Security firm Check Point shows how ransomware can be installed on Canon cameras

Security researchers with Check Point Research have demonstrated that it is possible to incapacitate a DSLR camera using wirelessly transmitted ransomware, a type of malware that forces victims to pay in order to decrypt their data. Though the demonstration involved using Wi-Fi, the researchers say it is also possible to hijack a DSLR camera using USB.

Modern cameras feature an unauthenticated protocol called Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP) that comes in two varieties: PTP/USB for wired connections and PTP/IP for wireless connections. Whereas USB requires the hacker to compromise the camera owner's computer, Wi-Fi makes it possible to target the camera directly by simply being located near the device.

The DSLR malware demonstration involved a Canon EOS 80D camera, with the researchers explaining that they chose this model due to Canon's popularity combined with the 80D's support for USB, Wi-Fi and open-source software called Magic Lantern.

The researchers detailed the technical aspects of developing this malware in a blog post, ultimately explaining:

‘The ransomware uses the same cryptographic functions as the firmware update process, and calls the same AES functions in the firmware. After encrypting all of the files on the SD Card, the ransomware displays the ransom message to the user.’

It's possible for hackers to set up a rogue Wi-Fi access point that causes these Wi-Fi-enabled cameras to automatically connect to the network, after which point the ransomware can be deployed. In a real-world scenario, this malware would demand payment from the victim -- usually a few hundred dollars -- in order to decrypt the images on the camera.

According to Check Point Research, Canon was contacted about these vulnerabilities in March and worked with the company to patch the security issues. Canon released the first security patch on August 6 alongside an advisory detailing the PTP vulnerability and the cameras affected by by it.