Technology Mar 10

Tesla, Virgin security cameras hacked by activists

It ‘was too much fun not to’ say anti-establishment tech raiders who also accessed view from inside jails, hospitals and schools 

Tesla, Virgin security cameras hacked by activists
Photo: Reuters

(ATF) Video surveillance cameras at Tesla, Virgin’s Hyperloop and thousands of schools, hospitals and businesses were hacked in a demonstration of weakness in their cyber security setups.

The stunt was pulled by anti-establishment hackers, including Swiss software developer Tillie Kottmann, who has gained attention for finding security flaws in mobile apps and other systems, Reuters reported. 

Kottman and others downloaded images of personnel at a Tesla factory and showroom in China and California. Bloomberg reported that they also gathered material from cameras inside an Alabama jail and a police interview room. In most of the images, individuals could be identified, according to reports.

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Reuters reported that Virgin’s futuristic subway train, the Hyperloop, was also broken into and user accounts obtained.

The hack, carried out to draw attention to the pervasive monitoring of people, targeted facilities watched by systems built by security company Verkada. 

Kottmann told Bloomberg the hacks were conducted out of "lots of curiosity, fighting for freedom of information and against intellectual property, a huge dose of anti-capitalism, a hint of anarchism - and it's also just too much fun not to do it".

The revelations come after it was revealed that tens of thousands of companies and organisations’ emails were infiltrated earlier this year, including the European Union’s banking regulator. That attack, on Microsoft’s systems, has been blamed by the tech giant on Chinese spies.

Verkada acknowledged an intrusion, saying it had disabled all internal administrator accounts to prevent unauthorised access.

"Our internal security team and external security firm are investigating the scale and scope of this issue, and we have notified law enforcement" and customers, the company said.

Verkada says on its website it has over 5,200 customers, including cities, colleges and hotels. Its cameras have proved popular because they pair with software to search for specific people or items. Users can access feeds remotely through the cloud.

  • Additional reporting by Reuters

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