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A hacking collective has gained access to the systems of the Californian security camera startup Verkada Inc. and viewed live feeds and archived footage from cloud-connected surveillance cameras used by large corporations, schools, police departments, jails, and hospitals.
As initially reported by Bloomberg, Verkada’s systems were accessed by a white hat hacking collective named Advanced Persistent Threat 69420 using credentials they found on the Internet. Those credentials gave the group super admin level privileges, which provided root access to the security cameras and, in some cases, the internal networks of the company’s clients. The hackers also said they were able to obtain the full list of Verkada clients and view the company’s private financial information.
Verkada’s systems were not accessed with a view to conducting any malicious actions, instead the aim was to raise awareness of the ease at which the systems could be hacked. Malicious threat actors could also have easily gained access to the Verkada’s systems for a range of malicious purposes.
Till Kottmann, one of the hackers in the collective, said her collective accessed Verkada systems on March 8, 2021 and had full access for around 36 hours. Since the system was fully centralized, it was easy to access and download camera footage from its clients. Kottmann described the security on Verkada’s systems as “nonexistent and irresponsible.” Kottmann said an internal development system had inadvertently been exposed to the Internet and hard-coded credentials for a system account were stored in an unencrypted subdomain that provided full access.
The hackers were able to use the credentials to login to the web-based systems used by all customers to access their own security cameras, except the super admin privileges allowed them to access the security cameras of all customers.
Footage was obtained from corporate customers including Tesla, Equinox, Cloudflare, and Nissan, along with camera feeds from Madison County Jail in Huntsville, AL, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT and many others.
The security cameras of ICU departments in hospitals could also be accessed, including Halifax Health in Florida and Wadley Regional Medical Center in Texarkana, TX.
Verkada issued a statement about the hacking incident, saying “We have disabled all internal administrator accounts to prevent any unauthorized access. Our internal security team and external security firm are investigating the scale and scope of this issue, and we have notified law enforcement.” All affected customers have now been notified and an investigation into the breach has been launched.
On March 18, 2021, Kottmann was indicted by a grand jury in the Western District of Washington for a string of computer intrusion and identity and data theft activities from 2019 to present and faces up to 27 years in jail.
Surveillance Cameras are a Potential Security Risk
The hacking incident should serve as a wake-up call about the dangers of surveillance cameras. While security cameras can improve security, they may also be a security weak point. This incident is certainly notable in terms of scale, buy Verkada is not the only security camera company to have suffered a breach.
In 2020, the threat group behind the Chalubo and FBot botnets – which targets poorly secured IoT devices – was discovered to be exploiting vulnerabilities in CCTV cameras manufactured by Taiwan-based LILIN and using the devices for DDoS attacks.
Also in 2020, vulnerabilities were identified in around 700,000 security cameras including those manufactured by Alptop, Besdersec, COOAU, CPVAN, Ctronics, Dericam, Jennov, LEFTEK, Luowice, QZT, and Tenvis which put them at risk of being hacked. The vulnerabilities could be exploited to bypass firewalls and steal passwords. The flaws were present in a P2P solution from Shenzhen Yunni Technology Company that was used by the camera manufacturers.