Lasers vs. Cameras - Does It Work?

Tools and equipment to get the job done.
Post Reply
User avatar
Psychlonic
Member
Posts: 932
Joined: Mon Oct 29, 2007 2:30 am
Location: E8
Contact:

Lasers vs. Cameras - Does It Work?

Post by Psychlonic » Wed May 06, 2020 4:03 am

Ah yes, the fantasy/hollywood idea everyone wonders about but nobody has actually dared to try. Can it actually be done? Even if it can, is it practical?

Code: Select all

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPKapHixxew
Lately I've been playing with lasers quite a bit and after watching this video I thought of night ops. I'll let you watch and have him break down what happens with cameras, but as you'll see it can white out the lens completely. Although the blob doesn't cover everything, you have to bear in mind that with beam divergence, this is much more likely to cover the entire image white.

So it's possible, yes, even with a single color laser of sufficient power. But is it practical?

First, this guy is using a 5W beam up close and not frying the sensor at all. 5W is a powerful burning diode, realistically diodes only get up to 7W before you're breaking into impractically huge laser setups. Even at 10W, you can probably figure this isn't going to burn the sensor out at the distances you'll need to use it. This means no matter the power, you have to keep your laser set up directly onto the camera at all times when you don't want it to see you.

If you watch videos of people using lasers at long distances, you'll see that it's finicky to get the laser to hit exactly onto one spot permanently and typically takes a long time of fine adjustments. You won't get the camera on the first try in all probability and even if you did, it'll probably hit elsewhere immediately afterward from shake.

This means two things - even if the laser could eventually fry the sensor, the set up process would still be on camera. Secondly... the set up process is going to be on camera. Lasers sufficient for this are bright and often leave a visible beam leading straight to the source. So, whoever reviews the footage is going to see where you were at and this is just one more lead during investigation.

Eventually, one could set up a stand that permanently blinds the camera (at least as long as you need it blinded). Yes, this could work during an operation.
However, there's a huge light exposure risk here. Again, lasers this powerful are extremely bright! At night, a 7W laser is like holding an infinite rod of light. Super obvious. There's no way you're going to use the laser discretely unless you're in a totally dark, closed area. In which case, blinding the camera probably isn't necessary since sufficient concealment will hide your identity and if the feed is being monitored in real time by a person then they're going to notice the laser blinding the camera anyway. Even if they're doing something else, a monitor going bright white suddenly tends to catch the peripheral vision.

As far as I'm concerned, this solves the question definitively and simply: Don't bother.
Let your code be to have no code. Let your way be every way.

User avatar
Xanatos
Moderator
Posts: 2190
Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2009 2:51 am
Location: Right behind you.
Contact:

Re: Lasers vs. Cameras - Does It Work?

Post by Xanatos » Wed May 06, 2020 7:26 am

I've thought about trying this, but the only feasible way would be to have a laser (or multiple, from different directions) set up on a tripod aimed directly at the camera lens. This would drain batteries like a motherfucker but would certainly get the job done. Still, probably more trouble than it's worth.
We are all books containing thousands of pages and within each lies an irreparable truth.
What is locked, can be opened. What is hidden, can be found. What is yours... can be mine.

User
Member
Posts: 35
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:50 pm
Contact:

Re: Lasers vs. Cameras - Does It Work?

Post by User » Wed May 06, 2020 3:59 pm

I am glad that you posted this before I went and bought a laser. However, how well would a 500W laser work? They have lasers that are handheld with even higher power than this, they just start to become illegal in certain countries. The downside is how bright they are. I read your guide "Way of the shadow" and read how to disable cameras in different ways, however, is there any new technology or techniques that have been developed since you made the guide?

User avatar
Psychlonic
Member
Posts: 932
Joined: Mon Oct 29, 2007 2:30 am
Location: E8
Contact:

Re: Lasers vs. Cameras - Does It Work?

Post by Psychlonic » Wed May 06, 2020 10:03 pm

You should probably look more closely at the power rating or investigate if any handheld claims to have higher than 7W, I know some sellers "accidentally" leave out the "m" which should clarify their items as 500mW or whatever which is far, far more likely. The fact is, 7W in 445nm is the highest readily available diode out there and laser pointer companies don't even use them, you can only get a ready to use pointer from custom assemblers selling on eBay and the like. Nichia is the most common manufacturer for all the diodes being used in burning lasers and even they don't supply standalone diodes higher than 7W. Tt's possible to buy a 20 diode array right now (also from Nichia), with each diode around the 5W mark and if anything is going to fry a camera it's that. However you'll need to create the device completely custom and deal with the fact that you'll be turning on a sun at night.

This reminds me and something I'll edit into my original post later, another issue with the high powered lasers is that their duty cycle is relatively short before they burn out - even with epic heat sinks you're only going to get a minute, maybe two max of run time before you need to cool down again. That presents some obvious issues.

As for my guide, I hate to admit it but I'd rather you know, the technical details for electronic security as I look back on it... frankly fucking sucks. I had endeavored in the past to write an updated guide that tosses all of that out the window but I just don't have the writing passion to make a better one these days. I would honestly just pretend those sections don't exist and ask on here. It's been a decade and a half since that was written and my knowledge has come incredibly far since then.

Sorry for my posts being long winded, but I feel information is the best gear an operative can have. It's free and won't burden you at night. To answer your question then, you first need to consider if disabling the camera is even necessary. A lot of new operatives get caught up in thinking they just need to disable the camera and you need to really question if doing so is ideal. Let's paint a scenario here based on prior experience you can find right here from other usernames;

You're getting ready to bypass a chain link fence, looking for a good spot to cross, cut through, whatever. Suddenly, security pickup starts rolling up. You bail. You realize you were seen on a live feed camera and that's what alerted the guard. Ok. Next time, destroy the camera? But what's going to happen is that with a guard who's monitoring the cameras, they're going to check anyway to see what destroyed the camera. And when they get there, what do you want them to see? A stupidly bright laser that they saw long before reaching the scene? A lens that was shot out with an air gun or sling shot? Or maybe the lens is covered with paintballs or was rattle canned up close?

Either way that guard is now calling whoever they're instructed to call and notify them that someone shot the camera and their next priority will be searching around for the culprit - something even the dumbest mall cop will think to do.

I'm not saying "don't do it", I just want you and anyone else reading this to really think it through first.

Now let's assume nobody is watching and maybe the footage is only reviewed if something noticeable has happened. In that case, is disabling the camera really necessary? Hey, maybe. You'll have to decide if leaving the obvious evidence of a broken camera outweighs the risk of being seen as a maskless blob if someone checks the footage for any reason. Maybe it's a black op and you're not leaving empty handed. Fair enough. But I think in this case, it's still only a worthwhile endeavor if your infiltration involved an unusual and telltale technique or piece of equipment. Or maybe you're an asshole and doing an inside job somewhere you've been.

I already know 99.9% of users won't do it, but I'll say the most valid way to handle a camera you need to get through is to get access to the feed in any way you can and feed it counterfeit footage. Most scenarios where the camera actually presents itself as a real obstacle and you need to take care of it, this prevents the suspicion a disabled one will draw.

That being said, I've always hated reading threads I've stumbled into elsewhere and this shit happens where nobody actually answers the fucking question so...

Honestly no, there's not really any fancy new techniques out there. Your best bet is to destroy the lens from as far away as possible and as silently as possible. My tool for the job would be a moderated air weapon of some kind. Mainly because you're aiming for a target about the size of the bottom of a soda bottle and probably from far enough away that it can't make out any details about you. I practice with a modified Crosman .177 revolver with rifled barrel using hollowpoint alloy pellets I've placed ceramic penetrators into. This is the only way I've been able to have compact accuracy at up to 50m while still able to break thick glass. Worth noting I've never needed to actually use this skill, but if I did I would keep the pistol inside of a soft case probably in a low profile pack. It's piss poor for self defense so there's no reason to add needless risk to the operation by carrying it visibly elsewhere. Also, the 50m accuracy is achieved with a short bipod and a rice bag to support the grip hand.

Paintballs should be able to blind the camera too. Everyone always talks about black, but the real winner here is fluorescent yellow/green. A fun thing I've learned is that this really fucks with a lot of cameras, if a person wearing a safety vest in this bright color goes by a camera, they often just appear to be a big glowing blob. I don't know why this works actually, I assume something to do with how it collects and reflects light messes with many camera sensors. Mileage on that idea may vary, but a couple of paintballs in this color shot onto a lens is sure to blind it. With testing, just strategic use of safety colors and/or reflective tape could produce results. An investigating security guard as stated will be looking for signs of destruction and an intruder. There may be ways to use these in a psychological throw off instead, bewildering the guard somehow. Use your imagination I guess.

Also, use of a carefully crafted tripod may work with lasers and keep the setup more discrete. This would be an engineering project: you would want a red laser, blue laser, and green laser with whatever the sweet spot is between high power but keeping the beam itself from being visible. These lasers would be housed inside of a black tube so that the lasers are only visible if you're looking directly into them and the black is to keep the tubes themselves from lighting up from divergence. These three tubes would be mounted to a bracket with a bolt running through the center - the idea would be that you have an optic on this entire set-up which sits on a tripod and you sight your optic onto the camera. When you turn the lasers on, you'll see them hit near the camera. Center the three lasers around the lens and lock your tripod into place. You'd then use that center bolt to drive a wedge into the tubes from the back - this would close the beams on each other until all three are hitting where you want them to, using the optic the whole time to make sure your aim is correct. This should be enough to white out the RGB sensors completely without drawing attention to the unit itself from outside.

Again, you're dealing with more than a camera here but those are the answers I have.
Let your code be to have no code. Let your way be every way.

User
Member
Posts: 35
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:50 pm
Contact:

Re: Lasers vs. Cameras - Does It Work?

Post by User » Wed May 06, 2020 11:16 pm

Thank you for your long and detailed post, it was very helpful in making decisions. After I posted, I went and checked the website and they advertise it as 500W, but in the technical specifications area they add in the "m".

User avatar
Xanatos
Moderator
Posts: 2190
Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2009 2:51 am
Location: Right behind you.
Contact:

Re: Lasers vs. Cameras - Does It Work?

Post by Xanatos » Wed May 06, 2020 11:20 pm

Hmm... has anyone seen the movie Inside Man with Clive Owen and Denzel Washington? During the opening scene, the robbers enter the bank disguised as painters and blind all the security cameras by pointing infrared spotlights directly into the lenses. IR is invisible to the human eye, but security cameras can see in the IR spectrum and be blinded much in the same way you would do with a typical laser or spotlight.

Definitely more expensive, but a more subtle option if bright visible lights aren't feasible. IR LAMs for firearms are readily available, so the technology isn't out of reach.
We are all books containing thousands of pages and within each lies an irreparable truth.
What is locked, can be opened. What is hidden, can be found. What is yours... can be mine.

User avatar
Psychlonic
Member
Posts: 932
Joined: Mon Oct 29, 2007 2:30 am
Location: E8
Contact:

Re: Lasers vs. Cameras - Does It Work?

Post by Psychlonic » Thu May 07, 2020 1:07 am

All that seems doable and for really not much more cost than visible spectrum items. On the laser side of things, IR or even UV diodes are readily available for barely more than their visible counterparts. Since most high powered laser components are fairly standard, even a novice who knows nothing about this could buy a "kit" online, open the module, and replace the diode with an IR one with no skill needed. To aim it correctly at the lens however would require night vision equipment. Theoretically, the operative could have a bracket system with the IR laser and some sort of aiming system that's been pre-calibrated to tell you where the laser is going to hit without having to actually see the laser, but during the operation you'd have zero way of knowing if the system has somehow lost calibration or moved enough to be off target.

IR illumination is easy enough to find. The right way to do it would be to use a really bright IR LED system with appropriate reflective backing and lens. Ultra bright halogen or otherwise incandescent sources with an IR filter might possibly do the job, but I wonder about the effective blinding range for anything less than an ultra-focused, high power beam. For a practical illumination source this might also mean the need for reliable aiming so back to a tripod and some form of sights. The bracket idea however I'd think would work way better with this, meaning you wouldn't have to also lug NV gear along.

I'm sure that seems like overkill, but while I could actually see IR spotlights ruining camera vision within building ranges, I question the effectiveness beyond that. Of course, if the operative can get within that distance discretely then this opens up far more readily available options and brings down laser power requirements regardless of diode wavelength.
Let your code be to have no code. Let your way be every way.

Post Reply