Friday, January 04, 2008

Genlock attack

In the very early days of a major security concern the Whitehouse staff raised was the possibility that the site might be taken over by hackers. The typical coup plot of the 1970s made capture of the TV station the first priority. Control the news and you control the government.

So the recent case in which a group of Czech hackers inserted a nuclear mushroom cloud burst into a weather forecast should be considered a pretty big deal.

The attack itself was a prank. The hackers climbed a mast carrying a fixed camera that provides a panoramic shot in the daily forecast. A computer was spliced into the picture feed from the camera. When the shot appeared on TV the hackers activated a genlock system that spliced in footage of a nuclear mushroom cloud burst.

As such efforts go: simple but effective.

TV companies have been using similar technology for years. In one infamous incident one TV company used a genlock attack to replace rival Fox News advertising signs in a Times Square broadcast.

We have not yet seen a major cyberwarfare attack, but this is the most likely scenario should one occur: splice either deliberate disinformation (mushroom cloud) into the TV stream or hard hitting propaganda of the type Hamas and Hezbollah supporters regularly splice into hacked Israeli Web sites.

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