by January 7, 2010 0 comments



The last decade has been very crucial in shaping the security scenario of the
world. After 9/11 attacks the world security agencies have taken strict actions
in deploying surveillance solutions to make the security infrastructure stronger
and fault tolerant. However with increase in the sophistication of the
surveillance systems, there has been increase in manipulating and working around
such systems. The attempts are not only made by the hackers trying to peep into
the sensitive data just for the sake of fun but many others are making millions
by selling these sensitive and critical information of companies and government.

The recent 26/11 attacks on Mumbai have raised further concerns about the
national security so the governments all over the world are now trying the
preventive measures to avoid further such encounters. One such major solution
came up after the incident was to deploy CCTV (close circuit TVs) across the
major public places throughout the country.

This is where video surveillance plays a critical role since video
surveillance solutions provide real time pictures and monitoring of the current
situation of the place. So as we can see, the main concern of government is to
increase and improve the security practices through the mass deployment of video
cameras which are connected to a specified network and provide live videos for
intelligence.

Direct Hit!

Applies To: CIOs
USP: Pitfalls to avoid
when using IP-based video
surveillance
Primary Link: None
Keywords: Video surveillance

Now moving our attention to the enterprises, we see an equal need of
surveillance systems. Many times video cameras are deployed to monitor the
performance of employees, however it also contributes in keeping check on other
issues like physical theft. The live feeds help the administrator or security
professional to respond immediately. In this part we will be discussing the
reasons why IP-based video surveillance has become an easy target for hackers
and what are the loopholes in the security structures and practices followed by
the network admins and the security personnel and a small part of the article
shall cover how they can be manipulated if not restricted properly,

Surveillance as a threat to your privacy?
How can we consider surveillance as a threat to the privacy. The surveillance
cameras deployed inside malls, theaters and medical stores, and banks many times
depict your general habits and let the people (cops) at the back end know much
more about you than you actually want to let others know. And if that feed is
available to wrong hands, it could become a serious privacy hazard. Well this is
only one part of the threat. If we look at the enterprise level, the scenario
changes a little bit, here the surveillance solutions monitor employees as well
as keep a check on the physical intrusions by someone. And again, if the camera
is IP-based, then it can very easily be hacked within the network. We talk about
some such techniques later.

Live feeds from unrestricted network cameras
deployed on the roadside. It shows views of three different places within a
city.

CCTVs and IP cameras
A major difference between CCTVs and IP cameras is that the former doesn’t allow
the captured images to go out of the building premises in majority of the cases.
This means data is never exposed to the outside world. However IP cameras can
transmit live video images across the Internet, which makes it possible to
monitor a location from anywhere in the world. IP cameras allow the user to
monitor and record live video through LAN or over the Internet. Other prominent
features of IP cameras are: they allow a two way communication and full sight
and vocal/audio capabilities. Plus, they also provide you remote focusing and
movement using a web interface. Now with these advantages over CCTV, IP cameras
have surely gained importance and popularity. However, these cameras can also
cause real time security blunders if they are not configured properly.

A live video feed. Here you can manipulate the
PTZ features of the camera without requiring any credentials.

Like computer networks, IP surveillance systems are vulnerable to attacks
such as ARP poisoning, rouge DHCP server, subnet hopping and eavesdropping. Any
person with a basic understanding of networking can attack these systems and
easily manipulate them. Another important vulnerability of these networks is
that you never know if the device which is sending the data to the monitoring
systems is the intended one or a hacker’s notebook. Another weak point of these
cameras is that many cameras run internal HTTP servers instead of HTTPS for
administrator log ons, this exposes user names and passwords to be transmitted
over the network in plain text format. Because these cameras send unencrypted
information over LAN or Wan or both, there is a high probability that the data
is used by unauthorized users who can gain access and use information for their
own interest (good or bad).

Now let’s assume that the camera which you are using is using the
state-of-the-art security technologies and is hack proof. But what if the admin
forgets to give a username and password? Or if he doesn’t realize that the
camera is hooked to the Internet, and can be viewed by everyone in the world if
not restricted properly. You might argue that now someone will know the link of
your camera to use it. But believe me it is just a matter of doing a Google
search. Lets see how.

Hack using Google
Unsecured cameras can be used as spying tools. If you Google some common URL
strings which are present in most of the cameras you will find many live camera
feeds. These cameras are deployed on various public locations and some also show
live videos of those places. Just type unsecured IP cameras and you will find
many sites who list links to those cameras. Doesn’t that sound scary? You might
be thinking what wrong could have happened in such a case. To understand this,
let’s assume that there is a terrorist attack on a hotel. Now when the
terrorists are inside the hotel, they can just hook themselves into the Internet
and can find and see the security camera feeds which is generated at the road
outside if the camera is not secured properly. And this can help them see the
activities by the Cops and plan their next move. And to see how easy it is to
get links for such unsecured cameras. Just type “inurl:veiw/index.shtml” into
the search bar of any search engine and you will find many results. Just click
on one of the results and you will see a network camera sending live feed to
your machine. With the help of buttons present on the web interface you can also
PAN, TILT or zoom into the location you like. While somebody might argue if that
really is hacking? It is not, but this can be a real value or vulnerability for
a person who is planning a theft or robbery or even a terrorist activity. Apart
from this, many feeds images may be from other places like retail shops, malls
which give an opportunity to get a map of the place and the person can plan an
attack without getting into the hassles of visiting the place and getting
noticed.

 A simple Google search gives you a live
feed.

Network hacks
Another way of exploiting these cameras is to actively intrude a network and
manipulate videos. However this is a tough task to do since the intruder has to
be present within the network to carry out an attack. If the intruder manages to
enter the local network of an enterprise or any surveillance network then he can
manipulate the video feeds of the camera. For example, he can replace a live
view with the static image, or can just install a rogue camera within the
network and show it as the legitimate device of the network. The problem can
happen due to either an improperly configured IP camera or a lack of security
know-how of the installer. Not using a strong password is another reason that
makes your surveillance systems vulnerable to attacks.

Next month we shall show how to use some free tools to take care of these
attacks.

Nidhi Sharma

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