Crypto Photography and Custom Firmware

Imagine a camera that took encrypted pictures. If your camera is stolen, the only thing on the memory card would be random data that can only be unlocked with a key. If you hire a photographer, those images cannot be copied without the key. At the very least, it’s an interesting idea made impressive because this actually exists.

[Doug] recently got his hands on a Samsung NX300, a nice camera for the price that conveniently runs Linux and is kinda open-sourced by Samsung. With special firmware, [Doug] created public/private key encryption for this camera, giving only the person with the private key the ability to unlock the pictures taken with this camera.

[Doug] started his build by looking at the firmware for this camera, figuring out how to take everything apart and put it back together. With a few modifications that included encryption for all images taken with this camera, [Doug] repackaged the firmware and upgraded the camera.

The encryption firmware is available on the site, but considering how easily [Doug] was able to make this hack happen, and a great walkthrough of how to actually do it raises some interesting possibilities. The NX300 is a pretty nice camera that’s a little bit above the Canon PowerShot cameras supported by CHDK. It also runs Linux, so if you’re looking for something cool to do with a nice camera, [Doug] has a very good resource.

13 thoughts on “Crypto Photography and Custom Firmware

  1. Had a thought about this before in halfbakery http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Asymmetric_20Encryption_20Camcorder

    Still doesn’t deal with the fact that if anybody sees you filming and they don’t like you, they can just simply shoot you and take your camera.

    If the camera firmware can be modified, and there is some connectivity hardware inside of it. It may be viable to consider some form of broadcasting the encrypted photos over wifi/meshnet/whatever, to a nearby (or remote) hard drive. This can be over the internet, or maybe via a portable harddrive next to a secondary tailing team (who would be tasked with exfiltration back to an internet terminal or back to their own Journalism company for decryption and distribution of the photos).

    These tech is not something a normal journalist can simply easily construct themselves, so anything that simplifies this, might be helpful in getting information out of really hard to investigate areas.

  2. FYI mofosyne, this camera has built-in wifi including the ability to host the access point. Another hacker already wrote a script for this camera to auto-connect and move media contents to another server. It can shoot video too (also encrypted). A normal journalist can easily buy the camera, load the firmware, and drop the script on the CF card. It might even take a bullet…but I wouldn’t count on it. Basically, it’s exactly what you were wanting. You’re welcome.

    1. Thanks very much for making this concept come alive. I wonder how interested journalist are with this, and how technical are they? If most are not technical enough, should there be a service for them to get it configured (camera, and remote wifi hdd etc…) ? It could even be a kickstarter for you Doug, if time and energy for you permits, to set up a community where non technical journalist can get help from those who are. (Like how raspberry pi may not be the most powerful device, but has a very robust support community, speeding up it’s adoption amongst the general population)

      These are of course all just concepts, and viability of idea is not guaranteed, but doesn’t hurt to make the cost of entry for non technical users lower.

        1. The requirement is range, so you can keep the camera and the backup recorder as far apart as possible. Also enough processing power to do public key encryption. Both is more likely to perform better on a camera hardware, as opposed to an Eye-Fi card.

          1. I really don’t see how encrypting the images is relevant to a journalist concerned about their safety. The fewer people that can view the images, the less effective the deterrent effect of having them offsite is.

          2. arachnidster, it might not be relevant to a journalist in a dangerous/war area but there are plenty of uses in the “civilized” world.

            Here in Spain the police forces treated as illegal to take photos of them “doing their job” during several protests and “occupy” events. This was later overruled in court but only after several people were treated as criminals and even beaten just for having taken those photos. Now that they can’t do that(openly) they just take your camera/phone away and return it to you with the photographs erased.

            Personally I see a lot of use in cases like the one with the police forces in Spain. Having a camera that could take “hidden” and “encrypted” photographs(and even upload them using wifi) would make it harder to erase them as long as you don’t give any visual clue that they are there. Plus if they go through the images in the camera and don’t see anything they don’t like you are far less likely to take a beating or get arrested on some bullshit charge(both of those have happened multiple times here).

  3. An interesting article, and an interesting concept. It would be interesting to see this taken a step further to make it actually secure (at least the author points that this implementation is not secure, and offers some comments on why in the howto), possibly with the addition of streaming the encrypted files to a central repository using wifi.

  4. The trick to photographic police is a long lens and doing it from a distance. They cant arrest you when they don’t know you are photographing them. A lot of these protests need to get better organized and have people on rooftops taking photos.

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