Network security

How to think about network security after COVID

Among the many cultural buzzwords coined during the COVID-19 pandemic, the term “Zoom bombing” is perhaps the most memorable.

In early 2020, celebrities like Kristen Bell and Conan O’Brien popularized the practice of surprising online video conference attendees by joining their meetings out of the blue. As charming as it may be, not all Zoom bombardments are harmless. Bad actors use these virtual heists to secretly spy on businesses and organizations. They may also share inappropriate images and videos intended to disrupt proceedings.

Like other computer and network hackers, Zoom Bombers rely on human fallibility and poor judgment to gain access. The most common entry is directly through the front door, either because the host neglected to use security protocols such as requiring a password, or because they did not. failed to queue participants so that they can be verified before they are allowed to join the meeting. Sophisticated hackers can mimic actual guest profiles, making it more difficult for the host to exclude them from the call.

Steve greenblatt

Steve greenblatt (Image credit: Avenir)

“The best way is to have at least one authorization step, but two steps can ensure that there is no violation or unauthorized person at the meeting,” said Steve Greenblatt, CTS, president and founder of Control Concepts. “A lot of these steps take time and effort, make conferencing less convenient, or do more work for people, but they will result in a safer outcome and allow hosts to avoid these types of embarrassment, as well as potential security vulnerabilities. “

Zoom bombing is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of new network security threats. When employees return to office environments after a year or more of working from home, they may bring with them devices that have not been verified by IT staff. Tim Albright, director of marketing at Conference Technologies Inc. (CTI) and CEO of AVNation, said the risk of third-party devices compromising an organization’s network is the biggest security issue integrators face in by the end of 2021 and 2022.

[ Staying Secure in the New Hybrid Work World ]

“Until a year and a half ago, IT was also the provisioning department for everything on the network,” Albright said. “Now, a year and a half later, people have their own equipment to do their homework. [situations] job. This stuff will start to find its way to the office and onto the office network.

Tim albright

(Image credit: Avenir)

Organizations have ways to locate untrusted devices, such as by deploying tools that constantly scan the network for known and unknown MAC addresses and can alert IT or the AV integrator when a device is not. authorized is connected. But these measures are purely reactive. Greenblatt claims that proactive maintenance can prevent security threats from entering the network in the first place.

[ The Integration Guide to Secure AV ]

“Vulnerabilities arise all the time and computers today are receiving security updates and patches to deal with new threats,” he said. “It’s very possible that this is part of a maintenance contract. In my company, for example, we have someone who checks our website every month to make sure that we don’t have any vulnerabilities, that we update our software to make sure that someone can’t not enter and hack our website. If we apply this idea to an AV system, you look at the devices or the setup [and determine if] they need to be better secured. What was in place when the system was restarted may not be as effective today due to new vulnerabilities or new issues that have since been identified.

In addition to regular audits and multi-factor authentication, integrators can configure a VLAN, or VLAN, to help protect against security threats. VLANs allow a server to be partitioned so that different classes of connected devices can be grouped together. “The challenge with this, however, is that there are still ports that need to be opened” to allow some local devices to access the Internet, Greenblatt said. “There are also AV over IP devices that need to be able to traverse the network to be effective. So even though the VLAN can be very strong, it will still be necessary to open access outside of it. “

Simple practices that many people ignore, such as changing default usernames and passwords for devices, can also help prevent network hacks. It’s relatively easy for a hacker to match default credentials to Wi-Fi routers and other connected devices, and AV systems are particularly susceptible to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks in which large numbers of devices. on many networks are handled simultaneously.

These “zombie attacks” can be large-scale and expensive to repair. A well-known example in 2016 took down Netflix and many other networks along the east coast. In the mix of devices exploited in the attack, Albright noticed something disturbing for the AV industry: botched web cameras and speakers compromised by the network. “When I saw that, it’s like, yeah, the AV industry definitely has a problem with it,” he said. “We have a problem because our devices are on the network more frequently, which means we have to make sure we do the simple things like change the login and password. You have people who can take control of it because they are accessible to the public, on the network, on the Internet. “

On the horizon, the growing number of smart devices connected to the Internet is creating greater network vulnerability. “You’re talking about another entry point that could be a vulnerability, and if it happens that a [Amazon] Echo or another type of voice interface listens, then [hackers] can know what you’re talking about and be able to follow what’s going on, ”Greenblatt added. “As we try to make systems smart, we need to make sure they have access to information that gives them more power than we know. “

As networks become more complex and devices more sophisticated, vigilance on the fundamentals of network security will be more important than ever.

“The rule of thumb that I think everyone is following is that you are only as strong as your weakest link,” Greenblatt concluded. “We are doing a good job by having technicians [pull wiring], and we have experts who know how to set up the products and make sure a picture looks good and the room sounds good, but we should also have an IT or cybersecurity specialist who can give confidence to our customers because they know they have brought in someone who will protect them.

Click here to read more articles from the August 2021 issue of SCN.

Focus on network security

Improve the security of audiovisual devices on converged IP networks • How can system designers and integrators work more effectively with technical managers to improve security for AV devices on converged IP networks?

Ensure the security of sensitive information on the network As more and more networked devices join the AV space, many network administrators from all industries are expressing concerns about network efficiency.

Staying Safe in the New World of Hybrid WorkAs AV / IT managers adapt to the new hybrid workforce model, more personalized approaches to technology are needed, paving the way for potential new vulnerabilities in network security.

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