Feeds

Forgotten war dialling risk leaves networks in peril

Modem madness

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

War Dialling, the scanning of telephone lines to find insecure modems that provide a back door route into corporate networks, is ignored as a risk by many organisations, security testing outfit NTA Monitor warns. The company is calling on organisations to revise their procedures to guard against the long established, but still serious, security risk.

A survey conducted by NTA Monitor between August and September to ascertain awareness among IT and security managers about War Dialling discovered 22 per cent of those questioned having no knowledge of the issue.

Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents to the survey reported that there were unauthorised modems attached to systems at their sites. One respondent believed there might be as many as 20 modems over which he had no control running over a particular company's network.

According to NTA Monitor, modems are found at the end on average at 0.75 per cent of a corporate organisation's telephone number range. For example, a mid-sized company with a range of 10,000 numbers will typically contain 75 modems.

"This should cause major concern, as it only takes one insecure modem to permit a hacker to gain access to an organisation's systems," said Roy Hills, NTA Monitor’s technical director. "Imagine the situation for a company with 5,000 extensions over 20 sites - how can they ever be sure that no rogue modems are attached to any of those lines, without testing them?"

Crackers exploiting War Dialling use an automated PC and modem application to scour a company's switchboard range for insecure modem connections.

"War Dialling originally emerged as an issue in the early 80s when organisations relied on modems to exchange data between systems. We believe it has largely been forgotten about when in reality it is a technique that hackers are revisiting as a reaction to increased security in corporate networks," Hills added.

A third (34 per cent) of organisations questioned said they had found unauthorised modems in the past. Despite this 68 per cent of organisations report that they had no controls in place to detect modem scanning attempts on their systems. This means they have no way of knowing if they've been the target of an attack or if they have any insecure modems attached to systems at their site, NTA Monitor argues.

NTA Monitor recommends that organisations use a PBX firewall, PBX log or other such control in place to keep track of any attempts to hack into your system using a War Dialling technique. It also advises management to raise awareness of War Dialling amongst staff as a security issue by educating staff of the risks of attaching modems to the network and by tying modem security policies into staff contracts.

NTA Monitor's report is here. ®

Related Stories

UK plc neglects basic VPN security
Crackers favour war dialling and weak passwords
Study: Wi-Fi users still don't encrypt

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
Why did it take antivirus giants YEARS to drill into super-scary Regin? Symantec responds...
FYI this isn't just going to target Windows, Linux and OS X fans
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
prev story

Whitepapers

Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.