Have you ever looked at your computer monitor and thought, “Is this thing looking at me?”
If so, then you might not be crazy. Computer monitors can be hacked just like any other piece of technology. So when you’re staring at the screen reading this message, there could be someone on the other side staring right back at you.
How creepy is that?
In any case, a new report on TheHackerNews.com describes how “even your computer monitor can be hacked.”
The report talks more about how your computer monitor can be hacked to display different pixels. So instead of reading an article about hacked monitors right now, a hacker could change this text to advertise a certain product.
Nevertheless, the report describes the hack as “really hard and complicated”, although it’s not impossible. It also works on virtually all monitors and brands.
How to Hack a Computer Monitor
Hacking a computer monitor is harder than hacking most other parts of your computer.
The best way to perform this hack is using the monitor’s USB or HDMI port, which then helps the attacker access the firmware of the display.
A pair of researchers at Red Balloon Security actually demonstrated this attack. To perform it, they reverse-engineered a Del U2410 monitor. The process took two full years to complete.
While taking apart the monitor, the pair of researchers found that Dell had not implemented any security measures to protect the monitor’s firmware.
That means someone with the right tools (and physical access to the monitor) could hijack the monitor and inject malicious firmware using a drive-by attack. They could also manipulate on-screen pixels.
In any case, the two researchers eventually created a working exploit. They concluded their research with the ominous statement,
“We can now hack the monitor and you shouldn’t have blind trust in those pixels coming out of your monitor.”
What’s the Worst that Could Happen with a Monitor Hack?
You might think – what’s so bad about a monitor hack? Why would a hacker spend time trying to hack a monitor? Here are some of the examples the pair mentioned during their research:
-Changing a single button on a monitor could cause huge damage to a nation. As an example, they stated that you could change a status-alert light on a power plant control from green to red, which tricks someone into shutting down the power plant.
-The pair of researchers also demonstrated the ability to change the on-screen PayPal balance from $0 to $1 billion.
-In another example, the pair injected a photo onto a display and added a secure lock icon to the address field of a web browser – which could trick you into entering your information into an unsecure website, like a fake banking website.
-Things get worse. The pair showed their hack can spy on target users by tracking pixel movement.
Could Someone Watch You Through your Webcam?
Many laptops and some monitors have webcams directly on the front. Long before this monitor hack was demonstrated, we knew that these webcams could easily be hacked to spy on users.
That’s right: when you’re looking at your webcam, someone could be looking back at you. That’s why some people will even tape over their webcams.
Mark Zuckerberg famously taped over his webcam in one photo that recently appeared online. So if he’s worried about security, then you probably should be too.
Ultimately, the security researchers claim their attack could affect one billion monitors all over the world. Most major monitor brands have vulnerable processors and firmware with little protection.
They claim their hack could be used as a new form of ransomware: attackers won’t unlock your monitor until you pay a specific amount.
Yes, monitor hacks are unlikely – but it’s a possibility. Stay tuned to our Fix My PC Error blog for more information about all types of hacking and PC security issues as we move forward.