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Ironic: CCTV systems slide open a backdoor into your biz network

Cameras can 'can easily provide a gateway' to internal servers, study finds

By John Leyden, 14 Mar 2016

Closed circuit TV systems, designed to protect organisations' physical assets, commonly create holes for hackers to exploit and tunnel their way into enterprise systems.

Research carried out by independent consultant Andrew Tierney on behalf of Cloudview – a video surveillance company based in Hampshire, England – found major vulnerabilities in traditional DVR-based CCTV systems and cloud-based video systems.

The security flaws inherent in almost all CCTV systems make it all too easy for intruders to hijack connections to and from the devices' IP addresses, putting enterprises' data at risk while leaving operators in breach of EU Data Protection regulations.

The research involved putting five routers, DVRs and IP cameras running their latest software on the open internet. One device was breached within minutes, and within 24 hours two were under the control of an unknown attacker. Another device was left in an unstable state and completely inoperable.

Vulnerabilities in traditional DVR-based systems ranged from their use of port forwarding and dynamic DNS to a lack of firmware updates and the existence of manufacturer "back doors." Because DVRs have similar capabilities to a small web server, they can easily be used to launch an attack against host networks as part of a stepping-stone-style attack.

Many cloud video solutions also use port forwarding to allow access to RTSP (real time streaming protocol) video streams, making them as vulnerable as DVR-based systems. Common issues include failure to use secure protocols effectively, a lack of encryption, poor cookie security and insecure user and credential management.

"Any insecure embedded device connected to the internet is a potential target for attacks, but organisations don't seem to realise that this includes their CCTV system," Tierney concluded. "It can easily provide a gateway to their entire network."

The research involved many tests, including but not limited to:

  • Passive monitoring of all traffic in and out of each device.
  • Active scanning of all ports and services using Nmap to find hidden services and insecurities.
  • Manual and automated testing of any web interfaces using Burp Suite.
  • Locating vulnerabilities and hidden functionality.
  • Decompilation of Android and iOS applications.
  • Firmware analysis using various tools to find hidden functionality, vulnerabilities, and passwords.

James Wickes, cofounder and chief exec of Cloudview, said: "Organisations can increase their security immediately by changing user names and passwords from the default to something secure, and they should follow the Information Commissioner's Office and Surveillance Camera Commissioner guidelines by encrypting all their CCTV data both in transit and when it is being stored. I'd also like to see the development of a 'Kitemark' to give users the assurance that their CCTV supplier had thought about security."

Cloudview's whitepaper can be found here [PDF].

'This can then be used as a pivot and be used to attack the rest of your network'

Related research by Tierney on the security of particular, commodity CCTV/DVR systems bought on Amazon was published by Pen Test Partners last month. The MVPower DVR tested by Tierney had an unauthenticated root shell, along with other problems, that made the kit an enterprise security risk.

"Putting one of these on your network leaves you open to serious risk. If you port forward to the web interface, you are allowing attackers to take full control of the device," Tierney warns. "This can then be used as a pivot and be used to attack the rest of your network from inside."

Separately, Risk Based Security found that Raysharp DVRs have hardcoded credentials for the web interface. Across all devices, the login root/519070 will work, and cannot be disabled. A more subtle vulnerability in the same Raysharp kit was discovered by researchers at Metasploit firm Rapid7.

Tierney's roundup of recent research on DVRs, which includes a follow-up to his own study, can be found here. ®

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