Lone packet cripples telco networks

Powered by SC Magazine
 

Telecommunications networks an unsecured "sandwich" of technology.

Telecommunications infrastructure is riddled with security holes so severe that a handful of malformed packets could take down GSM communications systems, according to veteran pen tester and founder of Qualys, Philippe Langlois.

He said the security flaws persisted due to inaction by telco equipment manufacturers, the complexity of networks, and a lack of security oversight.

In January 2010, Langlois, now director of P1 Security, discovered that a single malformed packet could disable one of the Home Location Register server clusters which store GSM subscriber details as part of the global SS7 network.

This packet could be sent from within any network or even femtocells, he said.

"We were able to remotely crash HLR frontend for two minutes each by sending one malformed packet," Langlois told SC.

"That means with 20 packets a minute, you would crash the world's HLR. This means there is no communication possible for that operator in a country."

He said 83 per cent of telco operators do not apply traffic filtering over the SS7 network.

In further research to be released within weeks, Langlois will detail how similar attacks could cripple GRPS systems. The world-wide SS7 report was a product of Langlois' 15 years of telecommunications research.

Tech sandwiches

The SS7 attacks were but one example of how large holes in telecommunications infrastructure could be exploited.

Telcos the world over were running networks tantamount to "technology sandwiches" where layers of legacy kit had created such high complexity that operators were unaware of glaring holes which Langlois regularly revealed in penetration tests.

Other operators were less fortunate, and had such flaws exploited by malicious actors.

Recently in Eastern Europe, a telco had routed half of its telecommunications traffic through its rival's network, forcing the company to fund a significant bandwidth burden. It had not yet settled the case.

Such attacks were most common within Eastern Europe but the region was also home to the most security-savvy telcos who had the best understanding of their network exposures,  according to Langlois.

He said most  vulnerabilities existed because equipment providers suppressed knowledge of them to avoid what could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from network outages.

"It is troubling to see very talented, expert people [at telcos] who are shielded from the reality of their network by the vendor who has no interest in educating them about the telecom security and exposure of their own networks."

"It feels like the 1980s in terms of security."

Langlois said he often accessed telco networks using services that administrators were unaware were active.  

"We accessed [an operator's] systems through their x25 network which they never knew was running because the network vendor never disclosed it -- it was just underlying technology."

"All of these change management, configuration management and monitoring systems are specific to one kind of equipment, and you need to access several of these to get a clear vision of what is on your systems."

Langlois and MegaPay director Emmanuel Gadaix spoke at Hack In The Box Malyasia. His presentation slides are available (pdf).

Copyright © SC Magazine, Australia


Lone packet cripples telco networks
 
 
 
Top Stories
Frugality as a service: the Amazon story
Behind the scenes, Amazon Web Services is one lean machine.
 
Negotiating with the cloud email megavendors
[Blog post] Lessons from Woolworths’ mammoth migration.
 
Qld govt to move up to 149k staff onto Office 365
Australia's largest deployment, outside of the universities.
 
 
Sign up to receive iTnews email bulletins
   FOLLOW US...

Latest VideosSee all videos »

The great data centre opportunity on Australia's doorstep
The great data centre opportunity on Australia's doorstep
Scott Noteboom, CEO of LitBit speaking at The Australian Data Centre Strategy Summit 2014 in the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. http://bit.ly/1qpxVfV Scott Noteboom is a data centre engineer who led builds for Apple and Yahoo in the earliest days of the cloud, and who now eyes Asia as the next big opportunity. Read more: http://www.itnews.com.au/News/372482,how-do-we-serve-three-billion-new-internet-users.aspx#ixzz2yNLmMG5C
Interview: Karl Maftoum, CIO, ACMA
Interview: Karl Maftoum, CIO, ACMA
To COTS or not to COTS? iTnews asks Karl Maftoum, CIO of the ACMA, at the CIO Strategy Summit.
Susan Sly: What is the Role of the CIO?
Susan Sly: What is the Role of the CIO?
AEMO chief information officer Susan Sly calls for more collaboration among Australia's technology leaders at the CIO Strategy Summit.
Meet the 2014 Finance CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Finance CIO of the Year
Credit Union Australia's David Gee awarded Finance CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards.
Meet the 2014 Retail CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Retail CIO of the Year
Damon Rees named Retail CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at Woolworths.
Robyn Elliott named the 2014 Utilities CIO of the Year
Robyn Elliott named the 2014 Utilities CIO of the Year
Acting Foxtel CIO David Marks accepts an iTnews Benchmark Award on behalf of Robyn Elliott.
Meet the 2014 Industrial CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Industrial CIO of the Year
Sanjay Mehta named Industrial CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at ConocoPhillips.
Meet the 2014 Healthcare CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Healthcare CIO of the Year
Greg Wells named Healthcare CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at NSW Health.
Meet the 2014 Education CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Education CIO of the Year
William Confalonieri named Healthcare CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at Deakin University.
Meet the 2014 Government CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Government CIO of the Year
David Johnson named Government CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at the Queensland Police Service.
Q and A: Coalition Broadband Policy
Q and A: Coalition Broadband Policy
Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott discuss the Coalition's broadband policy with the press.
AFP scalps hacker 'leader' inside Australia's IT ranks.
AFP scalps hacker 'leader' inside Australia's IT ranks.
The Australian Federal Police have arrested a Sydney-based IT security professional for hacking a government website.
NBN Petition Delivered To Turnbull's Office
NBN Petition Delivered To Turnbull's Office
UTS CIO: IT teams of the future
UTS CIO: IT teams of the future
UTS CIO Chrissy Burns talks data.
New UTS Building: the IT within
New UTS Building: the IT within
The IT behind tomorrow's universities.
iTnews' NBN Panel
iTnews' NBN Panel
Is your enterprise NBN-ready?
Introducing iTnews Labs
Introducing iTnews Labs
See a timelapse of the iTnews labs being unboxed, set up and switched on! iTnews will produce independent testing of the latest enterprise software to hit the market after installing a purpose-built test lab in Sydney. Watch the installation of two DL380p servers, two HP StoreVirtual 4330 storage arrays and two HP ProCurve 2920 switches.
The True Cost of BYOD
The True Cost of BYOD
iTnews' Brett Winterford gives attendees of the first 'Touch Tomorrow' event in Brisbane a brief look at his research into enterprise mobility. What are the use cases and how can they be quantified? What price should you expect to pay for securing mobile access to corporate applications? What's coming around the corner?
Ghost clouds
Ghost clouds
ACMA chair Chris Chapman says there is uncertainty over whether certain classes of cloud service providers are caught by regulations.
Was the Snowden leak inevitable?
Was the Snowden leak inevitable?
Privacy experts David Vaile (UNSW Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre) and Craig Scroggie (CEO, NextDC) claim they were not surprised by the Snowden leaks about the NSA's PRISM program.
Latest Comments
Polls
Which bank is most likely to suffer an RBS-style meltdown?





   |   View results
ANZ
  21%
 
Bankwest
  9%
 
CommBank
  11%
 
National Australia Bank
  17%
 
Suncorp
  24%
 
Westpac
  19%
TOTAL VOTES: 1502

Vote