Video conferencing mistakes make espionage easy, say researchers
HD Moore finds thousands of exposed conference and board rooms where secrets aren't so secret
Computerworld - Tens of thousands of video conferencing setups, including some in corporate meeting rooms where the most confidential information is discussed, are vulnerable to spying attacks, researchers said this week.
After spending months rooting around top-end video conferencing hardware and software, and taking tours through meeting rooms himself, HD Moore said the danger was a "perfect storm" brought on by lazy habits and sloppy security settings.
"Many of these [video conferencing installations] are naked on the Internet," said Moore, the chief security officer at Rapid7.
Using scanning tools, Moore surveyed a small fraction of the Internet to find hardware that used the H.323 protocol -- the most widely-used by video conferencing equipment -- and discovered that 2% were at risk of hacker infiltration because they were set to automatically answer any incoming calls and were not protected by a firewall.
On the Internet as a whole, Moore estimated that more than 150,000 video conferencing setups were vulnerable to eavesdropping using the hardware's microphone and spying via the remote-controlled camera.
The biggest gaffes in video conferencing are the auto-answer feature and the positioning of the hardware sans a firewall, or outside the organization's usual defensive perimeter, said Moore. And even when they seem to be protected, some firewalls fail to properly handle the H.323 protocol, and in fact expose the hardware to infiltration.
Other issues range from known vulnerabilities in some video conferencing software to used hardware sold via outlets like eBay that have not been scrubbed of their pre-set connections to other conferencing locations.
Moore was able to access video conferences held in corporate boardrooms, and at meetings in research facilities, law offices, and venture capital firms.
"You see these very nicely-appointed conference rooms where they're having their most important conversations," said Mike Tuchen, chief executive of Rapid7 in the same interview. "Often, where video conferencing equipment gets located are the same places where the most sensitive meetings take place."
Disabling auto-answer is the easiest way to block this spying, said Tuchen.
"Most of Polycom's equipment defaults to auto-answer, but disabling that is pretty straight-forward," Tuchen said, citing the video conferencing maker that Moore found with the most systems set to automatic answer.
In one case, Moore was able to dial into an ongoing conference, then operate the camera -- zooming in on one individual to see him enter a password on his laptop -- for more than 20 minutes, all without the participants noticing the moving camera.
Exposing video conferencing hardware on the Web was the other major gaffe that Moore exploited. "Too many people take a shortcut by putting their equipment on the Internet," said Tuchen.
- Troubleshooting Common Issues in VoIP Learn more about Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), including common VoIP metrics used, best practices in VoIP management and tips and tricks for...
- 2013 Network Management Software (NMS) Buyers Guide This white paper contains an independent comparison study of six different network management solutions and provides guidance on how you can choose the...
- Rightsizing Your Network Performance Management Solution: 4 Case Studies This white paper discusses challenges encountered as organizations search for the most cost-effective network performance management solution.
- Global Growing Pains: Tapping into B2B Integration Services to Overcome Global Expansion Challenges A recent survey by IDG Research explored both the challenges and pain points companies face when growing globally, as well as the capabilities...
- E-Signature RFP Checklist Webcast If your organization is looking to adopt e-signatures, you may be overwhelmed by the number of providers that offer seemingly similar solutions. How...
- Cloud and Collaboration: Driving Your Business Value Mission Critical Cloud from Peer 1 Hosting is enterprise-grade. All Security White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!