• Secure AV Means Secure IT

  • By: Jim McCutchan, Design/Build Systems Designer

    In a world of ever-changing IT systems, AV and other low voltage systems are depending more and more on the customer’s network for transferring information.  With AV, video surveillance and other systems offered by integrators becoming IP based, the customer’s network is now transferring more than just files and emails.  Security has always been an important element of IP based systems ranging from network segregation, secure passwords, and securing switch ports.  But how secure are other IP based systems?  The responsibility somewhat falls on the manufacturer but ultimately it is up to the installer and end user to securely install and maintain the system. 

    Each network-based system that is installed typically has a default IP address, username, and password which allows administrative rights to that device.  This makes installation easier, especially for an installer that is not very familiar with networked systems.  Not too many years ago this wasn’t as big of a deal and systems were usually completed with the defaults in place for various reasons.  With hackers always looking for new ways and new systems to exploit, this was an easy target.  Anyone, including myself at times, can google default usernames and passwords for a camera, network switch, or server that is part of a network-based system.  Once this information is obtained it is just a matter of being able to access this device and the attacker has full control of that device.  It seems to be a little-known fact, but the majority of network threats actually come from internal attacks.  This cancels the theory that “as long as I have a firewall and security appliances in place, we are safe”.  Once a hacker has access to the device, it can be exploited in a multitude of ways (from code injection, planting viruses, or taking complete control of the device and using it as part of a botnet).  Examples of this would be the Creston DGE-100 console code injection issue (Creston Console code injection) and Hikvision’s backdoor issue on their cameras and NVRs (Hikvision Backdoor Issue).  Both items have been fixed, but not without some exploitation happening first.

     What does an integrator and customer need to do to protect the customer’s equipment?  Layers are the key to any good security structure whether physical or network.  The first simple steps are to coordinate with the customer for a proper IP address range for the devices to be installed and to look at creating a separate subnet or VLAN for AV, security systems, and other systems.  Other steps would be to change all default username and passwords.  Many newer devices such as Axis cameras are requiring new, strong passwords before any settings can be accessed on the camera and many other manufacturers are doing the same.  Proper maintenance after the equipment install is key.  Updating firmware, software, and installing manufacturer patches are all very important pieces of ongoing equipment maintenance. Many attacks are successful on equipment that has been installed for a few years and has not been properly maintained. Most manufacturers send out regular notifications of updates and fixes similar to Microsoft. 

    Many of these items can be coordinated through the customer’s IT department.  If not, you can recruit your provider to work with you to achieve these items.  It takes all involved to implement a secure system and keep it safe from attacks.  For more information, contact us today!