RFID hack could crack open 2 billion smart cards
Analyst: One European government sent armed guards to protect facilities using the card
Computerworld - A student at the University of Virginia has discovered a way to break through the encryption code of RFID chips used in up to 2 billion smart cards used to open doors and board public transportation systems.
Karsten Nohl, a graduate student working with two researchers based in Germany, said the problem lies in what he calls weak encryption in the MiFare Classic, an RFID chip manufactured by NXP Semiconductors. Now that he's broken the encryption, Nohl said he would only need a laptop, a scanner and a few minutes to get the cryptographic key to an RFID door lock and create a duplicate card to open it at will.
And that, according to Ken van Wyk, principal consultant at KRvW Associates, is a big security problem for users of the technology.
"It turns out it's a pretty huge deal," said van Wyk. "There are a lot of these things floating around out there. Using it for building locks is the biggy, especially when it's used in sensitive government facilities — and I know for a fact it's being used in sensitive government facilities."
Van Wyk told Computerworld that one European country has deployed military soldiers to guard some government facilities that use the MiFare Classic chip in their smart door key cards. "Deploying guards to facilities like that is not done lightly," he added. "They recognize that they have a huge exposure. Deploying guards is expensive. They're not doing it because it's fun. They're safeguarding their systems." He declined to identify the European country.
Manuel Albers, a spokesman for NXP Semiconductors, said the company has confirmed some of Nohl's findings. However, he said there are no plans to take the popular chip off the market.
"The MiFare chip was first introduced in 1994. At the time, the security level was very high," he said in an interview. "The 48-bit key lengths for encryption was state of the art."
Albers added that the company has other, more secure chips in its product portfolio these days, but the MiFare Classic is a relatively inexpensive, entry-level chip. Anyone needing a highly secure smart card should make sure there's layered security and not just depend on the chip's encryption, he said.
"We have to start this discussion, really, at the level where we differentiate between the security level the chip provides and the additional security features an entire card provides. You're dealing with a layered security system, like strands to a rope," said Albers, noting that between 1 billion and 2 billion smart cards with this MiFare Classic-type chip have been sold. "As long as there's demand for this product [and] system integrators saying this product is good enough for their platforms, we will continue to offer it."
- Gartner Magic Quadrant for Mobile Application Development Platforms As unprecedented numbers of enterprises build mobile applications, the mobile application development platform market continues to grow and evolve rapidly.
- The Total Economic Impact of IBM's Worklight Platform Mobile is the fastest growing consumer technology in history. As enterprises build apps to engage these new users they are facing increased complexity...
- Improve Your Mobile Application Security with IBM Worklight IBM® Worklight helps organizations extend their business across multiple mobile devices. It provides an open, comprehensive and advanced mobile application platform to help...
- Unlock the Value of Enterprise Mobility Download this guide and learn how to manage the secure deployment of enterprise mobile apps and data, while still encouraging the levels of...
- It's Chaos Out There Worried about your mobile apps? You should be; it's chaos out there. Check out this humorous video and see if you can recognize...
- LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users? All Mobile Apps White Papers | Webcasts