Perimeter
4/16/2010
03:58 AM
John H. Sawyer
John H. Sawyer
Commentary
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Attacking Electronic Door Access Control Systems

A friend recently pointed me to some research he has been doing with embedded door access control systems, as well as some of the vulnerabilities he has uncovered. Some of his findings were recently disclosed at Carolinacon, with more to come during his presentation at Hack in the Box.

A friend recently pointed me to some research he has been doing with embedded door access control systems, as well as some of the vulnerabilities he has uncovered. Some of his findings were recently disclosed at Carolinacon, with more to come during his presentation at Hack in the Box.Shawn Merdinger is an independent security researcher whose recent focus has led him to dig into the inner workings of electronic door access controls (EDAC). The first victim was a S2 Security NetBox in which he quickly found a few flaws, like an unauthenticated factory reset and unauthorized access to backup data. The first issue is obviously a pretty serious one that could lead to a potential denial of service, but it's the last one that turns heads.

According to Shawn's CarolinaCon presentation (video), the backup files are stored in a location with predictable file names that do not require authentication in order to access. Inside the dump, an attacker can find goodies like the configuration and something that might come in handy like the administrator's password hash. From there, the attacker can do pretty much anything he or she wants, including unlocking doors at will.

The fun doesn't stop there: the database also contains the user names, passwords, and IP addresses for the network cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs). Now the attacker can monitor the facility, learn traffic patterns, and plan for a physical penetration of the facility. The credentials will allow the attacker to turn off cameras and/or recording during their assault on the facility.

To make matters worse, Shawn points out that marketing folks for these products will actually state that it's safe to put these management systems on the Internet. It's shocking to see customers actually do this as shown in the Shodan searches that Shawn demonstrated.

What I really liked about the presentation is that it doesn't stop at showing you the scary stuff. It takes the next step that most audiences are dying to see, but don't always get, and that's how to fix these things as both the vendor and the customer. I won't go into the details because I do think the video is worth a watch, but Shawn does lay out some good advice that I hope vendors will take to heart.

There's plenty more research to be done, but Shawn's off to a good start and plans to release a detailed paper along with his updated presentation at Hack in the Box (in Dubai) next week. Be on the lookout for it if you're a customer of EDAC systems or a penetration tester who might run up on these systems in an engagement.

John H. Sawyer is a senior security engineer on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of the UF IT Security Team or the University of Florida. When John's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading.

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