Controversial malware allows hackers to hijack camera phones

Jennifer White Contributor
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Researchers at Indiana University (IU) have developed a new malware dubbed “PlaceRaider,” which can seize control of smartphone cameras and sensors and allow the hacker to reconstruct the user’s space.

PlaceRaider “allows remote hackers to reconstruct rich, three-dimensional models of the smartphone owner’s personal indoor spaces through completely opportunistic use of the camera,” the researchers said in a study published last week

“We are pushing the limits of what we can do,” IU professor Apu Kapadia told The Daily Caller.

One of the ways this technology could be used is during an amber alert, to locate a missing child. There are many other uses as well, researcher David Crandall said. The technology could be used to collect data about the environment, or as a means of monitoring personal health habits.

Both researchers admitted that there can be illegal uses for the software, but PlaceRaider is not for sale or release– and they don’t intend it to be.

“Certainly there are negative uses for this technology,” Kapadia told the DC, “but we don’t want that to stifle the innovation.”

Kapadia insists that privacy is an utmost concern of the researchers, and that they are attempting to empower users against the possibility of breaches of privacy, saying that the best defense against a smartphone being hacked by PlaceRaider or a similar malware is to cover up the camera or mic on smartphones.

Researchers on the project at IU have felt misrepresented by various news outlets, saying that unfair conclusions have been drawn between the military and the project. Researcher David Krandall has been working on the project through a fellowship with the Naval Surface Warfare Center, but the software development was an academic project — not a military project — PlaceRaider developers say.

“The media loves a sensational story,”Kapadia told the DC. “It’s unfortunate that the media is misconstruing our efforts and not giving credit to IU for the development of [Place Raider].”

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Jennifer White