In this paper, a novel method to characterize random noise sources in hyperspectral (HS) images is proposed. Noise is described using a parametric model that accounts for the dependence of noise variance on the useful signal. Such model takes into account the photon noise contribution and is therefore suitable for noise characterization in the data acquired by new-generation HS sensors where electronic noise is not dominant. A new algorithm is developed for the estimation of noise parameters which consists of two steps. First, the noise and signal realizations are extracted from the original image by resorting to the multiple-linear-regression-based approach. Then, the model parameters are estimated by using a maximum likelihood approach. The new method does not require the intervention of a human operator and the selection of homogeneous regions in the scene. The performance of the new technique is analyzed on simulated HS data. Results on real data are also presented and discussed. Images acquired with a new-generation HS camera are analyzed to give an experimental evidence of the dependence of random noise on the signal level and to show the results of the estimation algorithm. The algorithm is also applied to a well-known Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer data set in order to show its effectiveness when noise is dominated by the signal-independent term.