Police body cameras can be easily hacked

Body cameras used by the law enforcement nowadays have already remained controversial but no one has, so far, attempted to assess the credibility of the device itself. But, a demonstration at Defcon 2018, in Las Vegas over the weekend showed police body cameras are increasingly becoming popular with U.S. police forces can be hacked and footage stolen or replaced. Associated metadata can be manipulated (such as the location, time, and date where the video was shot) as well as expose police officers to tracking and surveillance.

According to the findings of a security consultant at Australia based cybersecurity firm Nuix, by attacking police body cameras, a hacker can easily manipulate footages. Researcher Josh Mitchell assessed five different body camera models from different manufacturers: Vievu LLC (which was acquired by Axon in May 2018), Patrol Eyes, Fire Cam, Digital Ally Inc. and CeeSc and found these cameras to be vulnerable to remote digital attacks. These are the main companies that sell their devices to law enforcement authorities in the US. Surprisingly though, Mitchell left out the market leader Axon.

In theory, body cameras can act as an “objective” third party during police encounters with civilians, thereby protecting civilians from excessive use of force and protecting police departments from unfounded claims of abuse.

There is scant evidence to suggest that body cameras limit the use of force or complaints about the use of force, however, and now even their ability to faithfully record a police interaction is being cast into doubt.

With the exception of the Digital Ally device, the vulnerabilities allow a hacker to download footage off a camera, edit things out or make modifications and then upload it again with no record of the change. Hackers can use the addresses to identify the cameras remotely, as soon as the device is switched on. This would allow hackers to keep a check on police activities as they can easily watch footages from various cameras that are switched on at the same time and place.