Application Integration Security Checklist (VoIP Software)

A brain dump of security related todo items when deploying an application such as a VoIP server software.



During our security audits we encounter plenty of application setups. With few rare exceptions most installations are just plain and simple standard installations as in apt-get install App with little modifications from a security perspective.

As a case study for the little known VoIP server software Yate I have compiled a list of suitable steps to harden the application's setup. Although this list is specific to VoIP software, it can be applied to any application with a bit of abstract thinking.

Security Checklist

  • Principle of minimal privilege: Try to restrict your setup as much as possible to do exactly what you intended it to do, not more. This principle implicitly applies to all of the following points.

  • Operating System:

    • Use virtual environments, such as Xen, VirtualBox, OpenVZ, ...
    • Use a chroot environment.
    • Run Yate with a dedicated system user and group.
    • Set ulimits to prevent resource exhaustion.
    • Use application security systems, e.g. AppArmor.
    • Don't run any other server software on the system.
    • Don't let many users access the system.
    • Log admin access.
  • Filesystem: Restrict access to files:

    • Yate files, scripts and modules should be owned by a different system user than the user that runs Yate. E.g.

      chown -R root:yate /usr/local/etc/yate /usr/local/share/yate

    • Files should be set read-only for the user that runs Yate. E.g.

      chmod -R go-w /usr/local/etc/yate /usr/local/share/yate

    • Files containing passwords or other sensitive information should be set unreadable for others:

      cd /usr/local/etc/yate chmod 640 accfile.conf regfile.conf mysqldb.conf

    • Consider using encrypted filesystems to protect sensitive data, e.g. voicemail messages or remote VoIP account credentials.

  • IP Network:

    • Set up a firewall to restrict access to SIP, rmanager, extmodule, ... and don't forget IPv6.
    • Set up flood protection, e.g. fail2ban.
    • Use a VPN to restrict access to access all or parts of Yate.
    • Configure management services like rmanager and extmodule to listen on localhost only.
    • Configure a dedicated VLAN for VoIP traffic.
    • Protect switch ports with IEEE 802.1x if possible.
    • Set switch ports to be disabled after link is down.
  • Database:

    • Write your SQL statements with caution: Only use appropriately escaped or whitelisted values in dynamic queries in order to prevent SQL injection attacks. (see also: SQL Injection). Keep in mind, that variables may contain user provided values, such as user agent, caller ID or custom SIP headers.
    • Restrict Yate database user to DELETE, INSERT, SELECT, USAGE, UPDATE. There is no reason for the database to be dropped or altered by a phone call.
    • Think about rejecting suspicious database queries by whitelisting or blacklisting queries before execution using the regexroute module.
  • SIP Security:

    • Only allow SIP methods actually needed, e.g. disable OPTIONS.
    • Don't enable subscribe/notify features to unauthenticated users.
    • Don't leak information about server software versions to the outside. Change the default SIP header Server: (or User-Agent: for SIP clients) to omit version numbers.
    • Filter traffic to other networks, e.g. with a Session Border Controller (SBC).
  • VoIP routing and dialplan considerations:

    • Avoid routing loops. Yate has an internal loop detection. But bouncing calls from one VoIP server to another and back several times will exhaust resources and provide attackers with a deny-of-service attack surface.
    • Restrict internal numbers to authenticated clients.
    • Categorise clients by source IP, if possible. E.g. internal clients may always have an internal IP.
    • Protect your dialout. Anonymous users or SIP scanners should not be able to generate charges on your telephone bill.
    • Never trust an incoming caller ID. Caller IDs can be faked, is PSTN as well as in VoIP. Also: Obscure caller IDs should be rejected or rewritten at an early routing stage, e.g. allow only digits 0-9, A-D and maybe allow the international + character in some cases.
    • Do not allow users to change their caller ID, e.g. set caller ID based on the authenticated username.
    • Explain your dialplan. Draw diagrams. Write tables. Fill Wikis. Anything. Please.
    • Test your configuration. In particular, regular expressions as used to create a dialplan with the regexroute module can be tricky.
  • Passwords:

    • Generate strong and random user passwords, e.g. with APG.
    • If possible, avoid passwords at all, but use certificates or hardware tokens instead.
    • Protect phone applications, e.g. voicemail, with passcodes longer than four digits. If possible, add additional checks for valid caller-IDs, user authentication credentials, IPs, time of day or other criteria.
    • Users must be able to change their passwords and PINs on their own. They should also be made aware of this feature.
  • Update Strategy:

    • Regularly check for new versions.
    • Know how to easily update Yate. Take notes on how to compile, deploy, install, upgrade Yate to make life easier for the future you or possibly for other administrators. Also: Store notes where they can be found, e.g. in a file ../YATE\_NOTES.txt or a documentation wiki (or even an offline notebook).
  • Transport Encryption: Consider setting up encryption if possible:

    • Enable SIP over TLS (SIPS).
    • Enable SRTP.
    • As a client, validate certificates in order to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks.
    • Consider enforcing encrypted calls - SIPS + SRTP - for some numbers, e.g. confidential conference rooms.
    • For performance reasons it may be better to use VPN solutions - e.g. IPSec or OpenVPN - for point-to-point links in some cases.
  • No Logging:

    • Log nothing unless absolutely required. For personal use, this may be unnecessary. For business use it may even be against privacy laws to store connection data.
    • Think about logging only statistics - e.g. usage counters - without associated names/numbers.
    • A cronjob should be in place to delete old data.
  • Monitoring: Set up monitoring software in order to know when something went wrong.

  • Security Checks: Implement as many security features as possible and check them on a regular basis.

  • Disaster Recovery: Keep your VoIP setup well documented and create automated backups on a regular basis. It should be well known what to do after discovering a security incident - for example:

    • Disconnect from the internet.
    • Restore VoIP setup to a defined state.
    • Find and fix vulnerability, e.g. upgrade software.
    • Change all passwords, PINs, SSH keys, ... and revoke certificates.
    • Inform users.