Securing Your Surveillance Camera Firmware & Application
Most IT professionals are aware of how much effort goes into securing firmware for any tech system. It isn’t that firmware is necessarily that much more vulnerable than hardware or other aspects of a network system. But flaws do exist, and malicious actors are always looking for — and finding — new vulnerabilities to gain access.
Beyond the actual security camera firmware, there are also a host of threats — malware, spyware, ransomware, and more — that can infect your system and must constantly be safeguarded against. And in our mobile world, mobile and desktop apps present another source of risk. Just like firmware, they contain flaws and represent an increasingly common pathway for hackers to exploit.
You can protect your surveillance camera system, however, by following a number of information security best practices. Three fundamental methods to keep bad actors out are authentication, user authorizations, and access controls. Altogether these protocols, supported by timely firmware and app updates, audit logs, penetration testing, and other advanced protection methods, can help keep your firmware and your whole video security system safe.
Jump to each section to learn more:
Application Security Best Practices
• SSO and 2FA/MFA
• User Authorization
• Role-Based Access Control
• Audit Logs
• Automatic Firmware Updates
• Penetration Testing
Firmware & Application Security FAQs
Application Security Best Practices
Single Sign-On and 2-Factor Authentication / Multi-Factor Authentication
One of the largest vulnerabilities in any system is unauthorized access. The easier it is to get in, the easier it is for malicious actors to do harm. This is why authentication protocols that verify user identity are so important and why they continue to become more sophisticated all the time.
Single Sign-On (SSO) helps secure access to firmware and apps by facilitating logins through an SAML/OAuth provider, including Okta, Onelogin, Google Business Apps and Azure Active Directory. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) can similarly provide high-level security in partnership with providers such as Duo, Lastpass, RSA, Google Authenticator. Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is a subset of MFA in which only two “factors”, or pieces of evidence, are required to validate a user.
When it comes to firmware and app logins, user sessions should also have built-in time-outs and lockouts after a certain period of inactivity. On top of establishing strong user verification processes, this will help prevent unauthorized users from accessing your surveillance firmware and exploiting any vulnerabilities that may exist.
While Authentication verifies your identity through MFA or SSO, User Authorization verifies a user’s permissions (meaning what they are permitted to do within the system). Generally, authorization verifies these particular access rights, including access to surveillance firmware, through a protocol using security tokens or OAUTH Authorization.
Role-Based Access Control
The final puzzle piece in preventing unauthorized access to potentially vulnerable firmware is to establish systemwide controls based upon user roles. If Authentication verifies identity and Authorization verifies an individual user’s permissions, Role-Based Access Controls (RBAC) is what will allow you to set these permissions at scale for all of your users.
This way, not everyone has full run of the house and you can control access levels based upon needs across different categories. A certain segment of users, for example, may only ever need to be able to monitor footage and they shouldn’t have access to any sensitive data or the ability to make changes to IP camera firmware. But the IT team overseeing the camera system, along with other higher-level system users, will need higher-level privileges.
This becomes easy to manage with Role-Based Access Control. And implementing RBAC is best achieved when your system settings are as flexible and customizable as possible. That way, you won’t have to assign anyone greater access to your IP camera firmware or an IP camera app than they need.
Along with restricting user access and authenticating logins, you need oversight and visibility. Audit Logs are crucial to this objective by providing a comprehensive view and historical record of who has accessed your system and used any of your security system firmware or apps. This not only shows you the who’s and when’s, but it will reveal any changes that were made — a helpful feature when looking for how an exploit was introduced. This audit trail is also mandatory in certain industries for compliance. The easier it is to generate reports, the easier it will be to not only track user access patterns but also stay current with red-tape requirements and supply any necessary paperwork to the relevant regulatory bodies in your field.
Automatic Firmware Updates
Firmware is not static. It is designed to be improved and upgraded over time — and this is something we have all learned with our own personal desktop and mobile devices. The same goes for the firmware used to manage video security cameras systems, which roll out regular updates to add features and patch newly discovered security vulnerabilities.
While the updates themselves will come from the provider, ensuring they actually get completed is ultimately the responsibility of the end user. But because this is so crucial to security, modern device makers should at the very least notify you immediately whenever an update or patch is required. Better still, in an ideal world, the cameras will be able to automatically install the updates whenever necessary, and this is best done during off hours. This way, bandwidth use and disruption is minimized and you won’t miss out on vital security updates and new features.
Regular Penetration Testing
Perfect firmware and app security management are nearly impossible. Over time, new video surveillance firmware for your camera will be introduced, new apps will be rolled out, and new updates will be made. This means that new vulnerabilities will be introduced — and old ones will also be found. So, rather than expecting anything to remain bulletproof forever, the best strategy is to rigorously and continually search out and fix exploits.
This is best done through penetration testing, a proven method of proactively detecting vulnerabilities by employing the exact tactics used by malicious attackers. While some large enterprises have in-house experts to conduct penetration tests and mitigate these potential threats, there is a wide range of qualified third parties whose entire business is based upon staying up to date on the latest exploits and correcting vulnerabilities.
Surveillance System Firmware & Application Security FAQs
How do you protect your security camera firmware from hackers?
Protecting firmware from hackers requires a comprehensive security strategy across the entire system and network. When safeguarding your firmware, there are at least three things you must incorporate: strong access control through authentication and authorization, timely firmware updates, and ongoing penetration testing.
How can I see my security camera on my phone?
Most modern security camera providers now offer remote access. In many cases, you will be able to monitor footage — and even employ other remote control features — through an IP camera app on your mobile phone or tablet device.
What are the three types of access control?
Access control is critical to preventing malicious actors from entering your systems and manipulating firmware or otherwise infecting your network. At a minimum, companies should make sure they use a combination of three strategies to restrict access: user authentication, user authorization, and role-based access control (RBAC).
What is the benefit of role-based access control/security?
Role-based access control (RBAC) helps ensure that authorized users of your system and firmware don’t have greater access than necessary. By controlling these privileges, you ensure that fewer people can access the most sensitive areas of the network and the system, reducing the risk that harm can be done.
How long should audit logs be kept?
Audit logs should be retained as long as necessary. In general, storage capacity shouldn’t be an issue so there are few practical limitations to how long they can be kept. Companies in certain regulated industries (like healthcare and financial services), or those with a specific chain of custody protocols, should follow any compliance requirements and formulate a responsible retention strategy with their IT department.
What should audit logs contain?
Audit logs should be as thorough as necessary and fully meet any compliance requirements in your industry. But, at a minimum, they will include data related to user logins, user management, camera movement, organization creation, site creation, and group creation.
Is SSO the same as Two-Factor Authentication?
Like Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), Single Sign-On (SSO) is an authentication strategy that enables more secure access to security camera firmware and networks. But they are not the same. Among the differences, SSO relies on SAML/OAuth providers to grant authentication, including Okta, Onelogin, Google Business Apps and Azure Active Directory.
Is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) secure? How effective is MFA?
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a secure way to authenticate user access to IP camera firmware or an IP camera app. It works by forcing any user to validate their identity and login attempt through a secondary method in addition to a simple password. The result is that it is much harder for any malicious actor to force their way into the system.