Are digital advertising panels secure?

In the light of some recent high profile hacks of digital billboards, we take an in-depth look at digital out of home and ask, in this age of hackers and cyber-attacks, “Are digital advertising panels secure?”

DOOH cyber security - padlock and computer code

The future of out-of-home advertising is most surely digital. The degree of flexibility, dynamism, and potential of cross-medium integrations combine the power of digital, networked information, and internet functionality with the impact of communication with broad audiences when they’re at their most receptive.

But, as with any technology or service connected to the Internet, digital advertising panels can fall prey to unwanted attention from cyber criminals.

Are digital advertising panels secure?

In a time of cyber attacks like the recent Ransomware attack on the NHS demanding money to restore access to vital records; the hacking of CIA documents, and so on, digital panels are themselves vulnerable to this kind of activity.

A recent incident in Washington D.C’s Union Station illustrated these potential security issues when a large touchscreen display panel broadcast several minutes of a pornographic video until shocked passersby managed to shut the panel down.

The source of the incident is not totally clear; explanations range from an authorised user either accidentally or deliberately uploading the offending content, to an unauthorised person hacking an unsecured backdoor or exploiting an OS vulnerability.

This is not the first such case: a building-side digital billboard in Atlanta was hacked to display a man’s naked backside by a group calling themselves the Assange Shuffle Collective after the famous hacker.

A more benign case in the UK also highlighted potential security threats to digital panels.

A group describing themselves simply as “friendly neighbourhood hackers” took over a digital screen at the Liverpool ONE shopping complex advising the shopping centre, “we suggest you improve your security.”

Safeguarding DOOH against cyber-attacks

are digital advertising panels secure

Clearly steps have to be made to close down vulnerabilities and beef-up security protocols.

Security measures for the digital OOH industry include:

  • Use of strong passwords using recommended generation techniques (your dog’s date of birth is not going to cut it), changed regularly and using secure systems for password storage and monitoring
  • Ensuring security protocols are in place to prevent attacks from insiders and ensure accountability
  • Auditing of all systems, seeking professional assistance to secure against breaches
  • Ring-fencing routers from the public internet using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

It’s worth pointing out that just because a system can be hacked it doesn’t mean that system is less secure than other systems.

The answer to security threats is increased vigilance and staying up to date with risks in an age of cyber attacks. No system is fool proof and incidences like these are still rare. It’s clear the digital out-of-home sector needs to take these risks seriously and put in place measures to minimise threats.

However, the security risk to using digital advertising panels is no greater than that of any other form of digital marketing. The benefits of using Digital OOH far outweigh any risks from cyber criminals. If you’d like to find out more about the security measures Bubble takes to protect our digital advertising panels, we’d love to chat. Get in touch on the email or give us a ring!

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