’s got a wireless connection back to the internet,” says Fu in the blog post.

“There are wires between two different chips inside [these cameras] and those wires give off electromagnetic radiation,” he says. “We pick up that radio, and then we decode it and it just happens to be that we get the real-time encoded video.”

How to Better Protect Your Security Cameras

The data transmission cable that sends a video as bits and bytes ends up unintentionally acting as a radio antenna that leaks all kinds of electromagnetic information, says Fu. If someone had the desire and the technical knowledge, they could take that electromagnetic signal and reproduce the real-time video, without audio, he says.

The technique exposes a gap in how manufacturers approach the design and production of cameras, says Fu.

“The state of modern smartphone cameras is [manufacturers] try really hard to protect the intentional digital interfaces, the actual upload channel to the cloud,” he says. “They don’t appear to put a lot of effort into the leakage of information through unintended channels. They never intended for this wire to become a radio transmitter, but it is.”

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