VOIP, Video-Conferencing Apps Face Security Risk

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-01-13 Print this article Print

Certain vendor implementations of the H.323 protocol could open multimedia applications to denial-of-service attacks and buffer overflows, U.K. security researchers reported on Tuesday.

Multimedia applications such as voice over IP telephony and video conferencing could be vulnerable to security breaches because of flaws in the way a major telephony standard is being used. Some vendors implementations of the H.323 protocol, an International Telecommunications Union standard for communication among telephony and multimedia devices, are vulnerable to denial of service attacks and, to a lesser extent, the execution of code and system takeovers through buffer overflows, according to an advisory issued Tuesday by the United Kingdoms National Infrastructure Security Co-Ordination Centre (NISCC). Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. were the only vendors to issue patches and advisories as of Tuesday afternoon, even though products from several other vendors also could be at risk.
As part of a series of security bulletins it issued on Tuesday, Microsoft released one rated "critical" for its Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2000 software, pointing to a flaw in the H.323 filter that could allow an attacker, through a buffer overflow, to take over control of the system.
Microsoft issued a batch of security bulletins on Tuesday. To read more about the vulnerabilities, click here. Cisco, of San Jose, Calif., in a security advisory said that all products that run Ciscos IOS network system software and support H.323 packet processing are affected by a vulnerability that can cause denial of service attacks. Cisco supports H.323 in its IOS software with version 11.3T and later. Other vendors that identified potential vulnerabilities were Nortel Networks Inc., Radvision Corp. and Tandberg. Avaya Inc., Lucent Technologies, Fujistu Ltd. and Hewlett-Packard Co. told the NISCC that they are investigating whether their products are vulnerable to the security flaw. Among those reporting that their products are not vulnerable were Apple Computer Inc., CyberGuard Corp., eSoft Inc., Hitachi Ltd., the NetBSD Project, Objective Systems Inc., Red Hat Inc., Symantec Corp. and uniGone. In the United States, the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center also issued an advisory about the vulnerabilities in H.323 implementations. It noted that one possible workaround, along with vendor patches and upgrades, is to block ports 1720/tcp and 1720/udp on network parameters. According to CERT, more than 50 vendors had not yet reported whether their products were vulnerable.
Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for eWEEK.com, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for eWEEK.com. Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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