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Who lives in your smart camera?

Secrets of smart devices and ways to protect against unauthorized access.

Updated: September 11, 2021 By Darina Shramko

Title image for Who lives in your smart camera?

Our home is our fortress. But, there is one problem − the fortress, no matter how strong it is, can still be taken by a long siege.

Moreover, we, without realizing it, make our home a target for hackers and criminals. How? It's simple - smart home devices designed to make our life easier may turn out to be our enemies.

A July experiment by the British Consumer Protection Association with NCC Group and Global Cyber Alliance showed that passwords in smart homes attempt to hack more than 300 times a day. According to analysts, attacks on smart homes can be carried out with a frequency of more than 12,000 times a week!

Well, is it possible to trust smart devices and how to protect yourself and your loved ones from an invasion of privacy − I'll tell you about this and much more right now!

Disclaimer: The information provided in the article is for informational purposes only. This article familiarizes readers with the potential risks of using smart home devices and IP cameras. Any illegal copying and use of article materials are prohibited!

Are Smart Devices really that vulnerable?

I'll tell you honestly ─ there are catastrophically few smart home devices in my house. Of course, I would also like to have a robot vacuum cleaner, a smart oven, and a washing machine do the entire household work for me.

However, I am wary of robotic assistants designed to make our lives easier. Clever technology can turn your home into an enemy's lair! It sounds scary, but I have every reason to say so! Why do I think so?

Backs in 2014th, when the trend smart home devices, Kaspersky Lab specialist David Jacoby researched home devices. The researcher tested network-attached servers, routers, and smart TVs. During the experiment, David found out that all devices were vulnerable.

A year later, a team of researchers from Kaspersky Lab decided to check whether the security system of smart devices had changed, but they were not pleased with the result. The subject of the research was the smart devices available on the market.

And what do you think? As a result of the experiment, it turned out that almost all of these devices have vulnerabilities! Your smart toothbrush, robot vacuum cleaner, or speakers can take up arms against you if a cybercriminal decides to take over their “brain”.

But time does not stand still technologies are improving and becoming more reliable. It would seem that in 7 years, smart home devices should have become a guarantor of security.

However, I would not be so careless. Smart devices still have many flaws and vulnerabilities.

What do scientists say?

In July 2021, it became known that the British Consumer Protection Association "Which?" decided to find out if smart home devices can trust. To do this, experts have equipped their own smart home using all consumer equipment: from security systems to smart TVs, thermostats, and kettles.

As the study showed, the Smart Home was subjected to 12,000 attempts of hacker attacks in the most active week. Experts claim, were be recorded up to 14 hacking per hour!

The good news is that most of the tested products were can to repel attacks, but the camera acquired by the scientists was still hacked. It isn't surprising because cameras are most subject to hacking attempts.

After all, these devices are the easiest way to control a Smart Home. But I will talk about the dangers of video surveillance a little later, and now let's find out how the experiment ended.

The Smart Home experiment launched in May 2021, and in the first week, scientists recorded 1,017 unique hacking attempts from sources worldwide, and at least 66 were malicious.

Most cyber-attack attempts came from the United States, India, Russia, the Netherlands, and China.

Countries-sources of hacker traffic

Image source - which.co.uk

The experiment ended in June. In the most active week, experts recorded 12,807 unique hacking attempts! Scientists estimate that every hour the devices were subjected to 14 brute force attacks.

The hacking attempts were likely carried out by automated means. According to the researchers, 97% of hacker attacks were aimed at introducing smart devices to botnets based on Mirai modifications. Such malware usually uses brute force to hack.

Most cyber-attacks were recorded on Epson printers, but all hacking attempts were unsuccessful (all thanks to a strong password).

But the ieGeek CCTV camera, unlike printers, couldn’t resist hacker attacks. Amazon even pulled ieGeek cameras from the market after the experiment was made public!

ieGeek CCTV camera

Image source – which.co.uk

As you can see, technologies are improving, and many devices are already capable of resisting cyber-attacks. The exceptions are still video surveillance systems. So, let's see why these devices are still vulnerable.

What do Video Surveillance Systems hide?

A favorite method of hackers is to hack video surveillance systems via Wi-Fi. Since 2015, cases of unauthorized access to smart cameras are only increasing.

The danger is that hackers gain access not only to your camera but to all devices in the house that are connected to Wi-Fi. They are connected to the Internet via a local network to communicate with the device or smartphone.

Your home Wi-Fi router is the starting point for hackers to gain access to IP camera. If a criminal manages to gain access to your router, all devices treated to Wi-Fi instantly become vulnerable to hacking!

So, what are the ways unauthorized access to your IP camera?

Ways unauthorized access to IP-camera.

  1. Internet access to the router. All modern routers use Network Address Translation (NAT) by default to filter out unauthorized inbound traffic. This port is likely not to be accessed unless you have change router settings to include port forwarding.

    Important: I don't recommend changing the router settings yourself! If necessary, contact your system administrator, who will indicate the correct configurations specifically for your router model.

  2. Remote access to the router.  Similar to how you can configure access to the camera via the Internet, the administration page of the router can also be accessed on the Web. As a rule, remote access to the router is disabled. If you wish, you can view these settings on the administration page of the router in the sections on remote configuration or allowing access via WAN (global network).

    Again, if you have any questions regarding your router, contact your system administrator immediately!

  3. Local access to the router. This hacking method is complicated than the above because the hacker must be within the physical range of your Wi-Fi network and have a strong password.

    As you have noticed, the security of your IP camera is directly related to the security of your home wireless network.

    However, it is not only incorrect router settings or a weak password that can attract hackers. Sometimes nothing depends on you because the device itself may contain vulnerabilities in the system.

Problems of Hikvision cameras

Video surveillance systems are one of the main targets of hackers. The fact is that hacking a smart home camera is not as difficult as it seems. Moreover, by gaining access to the camera, the hacker will receive all data about your home, family members, and your lifestyle as a bonus.

Where the jewels lie when you leave the house, and at what time you go to bed − all this a hacker can use for his purposes if he gains access to the camera.

Video surveillance systems operate using Wi-Fi and (for the most part) have open IP addresses. If you hack a router, it will not be difficult to access the video surveillance system.

I set out to identify vulnerable video surveillance systems and found that Hikvision has been at the center of an information scandal for several years now. It is all the fault of the IP manufactured by the company − cameras containing critical vulnerabilities.

An experiment by scientists from the Lithuanian National Cybersecurity Center under the Ministry of National Defense attracted my attention

During the experiment, the scientists of the National Cybersecurity Center of Lithuania restored the firmware of the Hikvision cameras to check the software versions for vulnerabilities.

A comparative analysis of the products was performed during the study. The camera Hikvision DS-2CD4C26FWD-AP was compared to a randomly selected newer-edition camera, the Hikvision DS-2CD2183G0-IU.

The study revealed that the examined cameras had a common problem, i.e., the software used in the equipment was old and had vulnerabilities.


Camera model
DS-2CD4C26FWD-AP
DS-2CD2183G0-IU
Camera version
P DS-2CD2183G0-IU 4 Product version V
V5.6.2 190701
Number of CVE vulnerabilities
63
Format as a red font: 95
Number of open ports
5
7
Supportability
Supported
Supported
Authentication algorithm
HTTP-Digest
HTTP-Digest
Automatic update feature
Present, but not functioning
Present, but not functioning

As a result of the experiment, scientists identified about 100 vulnerabilities in software packages used in the Hikvision DS-2CD2183GO-IU firmware (v5.6.2, collection 1907001).

In addition, the updated firmware founds to have more vulnerabilities than older versions (95 versus 63) that NCSC previously tested.

The NCSC report draws attention to the potential ramifications of these vulnerabilities:

The discovered vulnerabilities could allow hackers to carry out cyber-attacks, remotely intercept camera information, and use malicious code. In addition, the camera founds to be susceptible to Denial of Service (DoS) attacks

Data from NCSC report about Hikvision cameras

I was impressed by the results of the experiment of Lithuanian scientists, so I decided to conduct my investigation to find out why Hikvision cameras have so many vulnerabilities.

Hikvision fails security check

I was very interested to know what factor influences the emergence of such a number of Hikvision cameras vulnerabilities, so I got the data from the Shodan search engine and began my investigation.

I found out that Hikvision CCTV systems are a product that is often misused or misconfigured, thereby making it an open target for hackers.

As I said earlier, the main problem with IP cameras is that they work with a Wi-Fi network; out that to hack a camera, an attacker needs to gain access to a router. If you have an open home Wi-Fi network or come up with a weak password, expect trouble. An attacker does not even have to waste time cracking a password from a router ─will only have to gain access to the camera using information about the server.

It's where we come to the main problem of Hikvision cameras.

By analyzing the data of the Hikvision devices, I was able to identify unprotected devices by the server header or screen overlay that describes a specific brand and model of the device.

Let's take a closer look at what a server header is and how you can use it to identify a vulnerable device.

So, the server header is data about the type of devices provide by RTST. In turn, RTST (Real-Time Streaming Protocol) is a command that cameras need to control their streaming media.

Pay attention to this screenshot.

Shodan.io data about Hikvision cameras server header

The server header contains all the detailed information about the camera configurations. Having data on the server, model, and device firmware, it will not be difficult to access the Hikvision camera.

RTST cameras are dangerous by default because managing streaming multimedia implies uninterrupted access to Wi-Fi. Moreover, many Hikvision cameras don't ask for a password when they reconnect to the video stream.

I managed to find out that more than 200 vulnerabilities record in all existing Hikvision cameras.

I was interested in the fact that most of the discovered vulnerabilities date from 2013 and earlier.

Please note − the year 2009-2012 detect in the CVE identifier.

Statistics of Hikvision cameras vulns

Image source – shodan.io

It turns out the company has not managed to eradicate these vulnerabilities? Quite right, and the point is that Hikvision, as it turned out, is still using old firmware packages, including Open SSL and BusyBox (packages with the most serious vulnerabilities).

I was able to identify all firmware packages Open SSL & BusyBox vulns – altogether more than 50, but here I will show most interesting to attackers:


Open SSL
Vulns threat score (out of 10)
BusyBox
Vulns threat score (out of 10)
CVE-2016-2842
10.0
CVE-2011-2716
6.8
CVE-2016-6304
7.8
CVE-2016-6301
7.8
CVE-2016-2182
7.5
CVE-2013-1813
7.2
CVE-2016-2177
7.5
 
CVE-2016-0799
10.0
CVE-2016-0798
7.8
CVE-2016-0705
10.0
CVE-2015-1791
6.8
CVE-2015-0209
6.8

My research has shown that the problem lies with the configurations and security system of the Hikvision cameras. The use of RTST technology and the lack of version package updates make Hikvision cameras unsafe for use.

EU and the US boycott Hikvision

During my research, I also found out that the security problem of Hikvision cameras has serious that many countries have abandoned the use of Hikvision devices.

For example, Europe and the United States refuse to use Hikvision cameras due to human rights violations.

Hikvision is a supplier of equipment to Chinese re-education camps where Uyghur’s held. The European Parliament installed Hikvision cameras to measure temperatures in 2020, but due to the camp situation in April 2021, 89.4% of MEPs voted to dismantle the equipment.

About this, the politics and public persons said on Twitter:

Charlie Weimers on Hikvision Sanctions

Image source – twitter.com

Lara Wolters on Hikvision Sanctions

Image source – twitter.com

Even before this vote, the media reported that thousands of employees of EU organizations refused to use this equipment.

In 2020, the Ethics Council of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, which invests profits from oil and gas production in various companies, recommended that Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co., Ltd be excluded from investment applicants because the company is involved in serious violations of rights person.

The company is also under US sanctions: since 2019, US government agencies have been prohibited from purchasing and installing Hikvision equipment. It also means that American businesses cannot use Hikvision products.

For example, the ONVIF organization, which develops standardized communication protocols for IP cameras, refused to certify the brand and removed them from their work.

Checking Smart Devices for vulnerability

This method is to check the UID code. The UID is a number like "FFFF-123456-ABCDE" printed on a sticker that you can find on your device. If the FFFF value matches one of the codes in the table below, then your device is vulnerable or contains malware.


ZZZZ
AVA
AJT
BSIP
CAM
XDBL
DFT
CTW
DFZ
DYNE
WBTHD
ESN
ELSA
ESS
EST
UID
GGGG
HCMN
GKW
HDT
SID
HVC
HRXJ
HWAA
HZD
PNP
HZDC
HZDB
HZDN
HZDX
PCS
IIII
HZDZ
IPC
ISRP
OBJ
MCI
KSC
MCIHD
MDI
MUIHD
MEYE
MEG
MGA
MGW
MSI
MMMM
MICHD
MSE
MSEHD
MIC
MTE
MSIHD
MTEHD
MUI
MDIHD
NIPHD
NIP
NPC
NTP
JWEV
OPMS
OPCS
PAR
PARC
HZDY
PIO
PHP
PIPCAM
PIX
HZDA
PTP
PSD
HQSV
ROSS
HHHH
SXH
SIP
TIO
TSD
FFFF
VSTD
VIO
VSTF
WBT
EEEE
WMSC
WNS
WXH
WXO
CPTCAM
ZES
HTST
ZLD
ZSKJ

Smart Home Devices Security: Tips to Protect Against Hackers

If you think you are being spied on, do not rush to call the priest. Most likely, you have been the victim of a hacker attack. Don't panic! I know several ways to keep your privacy and security safe. These tips are universal and will work for any smart device: from a vacuum cleaner to a home video surveillance system.

  • Protect your Wi-Fi router

It's an important security measure no matter what smart device you use. The first thing to do is update the router's firmware. Then you need to disable remote access to the router (if you changed the default settings) and come up with a strong password for the Wi-Fi network.

  • Use VPN services

Using VPN services for routers is necessary to ensure the security of your home network and smart home devices.

  • Create a strong smart device password

Your security plan should include changing the factory default credentials and creating a strong password. Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols when creating your password.

  • Update the firmware for the smart home device

Don't be lazy to update the device's firmware. This simple step will significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized intrusion into your family.

  • Register your device

Registering smart home devices will keep you up to date with all news and security updates. By the way, this will help you to be the first to know about possible program vulnerabilities and system failures.

 If vulnerabilities are discovered after the release of the device, the manufacturer can withdraw the product or provide software updates to fix the problem. Very convenient, you must agree.

  • Disable remote access to your device

Enabling remote access removes all security barriers and makes your home a target for hackers and criminals.

Therefore, if you want to ensure maximum security, it is better to turn off remote access.

However, if you can't refuse remote broadcasting, I recommend changing the default camera access port.

The value of the port is usually 80, but you can improve security by setting the value port higher than the default. Moreover, you should regularly check the device’s logs for suspicious activity (for example, an open session from foreign IP addresses).

Infographic

The infographic contains facts about smart home devices vulnerabilities, experimental results, and tips for ensuring the security of smart devices.

Infographic show how critical is the problem of vulnerability of smart devices

Feel free to share the code of infographics

<iframe width="574" height="2597" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="overflow-y:hidden;" src="/sites/default/files/pictures/research/smart-camera/smart-camera-8.jpg"></iframe>

Conclusion

Along with the development of technologies, the statistics of hacking of smart devices are also growing. However, not all smart devices can become targets for hacker attacks. Hacking a washing machine or a toothbrush isn't interesting as hacking cameras because the camera can tell hackers all your secrets!

Today we figured out how IP cameras work and why you urgently need to get rid of Hikvision cameras. Now you have become more knowledgeable and know how to protect smart home devices from hacking and leave no one chance for hackers!

Dear readers, do you think it is possible to solve the problem of vulnerabilities in smart devices? I look forward to your comments!

If you liked my article ─ write about it, and next time we together with you will analyze new shocking facts and news from the world of cybersecurity.

Be careful on the Internet!

Author
Darina Shramko
Cybersecurity specialist and researcher.

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