Curious hackers are buying decommissioned police body cameras online, and some are finding troves of video evidence after successfully extracting data from the devices.
Last week, Twitter user d0tslash found one such cache while searching inside an Axon-branded body camera he bought on eBay. Based on screenshots of the extracted footage—which include people in military fatigues searching a home and an officer filling out paperwork—the camera appears to belong to military police at Fort Huachuca, a U.S. Army installation in southeast Arizona.
“[I] searched for one on eBay to wrap up an old to-do in my brain to buy some and examine them,” d0tslash told Motherboard, providing a link to the eBay listing which advertised a non-working Axon body camera with a missing battery. “I’ve actually had it about a month now just sitting.”
To access the data, d0tslash copied the raw disk image from an internal SD card mounted inside the device. He then used an old U.S. Air Force forensics tool from the early 2000’s called foreMost, which successfully located video files within the mass of unencrypted data. The device in question appears to be an older version of the Axon Body, which normally transfers video data to a computer after being docked in a proprietary cradle.
“Zero encryption. [It] was just in the raw,” said d0tslash, who posted some screenshots to confirm the footage’s authenticity. “As I understand the specific system I have is from 2015, and is not necessarily representative of newer technology from Axon. I’ve not done any analysis though.”
The eBay seller did not respond to a request for comment.
It turns out that used body cameras are commonly for sale online, and several other hackers followed up with their own findings.
DJ Ir0ngruv, another Twitter user who extracted data from Axon body camera SD cards he bought using the local trading app OfferUp, described the process as “stupid easy.”
“The type of footage on them covered the range from traffic stops, responding to calls at retail stores, calls to houses etc,” he told Motherboard. “I skimmed through enough to find out that they weren't from a military installation because that is super toxic.”
Others responded that they had found and purchased more used cameras on eBay to see what they could find.
Axon, formerly Taser, has become the biggest company selling body cameras and cloud storage solutions to police ever since the stun gun company rebranded as a police tech firm. The company capitalized on calls for police transparency after the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014. Since then, police killings of unarmed civilians have continued undeterred, with police departments across the country often obscuring or deleting footage. With the recent uprisings over the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, activists have pointed out that even video evidence isn’t enough to produce systemic change.
Many of the hackers, including d0tslash, said that they only looked at the footage to confirm the cameras’ origins, and intend to return the devices to authorities to avoid any possible legal issues. But that hasn't stopped others from buying up stocks of used cameras to uncover what secrets they hold.
“We are aware of this issue and have launched an investigation looking into the matter,” an Axon representative told the Arizona Mirror, in a statement . “We are also reevaluating our processes to better emphasize proper disposal procedures for our customers.”