The Defense Department agency that runs global networks, including
classified command and control systems for the U.S. Department
has a gaping security hole in its front yard -- security
cameras at its
headquarters in Arlington, Va., are connected to a
nonsecure and unencrypted
Chris O'Ferrell, chief technology officer at NETSEC Inc. in Herndon,
which provides intrusion-detection services to numerous federal
commercial customers, detected the nonsecure wireless LAN
at the Defense
Information Systems Agency (DISA) last Friday.
While parked across the street from DISA's headquarters, O'Ferrell was
able to easily map the topology of the agency's network, including the
Service Set Identifier (SSID) numbers of access points and numerous IP
addresses. Using a standard 802.11b wireless LAN card attached to his
laptop computer and "sniffer" software, he was able to probe the
in less than half an hour.
O'Ferrell, who didn't attempt to enter the network, also determined
DISA hadn't even bothered to protect the system with the most
basic form of
802.11b security, the Wired Equivalent Protocol.
The lack of encryption and other protections could allow an intruder
join the security camera system by launching a denial-of-service
against a specific access point, allowing the intruder to
access point -- thereby allowing him to view what
security personnel see
with the closed-circuit TV camera.
The wireless LAN allows security personnel to remotely pan, tilt or
the cameras, according to Betsy Flood, a DISA spokeswoman.
That information could make it easier for intruders to conduct a
penetration of the compound, which houses the Defense
Network Operations Center, Computer Emergency
Response Team and Network
Security Operations Center.
O'Ferrell said he found it scary that the DISA had such a casual
to wireless networks operating at its headquarters.
Flood confirmed that the DSIA has operated a closed-circuit TV
camera system for about 45 days without encryption while it
tested. During that time, she said, anyone sniffing the
could indeed "see what we see on our video
monitors, i.e, the parking lot,
the front gate, the fence line, etc."
Flood, who said the agency plans to encrypt the network by the end of
today, also acknowledged that one of the cameras was broadcasting the
"AP-BLDG 12 SSID" -- an access point SSID for one of the buildings in
the compound, and that DISA is working with its vendors to change
settings to make the system more secure.
She said that the DISA's closed-circuit TV wireless LAN will be
with trademarked 64-bit Wired Equivalent Privacy, a
from RSA Security Inc. called RC4, as well as
a control table for Media
Access Control addresses, the unique
identifier for each computer on a
Flood emphasized that the wireless LAN security camera system was
separate from other DISA networks.
O'Ferrell said he found it disturbing that the SSID of the access
he detected had such an obvious name -- "AP Bldg 12", which
correlated with the building number painted on the DISA
Building 12. Such information could help an intruder
"launch a 10-second DNS
[denial of service attack] against the DISA
AP, knock it out, set up their
own [access point] with the SSID, and
DISA would never know."
O'Ferrell said it's both prudent and easy to turn off an SSID.
Joe Weiss, vice president of the network application division at
Aeronautical Radio Inc. (ARINC) in Annapolis, Md, which provides
wireless communications service to the airline industry, said it's a
good idea for DISA to encrypt traffic to and from CCTV cameras running
over an 802.11b wireless system. Otherwise, operating them in the open
would make it easy for non-DISA personnel to take control of the
Earlier this year, Weiss said, an 802.11b wireless camera installed by
one airline at the Dallas airport ended up being inadvertently
controlled by personnel at another airline.
Jim Lewis, a technology and public policy analyst at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that DISA's
security problems illustrates the problems that a proliferation of
wireless systems and devices poses for government and commercial
"This could happen to anyone, because people are deploying systems
thinking about security," he said.