How secure are police body cameras?

Layers of defense protect video on body cams, which can be sensitive

A Grand Rapids Police Department officer wears a body camera. (Dec. 17, 2015)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Over the weekend, a Grand Rapids Police Department officer lost his body cam in a scuffle. It has been returned, but it made 24 Hour News 8 wonder: How secure are the body cameras?

Lt. David Schnurstein handles body camera training for GRPD. He showed 24 Hour News 8 how patrol officers fasten their cameras to their uniforms using one of three mounts into which the device locks.

But he said the weekend incident wasn’t the first time a camera has come off an officer and it won’t be the last.

“There is no way to bolt it to someone so it never comes off,” he said. “If someone grabs onto anything that’s so firmly mounted onto a uniform shirt, it’s simply going to tear it — it’s fabric.”

But the video the cameras record can show evidence, victims of crimes and sometimes citizens’ personal information. So is there a safety concern? Could someone access the video?

“No,” Schnurstein said. “You would have to have a considerable amount of computer knowledge hardware to even attempt a connection.”

Taser International, the company that makes the type of camera GRPD uses, says the same.

“It would take special wires to go inside [the camera],” Steve Tuttle, a spokesperson for Taser International, explained.

If someone did manage to get a camera hooked up to a computer, he continued, there would be more challenges.

“It’s not like a hard drive that acts like thumb drive would,” he said. “You would need our software to access that. To get that software, you would have to contact Taser and we would have to approve you as a legitimate law enforcement agency.”

Then the person trying to access the video would need passwords. And if they somehow got past all of that, the information on the camera is encrypted, Taser said.

The Geek Group, which has an independent expert on hacking, agreed the average person could not hack into the camera.

“At the end of the day, while nothing is absolute, we are pretty comfortable with the level of security they have on it and they are working to improve it all the time,” Lt. Schnurstein said.

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