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New technique can spy on your security cameras through walls

Security cameras are supposed to keep us safe, but what if they are also vulnerable to spying? A new technique developed by researchers at Northeastern University can capture the video feed from most modern cameras, even through walls.

EM Eye

The technique, called EM Eye, uses a radio antenna to pick up the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the wires inside the cameras. These wires act as unintentional radio transmitters, leaking the bits and bytes of the video data. By decoding this signal, the researchers can reproduce the real-time video, without any sound.

The technique works on a variety of cameras, from home security cameras and dash cams to smartphone cameras. The researchers tested it on 12 different kinds of cameras and found that the distance required to eavesdrop varied from less than 1 foot to 16 feet, depending on the camera model.

The researchers say that the technique exposes a flaw in how cameras are designed and manufactured. Most cameras focus on protecting the intentional digital interfaces, such as the upload channel to the cloud, but neglect the leakage of information through unintended channels, such as the wires.

The video captured by EM Eye is initially distorted, due to pixel loss during transmission. However, the researchers used machine learning to enhance the quality of the video and make it look more like the original.

The technique, which was presented at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, raises serious privacy and security concerns. Anyone with some engineering skills and a few hundred dollars of equipment could potentially spy on any camera nearby, without being detected.

What researchers suggest

The researchers suggest that camera makers should consider shielding the wires inside the cameras or encrypting the video data to prevent such attacks. They also advise users to be aware of the risks and avoid placing cameras in sensitive locations.

The technique is based on the principle of electromagnetic induction, which states that a changing magnetic field can induce an electric current in a conductor. The wires inside the cameras are conductors that carry the electric current of the video data. When this current changes, it creates a magnetic field that can be detected by a radio antenna.

The researchers used a software-defined radio, which is a device that can tune into different frequencies and process different types of signals. They also used a directional antenna, which is a device that can focus on a specific direction and filter out unwanted noise. By pointing the antenna at the camera, they were able to capture the electromagnetic signal and convert it into a video stream.

The researchers say that their technique is different from other methods of spying on cameras, such as hacking into the wireless network or intercepting the cloud storage. Their technique does not require any access to the camera’s network or storage, and it does not leave any trace of intrusion. It also works on cameras that are not connected to the internet, such as dash cams.

The researchers say that their technique is not limited to cameras, and it could also be applied to other devices that have wires carrying video data, such as monitors, laptops, or tablets. They say that their technique could have legitimate applications, such as forensic analysis, but it could also pose a threat to personal and national security. They hope that their work will raise awareness and inspire countermeasures to protect the privacy and security of camera users.

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 2/11/2024

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