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Cameras May Open Up the Board Room to Hackers

January 23, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
mike_tuchen_hack_boardroom_videoconference.jpg
Gretchen Ertl for the New York Times
Mike Tuchen, left, and HD Moore of Rapid7 were able to gain access to company boardrooms with videoconferencing equipment.

January 22, 2012 by Nicole Perlroth via NYTimes.com -- SAN FRANCISCO
-- One afternoon this month, a hacker took a tour of a dozen conference rooms around the globe via equipment that most every company has in those rooms; videoconferencing equipment.

With the move of a mouse, he steered a camera around each room, occasionally zooming in with such precision that he could discern grooves in the wood and paint flecks on the wall. In one room, he zoomed out through a window, across a parking lot and into shrubbery some 50 yards away where a small animal could be seen burrowing underneath a bush. With such equipment, the hacker could have easily eavesdropped on privileged attorney-client conversations or read trade secrets on a report lying on the conference room table.

In this case, the hacker was HD Moore, a chief security officer at Rapid7, a Boston based company that looks for security holes in computer systems that are used in devices like toaster ovens and Mars landing equipment. His latest find: videoconferencing equipment is often left vulnerable to hackers.

Businesses collectively spend billions of dollars each year beefing up security on their computer systems and employee laptops. They agonize over the confidential information that employees send to their Gmail and Dropbox accounts and store on their iPads and smartphones. But rarely do they give much thought to the ease with which anyone can penetrate a videoconference room where their most guarded trade secrets are openly discussed.

Mr. Moore has found it easy to get into several top venture capital and law firms, pharmaceutical and oil companies and courtrooms across the country. He even found a path into the Goldman Sachs boardroom. "The entry bar has fallen to the floor," said Mike Tuchen, chief executive of Rapid7. "These are literally some of the world's most important boardrooms -- this is where their most critical meetings take place -- and there could be silent attendees in all of them."

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