Studies have shown that hackers can exchange real video feeds from cameras for fake ones
Any wireless device can be a soft target
for hackers
Security network hacking is one of the hottest topics today. The ability to access security systems or devices anywhere, leaves them vulnerable and prone to hacking. Any wireless device can be a soft target for hackers. Let’s start with the concept that nothing on a network is really secure. Let’s admit this to ourselves and take the next steps to make our security networks more secure.

Internet of Things Security

We all want our networks to be the network of everything. We want to be able to access our security systems everywhere. We want to view cameras, receive alarms, get notifications on our cell phones or from access points that are not our own. We want to cut the cable with wireless transmission. All of these are just an invitation to make our systems less secure.

We demand more security and blame camera manufacturers, video management systems (VMS) or network video recorders (NVR); at the same time, we want to pay less. We want the convenience of accessing everything over the Web and mostly using the Internet.

Closed Network Security Systems

No one is safe. In June, antivirus software provider Kaspersky Lab was hacked. Most of our security devices protect themselves with user names and passwords, and in most cases these are ineffective. The real protection is to limit access to a system as much as possible.

In a typical network system, we have cameras connected to a network switch fed to a recording device usually in the form of a video server or NVR. The first question is: How much exposure do I really need? Video security used to be referred to as CCTV – closed circuit television. Sometimes, it still is. The key word is “closed.” Why not think about network video security systems as CNSS or “closed network security systems?”

Every access point on a network has a potential for hacking. Once a security system is hacked, anything is possible. Studies have shown that hackers can exchange real video feeds from cameras for fake ones. It’s a variation on what used to be cutting the video cord or masking the lens in the analog days. So what can you do to prevent your system from being hacked?

Create A Separate Network

Let’s start with the obvious, make it a CNSS. This can be as political as it is technical, given that governance of security systems is shifting from the security department to IP directors who want to centralize their control. Next are the common sense approaches. If you can access IP devices by pinging them from any point outside your system, it is an open door for hackers.

Every access point on a network
has a potential for hacking.
Once a security system is hacked,
anything is possibl
e

Disable Common Access

Port 80 which is most commonly used for Internet traffic should especially be disabled. Most network switches have the ability to be accessed with the help of a function called Telenet using ports 21 and 23 – disable these as well.

Create Your Own Unique Subnet And IP Address

An IP address is basically a 32-bit number that can range from 0 to 429496794, and has the potential to create about 4.3 billion unique addresses. Keep in mind, we are dealing with our own CNSS, so concerns about conflicts outside the network don’t exist. For example, if you are using an address of 192.168.1.xxx, with a subnet of 255.255.255.0, any IP address starting with 192.168.1 will be able to access devices on your network.

Do You Really Need A Layer 3 switch?

Keep in mind that “layering” as it pertains to network switches is primarily a marketing term and not a standard. The major difference in what we can consider a Layer 2-plus and Layer 3 is routing. A router routes IP packets among IP networks, which in our case makes it a major point of exposure. Think about routing in terms of Google. You ask a question, send it out and it crosses hundreds, perhaps thousands of access points on different networks until it is finally received at its destination, is responded to and is transmitted back to your computer over hundreds or thousands of additional access points. All of these cross different subnets over Wide Area Networks. Do you really need to have your system exposed to this for the privilege of paying more for Layer 3 capability as opposed to Layer 2?

Most network switches have the ability to be accessed with the help of a function called Telenet using ports 21 and 23 – disable these as well

User Names And Passwords

They give us a sense of security, but in reality names and passwords are probably the least secure method.

We now know that Android phones can be easily hacked without requiring the user to view a message or open an attachment. In doing so, all your information is exposed, including the phone application that allows you to view your security system. While a fix exists, due to the open source nature of Android it will be significantly more difficult to secure in comparison to single sources such as iOS.

Network Switching - Most Critical Point

The network switch is a gathering point for your security system. Once you have created your own network, removed access from outside networks by disabling common port access and avoided the use of routers or Layer 3 switches, you can take additional steps to internally secure your system. One of the most common and effective methods is the use of internal system MAC (Media Access Control) addressing. It is unique to each product that is IP-enabled. Your computer, cell phone and every component of your IP-based security system has a unique MAC address. Select a managed switch whose programming allows you to secure your system using MAC addressing. Your cameras can be connected to specific switch ports using MAC addressing, thus preventing them from unauthorized changes. Most importantly, the MAC address of the client computer can be tied to the switch to prevent outside or even internal access. This feature is known as MAC locking and is directly related to MAC lockouts, which disables unauthorized MAC addresses from gaining access.

In the end, the decision as to how you construct your system network is up to you. Regardless of how attractive, the use of cell phones or the thought that Layer 3 must be better than Layer 2 switching are just invitations to hack your system. Every access point is another open door. Maybe it’s time to reconsider the meaning of “Closed Circuit.”

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

In case you missed it

Which Security Technologies Are Becoming Outdated Or Obsolete?
Which Security Technologies Are Becoming Outdated Or Obsolete?

When technology performs a required task effectively, there is little reason to upgrade to the ‘next big thing’. In this regard, the physical security market is notoriously slow to change. Much of yesterday’s most robust and dependable equipment is still in place at thousands of customer sites, still performing as well as the day it was installed. However, there comes a point when any technology becomes outdated. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: Which security technologies are becoming outdated or obsolete?

Physical Security And The Cloud: Why One Can’t Work Without The Other
Physical Security And The Cloud: Why One Can’t Work Without The Other

Human beings have a long-standing relationship with privacy and security. For centuries, we’ve locked our doors, held close our most precious possessions, and been wary of the threats posed by thieves. As time has gone on, our relationship with security has become more complicated as we’ve now got much more to be protective of. As technological advancements in security have got smarter and stronger, so have those looking to compromise it. Cybersecurity Cybersecurity, however, is still incredibly new to humans when we look at the long relationship that we have with security in general. As much as we understand the basics, such as keeping our passwords secure and storing data in safe places, our understanding of cybersecurity as a whole is complicated and so is our understanding of the threats that it protects against. However, the relationship between physical security and cybersecurity is often interlinked. Business leaders may find themselves weighing up the different risks to the physical security of their business. As a result, they implement CCTV into the office space, and alarms are placed on doors to help repel intruders. Importance of cybersecurity But what happens when the data that is collected from such security devices is also at risk of being stolen, and you don’t have to break through the front door of an office to get it? The answer is that your physical security can lose its power to keep your business safe if your cybersecurity is weak. As a result, cybersecurity is incredibly important to empower your physical security. We’ve seen the risks posed by cybersecurity hacks in recent news. Video security company Verkada recently suffered a security breach as malicious attackers obtained access to the contents of many of its live camera feeds, and a recent report by the UK government says two in five UK firms experienced cyberattacks in 2020. Cloud computing – The solution Cloud stores information in data centres located anywhere in the world, and is maintained by a third party Cloud computing offers a solution. The cloud stores your information in data centres located anywhere in the world and is maintained by a third party, such as Claranet. As the data sits on hosted servers, it’s easily accessible while not being at risk of being stolen through your physical device. Here’s why cloud computing can help to ensure that your physical security and the data it holds aren’t compromised. Cloud anxiety It’s completely normal to speculate whether your data is safe when it’s stored within a cloud infrastructure. As we are effectively outsourcing our security by storing our important files on servers we have no control over - and, in some cases, limited understanding of - it’s natural to worry about how vulnerable this is to cyber-attacks. The reality is, the data that you save on the cloud is likely to be a lot safer than that which you store on your device. Cyber hackers can try and trick you into clicking on links that deploy malware or pose as a help desk trying to fix your machine. As a result, they can access your device and if this is where you’re storing important security data, then it is vulnerable. Cloud service providers Cloud service providers offer security that is a lot stronger than the software in the personal computer Cloud service providers offer security that is a lot stronger than the software that is likely in place on your personal computer. Hyperscalers such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Service (AWS) are able to hire countless more security experts than any individual company - save the corporate behemoth - could afford. These major platform owners have culpability for thousands of customers on their cloud and are constantly working to enhance the security of their platforms. The security provided by cloud service providers such as Claranet is an extension of these capabilities. Cloud resistance Cloud servers are located in remote locations that workers don’t have access to. They are also encrypted, which is the process of converting information or data into code to prevent unauthorized access. Additionally, cloud infrastructure providers like ourselves look to regularly update your security to protect against viruses and malware, leaving you free to get on with your work without any niggling worries about your data being at risk from hackers. Data centres Cloud providers provide sophisticated security measures and solutions in the form of firewalls and AI Additionally, cloud providers are also able to provide sophisticated security measures and solutions in the form of firewalls and artificial intelligence, as well as data redundancy, where the same piece of data is held within several separate data centres. This is effectively super-strong backup and recovery, meaning that if a server goes down, you can access your files from a backup server. Empowering physical security with cybersecurity By storing the data gathered by your physical security in the cloud, you're not just significantly reducing the risk of cyber-attacks, but also protecting it from physical threats such as damage in the event of a fire or flood. Rather than viewing your physical and cybersecurity as two different entities, treat them as part of one system: if one is compromised, the other is also at risk. They should work in tandem to keep your whole organization secure.

Hybrid Working And The Threat Of Desk Data
Hybrid Working And The Threat Of Desk Data

The transition to remote working has been a revelation for many traditional office staff, yet concerns over data security risks are rising. Mark Harper of HSM explains why businesses and their remote workers must remain vigilant when it comes to physical document security in homes. Pre-pandemic, home offices were often that neglected room in people’s homes. But now things are different. After the initial lockdown in 2020, 46.6% of UK workers did some work at home with 86% of those doing so because of the pandemic. Semi-Permanent workspaces Since then, many have found that over time, those semi-permanent workspaces have become slightly more permanent – with official hybrid working coming into effect for an assortment of businesses and their teams. The adoption of hybrid working can in fact be seen as one of the few positives to come from the pandemic, with less travel, more freedom and higher productivity top of the benefits list for businesses and their employees. The handling of sensitive documents, is a growing concern for office managers But those welcomed benefits don’t tell the whole story. The transition to remote working has undoubtedly impacted workplace security, with various touch points at risk. The handling of sensitive documents for example, is a growing concern for office managers. In simpler times, sensitive data was more or less contained in an office space, but with millions of home setups to now think about, how can businesses and their office managers control the issue of desk data? Physical document security As of January 2021, it’s said that one in three UK workers are based exclusively at home. That’s millions of individuals from a variety of sectors, all of which must continue in their efforts to remain data secure. With that, reports of cyber security fears are consistently making the news but that shouldn’t be the sole focus. There is also the underlying, but growing, issue of physical document security. The move to remote working hasn’t removed these physical forms of data – think hard drives, USBs and paper based documentation. A recent surge in demand for home printers for example, only exemplifies the use of physical documents and the potential security issues home offices are facing. Adding to that, research conducted in 2020 found that two out of three employees who printed documents at home admitted to binning those documents both in and outside of their house without shredding them. Data security concern Without the right equipment, policies and guidance, businesses are sure to be at risk Those findings present a huge data security concern, one that must be fixed immediately. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has since released guidance for those working from their bedrooms and dining tables. Designed to help overcome these challenges, the ‘security checklists’ and ‘top tips’ should be the first port of call for many. Yet throughout, the ICO make reference to ‘following your organization’s policies and guidance’ – highlighting that the onus isn’t solely on the individuals working from their makeshift offices. Office managers have a monumental task on their hands to ensure teams are well equipped within their home setups. Without the right equipment, policies and guidance, businesses are sure to be at risk. But it would be wrong to insinuate that unsecure desk data has only now become an issue for organizations. Modern office spaces Keeping clear desks has long been a battle for many office managers. In fact, clear desk policies are practiced in most modern office spaces, with it recognized as a key preventative to personal information being wrongly accessed and so falling foul of GDPR legislation. Throwing sensitive documents in the bin was never an option pre-pandemic However, the unsupervised aspect of home working has led to a potentially more lax approach to these policies, or in some cases, they can’t be followed at all. For those taking a more laid back approach, organization leaders must remind staff of their data security responsibilities and why clear desk policies have previously proven effective. Ultimately, throwing sensitive documents in the bin was never an option pre-pandemic and this must be carried through to home workspaces now. Securely destroy documents There are also concerns over the equipment people have access to at home. For example, without a reliable home shredding solution, data security suddenly becomes a tougher task. To add to that, several recommendations state that employees working from home should avoid throwing documents away by instead transporting them to the office for shredding once lockdown rules ease. While this is an option, it does pose further issues, with document security at risk of accidental loss or even theft throughout the transportation period, not to mention the time spent in storage. The best and most effective way to securely destroy documents is at the source, especially in environments where higher levels of personal data is regularly handled. Correct shredding equipment The recent findings on home office behavior represent a true security risk Only when home workers implement their own clear desk policies alongside the correct shredding equipment (at the correct security level), can both home office spaces and regular offices become data secure. Realistically, these solutions should, like the common home printer, become a staple in home office spaces moving forward. The likelihood is that many UK workers will remain in their home offices for the foreseeable future, only to emerge as hybrid workers post-pandemic. And while the current working environment is more ideal for some than others, the recent findings on home office behavior represent a true security risk to organizations. With this in mind, it’s now more key than ever for business leaders, their office managers and homeworkers to all step up and get a handle on home data security policies (as well as maintaining their standards back at the office) – starting with the implementation of clear desk policies. After all, a clear desk equals a clear mind.