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8/4/2009
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Researchers Hack IP Video

Man-in-the-middle attacks tamper with video surveillance feeds, eavesdrop on IP video phone conversations

Researchers put a new spin on an old attack at Defcon last week, demonstrating how to execute man-in-the-middle attacks on IP video.

In one attack, researchers from Viper Lab showed how a criminal could tamper with an IP video surveillance system to cover up a crime by replacing the video with another benign clip. In another demo, they eavesdropped on a private IP video call.

IP video -- for videoconferencing, IP TV, video streaming applications, and video surveillance -- is gradually catching on in organizations, the federal government, and even in professional sports arenas like the Dallas Cowboys' new state-of-the-art stadium. But like any IP technology, IP video can be vulnerable to attack if it's not properly locked down. "These attacks are based on ARP poisoning/man-in-the middle. You can do this with email and VoIP -- we're just doing a new twist on an old attack to show people that these vulnerabilities are out there for IP video," says Jason Ostrom, director of Viper Lab, the research arm of Sipera Systems, which sells security products for VoIP and unified communications technologies.

Ostrom says only one in 20 organizations secure their IP video communications with encryption or other measures, according to Sipera's research. He and fellow researcher Arjun Sambamoorthy used homegrown open source tools to perform the hacks during their session at Defcon: "These tools can show and help people understand the risks and impact" of not securing IP video, Ostrom says. "These are vulnerabilities in the configuration and deployment of IP video in the network -- not vulnerabilities in the video products."

The so-called UCSniff tool performs video eavesdropping, while VideoJak intercepts and replays video. "We used UCSniff to record a 'safe' video stream, then converted it to an AVI file. Then we used the VideoJak tool that also supports man-in-the-middle," he says. VideoJak intercepts the video stream, and replaces it with a malicious or phony video payload.

So, for instance, a bad guy could replace a surveillance feed of his breaking into the CEO's office with a routine clip trained on the office door, with no sign of the break-in.

To pull off one of these video attacks, Ostrom says an attacker would have to have physical access to the IP network, as well as to a port on the same VLAN as the video application. "Physical security is a huge part of the equation" with these attacks, he says.

In the eavesdropping attack, UCSniff 3.0 intercepted all of the video traffic and allowed the attacker to play back either side of a conversation held on Cisco 7985 Unified IP Phones that weren't configured with security best practices by the user.

Ostrom and Sambamoorthy soon will release the new Windows GUI-based 3.0 versions of the free UCSniff and VideoJak tools that support these types of attacks and let companies test their IP video implementations for security. They also plan to release a new tool they used in the demos called VideoSnarf, which takes a network sniffer file, analyzes it, and converts it to an H.264 video file.

The only way to mitigate these types of attacks, Ostrom says, is to deploy the three basic levels of IP video security: physical security, encryption, and defense against ARP poisoning, which can be configured via many Ethernet switches, he says. "If your IP video is encrypted, an attacker could man-in-the-middle but would not be able to decrypt the RTP [packets]," he says. "The attack would be rendered useless."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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