It’s incredibly noisy in the cockpit of a helicopter, and you’d assume the sounds you hear in any YouTube police chase video were just the deafening whine of the chopper’s engine. But as one hacker discovered, that monotonous drone can actually hide some useful data, like the helicopter’s GPS coordinates.
Watching cockpit footage of a police helicopter chase in Kansas City, Oona Räisänen noticed some odd interference in the audio. She assumed it was just being caused by the aircraft’s engine, but after isolating and filtering the audio she discovered it was actually a digital signal.
And it wasn’t just some random digital signal, either. It turns out the equipment used to transmit the live video feed to the ground also passes along the helicopter’s GPS coordinates. And in a manner that anyone with access to the footage — like say the millions of people using YouTube every minute — and a little know-how can actually decode that data.
So does this pose any kind of security threat? Not necessarily. The route a police helicopter takes during a pursuit isn’t exactly a secret. Anyone on the ground can monitor its course, and this ‘hack’ was done well after the chase was over. It might encourage law enforcement agencies to strip the audio before a video like this is released to the public. But this hack is more of a “how interesting” discovery than anything. [Absorptions via Slashdot]
Pictures: Oona Räisänen