Now that we’re finally starting to see some mainstream cameras that can run apps (see previous discussion here) I suppose it’s time to talk a little bit about one of the potential downsides of such a scenario.
Because as soon as you allow people to download and run third-party software, you’ve got to start thinking about what viruses might come along with those apps. (And I’m using ‘virus’ generically, including any sort of malicious code that might run without your knowledge on the camera).
The first thing that comes to mind are the privacy concerns – because if your camera also features network connectivity that means someone could surreptitiously redirect your photos to a remote server somewhere. Bad enough if you’re being monitored by a spouse or an employer, but there may be even more consequential cameras to infiltrate…
(Keep in mind too that cameras are ALL going to have GPS chips embedded in them soon enough… instant tracking/surveillance device! Even if you’ve got the lens-cap on there’s probably a microphone on your camera too… one that can potentially be remotely activated and then monitored)
Most viruses are of course created for financial gain. Infect a remote computer and then use it as a server for sending out prescription-drug or junk-enhancement advertisements. What’s the photo equivalent?
If we consider the increasingly powerful processors that are coupled with cameras these days – processors that will eventually be able to run real-time photorealistic rendering algorithms – it’s not unreasonable to expect a virus that is capable of actually altering stills or videos while they’re still in camera.
True, that could just be a bit of fun – the so-called Walter White virus, which replaces everybody’s face with Brian Cranston’s:
(Been catching up on Breaking Bad lately…)
But (back to the financial incentives) what about a virus that keeps an eye your photos in order to identify branded objects – someone holding a can of Heineken, someone wearing Nikes, etc. Beyond just providing market research on your personal buying habits, a sophisticated enough algorithm could even REPLACE some of those logos with competing products. Not only does this hijack the unstated endorsement of a brand when you post one of those images to Facebook, it effectively is also altering your memories of the event. Your personal history purchased by the highest ethics-challenged bidder.
What else? Photo forensics (altering the date/time/location of a photo is easy enough, but it also makes it MUCH more difficult to identify photo-retouching if it occurs BEFORE an image is converted to a JPEG and stored to memory).
Financial transactions. My bank allows me to take a photo of a check in order to deposit it. What if that image gets altered before I send it to the bank…???
Security cameras. The movie trope of replacing security camera footage with alternate footage will be more and more of a concern.
Sporting events. There’s a lot of financial incentive to being able to affect the outcome of a major game. Hack the instant-replay camera – the one they go to when reviewing a play?
Any other ideas? What’s your best (or most outlandish) guess for the sort of camera viruses we might see out in the wild?