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Security camera networks open to hi-tech hackers

Kaspersky has revealed that security cameras designed to protect people from criminals can be misused by hackers and the video made available to anyone who wants it.

It’s like something out of a hi-tech crime movie. Security examination of a working city video surveillance system by Kaspersky Lab has revealed that networks designed to help protect people from criminals and terrorists could be misused by a third party exploiting system configuration flaws.

It is no secret that police departments and governments have been monitoring city streets for years, with security cameras proving invaluable in crime investigation and prevention. However, as a result of research conducted by Kaspersky Lab researcher Vasilios Hioureas and his fellow researcher Thomas Kinsey from Exigent Systems, these systems could also be used in a harmful way.

As part of their research, the authors examined the security video surveillance network in one city. Surveillance cameras were connected via a mesh network – a type of network in which nodes are connected with each other and serve as stepping stones for data (video feed in this particular case) on its way from a node to the control center. Instead of using a Wi-Fi hotspot or wired connection, nodes in such networks simply transmit data to the closest node which transmits it further through other nodes right to the command center. Should an intruder connect to just a single node in the network, they will be able to manipulate the data transmitted through it.

Mesh-network based video surveillance systems are, in general, an inexpensive alternative to surveillance systems which require either multiple hotspots throughout a city, or miles of wires. But the security of such networks is heavily dependent on how the whole network is set up.

In the case investigated by the researchers, the network of cameras used no encryption at all. After purchasing equipment similar to that used in the city, Kaspersky Lab researchers discovered that sufficient encryption tools are provided, but they were not being used correctly in this case. As a result, clear text data was being sent though the network and made freely available to any observer who joined.

The researchers quickly realised that creating their own version of the software used in the network would be enough to manipulate the data traveling across it. After recreating the network and software in the lab, they were able to intercept the video feeds from any node and also modify them e.g. exchange the real video from the camera with a fake one.

The researchers shared their findings with the company that had set up the surveillance network in the city. Since then, the necessary changes have been made to the vulnerable network.

“We undertook this research to highlight that cybersecurity also affects physical security systems, especially critical public systems like video surveillance. When building a smart city, it is extremely important to not only think about the comfort, energy and cost efficiency that the new technologies will bring, but also about the cybersecurity issues that might arise. Although the findings of this research were presented last August we have reasons to believe that its findings are still useful for city authorities that are planning to implement mesh-network based surveillance systems or  have implemented it already,” – said Vasilios Hioureas, Junior Malware Analyst at Kaspersky Lab and a co-author of the research.

In order to avoid the security vulnerabilities associated with mesh-networks, Kaspersky Lab recommends the following measures:

·         Although still potentially hackable, Wi-Fi Protected Access with a strong password is the minimum requirement needed to stop the system from being an easy target.

·         Hidden SSID (public names of a wireless network) and MAC filtering (that allows users to define a list of allowed devices on the Wi-Fi network) will also weed out unskilled hackers.

·         Make sure that all labels on equipment are concealed and enclosed to deter attackers who do not have insider information.

·         Securing video data using public-key cryptography will make it almost impossible to manipulate video data.

The research was originally presented at DefCon 2014. It has been published as part of Kaspersky Lab’s contribution to the knowledge base of Securing Smart Cities – a global not-for-profit initiative that aims to solve the existing and future cybersecurity problems of smart cities through collaboration between companies, governments, media outlets, not-for-profit initiatives and individuals across the world.

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Mobile is the new branch

Standard Bank has launched an account for mobile devices that gives back 500MB of data a month

Standard Bank has introducd a R4.95p/m bank account called MyMo that customers can open on their mobile devices, loaded with data and airtime offerings and other benefits such as virtual and Gold physical card.

MyMo account holders will also enjoy the convenience of a cheque account through a Visa and Mastercard gold card. Once the account is open, users can choose to either receive R50 in airtime or 500MB of data a month, if their card is swiped more than four times a month. A further megabyte of data is loaded on the account for every R20 spent.

“MyMo is an account for everyone, whether you just landed your first job or have been around the block. With no documentation required it only takes a few minutes to open the account,” says Funeka Montjane, Chief Executive for Personal and Business Banking, South Africa, at Standard Bank Group. “For just R4.95 a month customer will be able to enjoy free swipes and ATM withdrawals at only R6.50 for amounts under R 1 000.

“Mobile is the new branch. This account is about bringing the mobile branch into customers hands, it is about convenience and security while banking.”

She says mobile offers low cost transactional banking which integrates people and businesses into the new connected economy, making mobile the new branch ecosystem that will drive and connect Africa’s growth. Physical connections to the economy are rapidly changing to digital where banks have to move from being financial institutions to service organisations.

“In the past people congregated in communities and eventually cities to maximise the advantages of connectivity. Today a simple hand-held device has the potential to open infinite doors, transforming individuals’ access to opportunities, regardless of where they are, and like never before in history. 

“Historically, a bank account represented access to economic citizenship. Today, having a simple device enabling digital access to a modern banking platform is a passport to global connectivity and vast human development potential.”

The bank says it is using technology, and mobile phones in particular, to deliver low-cost transactional channels accessible to all our customers. The evolution in mobile can be seen in transaction options like cash back at the retail checkout till rather than the ATM, free digital banking rather than using a branch, and the ability to transact using digital wallets, even without a bank account.

“Developing comprehensive connected ecosystems requires a mind-set change from Africa’s banks,” says Montjane. “Banks will evolve away from traditional financial service organisations, into service ecosystems enabling broad universal access to almost everything like enhanced purchasing experiences of vehicles and homes, online procurement of goods and services and lifestyle elements like rewards and travel. 

“These connectivity drivers will also act to future-proof evolving connectivity ecosystem by allowing us to offer untold future services while deriving income from as yet unrealised revenue streams,.   

From a customer perspective, the kind of ecosystems of knowledge, access and, ultimately, connectivity that banks will come to provide will radically transform the share of life that almost all individuals will be able to access.”

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Two-thirds of SA staff hide social media from bosses

With 90% of people in employment going online several times a day, it can be hard for most workers to keep their private and work-life separate during the working day (and beyond). The recently published Global Privacy Report from Kaspersky Lab reveals that 64% of South African consumers choose to hide social media activity from their boss. This secretive stance at work also extends to their colleagues, with 60% of South Africans also preferring not to reveal online activities to their co-workers.

Globally, the average employee spends an astonishing 13 years and two months at work during their lifetime. Interestingly though, not all this time is directly related to solving work tasks or earning a promotion: almost two thirds (64%) of consumers admit visiting non-work-related websites every day from their desk.

Not surprisingly, 35% of South African employees are against their employer knowing which websites they visit. However, more interestingly, 60% of South African are even against their colleagues knowing about their online activities. This probably means that colleagues constitute an even greater threat to future perspectives of an office slouch or maybe the relationships with colleagues are more informal and therefore, more valuable.

On the contrary, social media activity appears to be a less private domain for many and therefore, more suitable for sharing with colleagues but not the boss. This is probably because workers fear harming the public image of a company or interest in decreased staff productivity motivates companies to monitor employees’ social networks and make career changing decisions based on that. Such policies have led to 64% of South Africans saying that they don’t want to reveal their social media activities to their boss and 53% even don’t want to disclose this information to their colleagues.

A further 29% are against showing the content of their messages and emails to their employer. In addition, 3% even said that their career was irrevocably damaged as a consequence of their personal information being leaked. Thus, people are worried about how to build a favourable internal reputation and how not to destroy existing workplace relationships.

“As going online is an integral part of our life nowadays, lines continue to blur between our digital existence at work and at home. And that’s neither good nor bad. That’s how we live in the digital age. Just keep remembering that as an employee you need to be increasingly cautious of what exactly you post on social media feeds or what websites you prefer using at work. One misconceived action on the internet could have an irrevocable long-term impact on even the most ambitious worker’s ability to climb the career ladder of their choice in the future,” comments Marina Titova, Head of Consumer Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.

To ensure workers don’t fall prey of the internet threats at a work, there are some core guidelines to adhere to in the digital age:

  • Don’t post anything that could be considered defamatory, obscene, proprietary or libellous. If in doubt, don’t post.
  • Be aware that system administrators may at least, in theory, be informed about your web browsing patterns.
  • Don’t harass, threaten, discriminate or disparage against any colleague, partner, competitor or customer. Neither on social networks or in messages, emails, nor by any other means.
  • Don’t post photographs of other employees, customers, vendors, suppliers or company products without prior written permission.
  • Start using Kaspersky Password Manager to ensure your social media and other personal accounts are not at risk of unauthorised access by someone else in an office. Install a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Security Cloud to protect your personal devices.

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