Crooks are hacking CCTV Cameras to launch severe DDoS attacks

Pierluigi Paganini October 23, 2015

Imperva has discovered that attackers hijack CCTV cameras to launch powerful DDoS attacks exploiting weak credentials and poor configurations of IoT devices.

Internet of Things devices are becoming privilege targets of threat actors that daily abuse of their resources to run cyber attacks or to organize frauds or to spy on unaware users. Unfortunately, most IoT devices lack security by design or are not properly configured, opening users to cyber attacks. Smart TVssmart meters and Refrigerator are potentially exploitable to target users everywhere.

Now in the headlines are the CCTV cameras because they could be abused to launch Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks.

CCTV cameras used for surveillance purpose could be recruited in powerful botnet that can be used to run DDoS attacks also against larger websites.

Security experts at Imperva’s Incapsula raised a first warn about closed-circuit television (CCTV) botnet attacks in March 2014, explaining that crooks could exploit the lack of security by design and incorrect configurations. For example, it is quite easy to find online specific models of CCTV cameras working with factory settings, including well-known passwords.

One year later Imperva published a new post on the topic revealing that CCTV cameras have been abused to run a major DDoS attack that peaked at 20,000 requests per second. The experts explained that threat actors behind the attack relied on nearly 900 CCTV cameras running embedded versions of Linux and the BusyBox toolkit.

“Not surprising, given that CCTV cameras are among the most common IoT devices. Reports show that in 2014, there were 245 million surveillance cameras operating around the world” states a blog post from the company. ”

“Still, old foes have the capacity to surprise, as we were recently reminded, when one of our clients was targeted by repeated HTTP flood attacks. The attack was run of the mill, peaking at 20,000 requests per second (RPS). The surprise came later when, upon combing through the list of attacking IPs, we discovered that some of the botnet devices were located right in our own back yard.”

The experts that analyzed the compromised CCTV cameras confirmed that most of them were accessed via their default login credentials. Some of the IPs involved in the attack belong to compromised cameras located in a shopping center just five minutes from the Imperva’s office.

The expert noticed that compromised CCTV cameras monitored were logged from multiple locations in almost every case, this circumstance lead the researcher to think that the devices were abused by different groups of hackers worldwide.

The researchers discovered that attackers compromised the CCTV cameras with a strain of the Bashlite malware (aka Lightaidra or GayFgt) which is specifically designed to target ARM-based IoT devices.

BASHLITE is able to scan the network for devices/machines running on BusyBox, and logs in using a set of usernames and passwords. In November a new variant of the ELF_BASHLITE.A was discovered infecting devices running BusyBox, a software that provides several Unix tools in a single executable file. BusyBox is specific embedded operating systems. Many routers and other network appliances run the software to advantage maintenance activities.

As reported by the experts at TrendMicro, Bashlite ( ELF_BASHLITE.A (ELF_FLOODER.W)) includes the payload of the ShellShock exploit code and it had been used by threat actors to run distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

In the specific case the attack was conducted by launching a large number of HTTP GET request from around 900 CCTV cameras across the world, top targeted countries for CCTV botnets around the world include India, China, Iran, Indonesia, US, and Thailand.

cctv cameras ddos-map


“Their target was a rarely-used asset of a large cloud service, catering to millions of users worldwide.” states the post keeping anonymous the name of the targeted firm.

The investigation conducted by Imperva raises awareness about the importance of security by design for all the Internet of Things devices.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – CCTV cameras, cybercrime)

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