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Webcam Bug Enables Virtual Home Invasions

Trendnet releases firmware updates to prevent home security cameras from being accessed without a password.
A webcam vulnerability has left users at risk of having their video feeds viewed by anyone with an Internet connection.

In particular, the firmware for 22 webcam models sold by Trendnet since April 2010 has a bug that allows anonymous connections to be made to the cameras, without requiring a password. According to a statement published on the company's website earlier this week, "Trendnet's security team understands that video from some Trendnet IP SecurView cameras may be accessed online in real time. Upon awareness of the issue, Trendnet initiated immediate actions to correct and publish updated firmware which resolves the vulnerability."

Tuesday, the company had patched only seven webcam models, reported the BBC. But by Thursday, Trendnet said that it had released updated firmware--fixing the vulnerability--for all 22 of the affected webcams. The company estimates that approximately 50,000 of its devices, which are sold both inside and outside the United States, are affected by the vulnerability. The company has added an alert about the firmware update to its website, and said it plans to notify the 5% of affected users who registered their webcams with the company after purchase.

[ Buying on the black market gets cheaper. See 'Factory Outlets' Sell Stolen Facebook, Twitter Credentials. ]

A Trendnet official blamed the bug on a "coding oversight." But the company has yet to issue any other types of statements to alert its customers. "We are planning an official release of information to the public concerning this, but in advance I can tell you that this week we are targeting to have firmware to all affected models," Zak Wood, Trendnet's director of global marketing, told the BBC earlier this week.

Some customers may question the delay between knowledge of the vulnerability becoming public--one month ago--and Trendnet issuing fixes. Specifically, on January 10, someone posting under the handle "someluser" on the Console Cowboys blog reported finding that while the Trendnet TV-IP110w--SecurView Wireless Internet Camera--he tested could be configured to require passwords, it would also accept anonymous requests. Taking what he learned, he was able to query Shodan--a search engine that can locate specific types of Internet-connected devices, including their IP addresses--and find at least 350 vulnerable devices. All of the cameras could apparently be accessed by appending the same 15-character code snippet to the camera's IP address.

That finding was picked up last week by the Verge, which reported that following the Console Cowboys post, "links to the compromised feeds spread quickly on message boards like Reddit and 4chan," while Pastebin posts released shortly thereafter listed links to what they said were 1,000 accessible webcams. Those links reportedly resolved to everything from children's rooms and cat beds to parking lots and office doors.

The Trendnet research echoes a recent study conducted by HD Moore, who found that numerous videoconferencing systems are misconfigured and poorly secured, which gives attackers the ability to eavesdrop on sensitive communications.

The right forensic tools in the right hands are just a start. The new Digital Detectives issue of Dark Reading shows you how to better apply the lessons they teach. (Free registration required.)

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