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."
- Use the Mobile App Mix to Choose an Enterprise App Store Strategy In this research report Gartner outlines how organizations can optimally secure, distribute, and manage mobile applications for employees and contracted workers.
- The Case for Mobile Apps Today's mobile apps turn handheld devices into e-book readers, portable navigation systems, digital wallets and more. And for organizations with mobile workers, they...
- The 5 Big Lies About Going Mobile You've heard about the power of mobile to change your business. But have you realized your mobile potential? It's about much more than...
- Transforming enterprise applications for mobile environments This new white paper explains how Dell Application Modernization and Development Solution Set can help you understand when to develop new mobile apps,...
- What should I look for in a Next Generation Firewall? SANS Provides Guidance With so many vendors claiming to have a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), it can be difficult to tell what makes each one different....
- Why Are Customers Really Deploying an NGFW? It seems every IT Security expert is talking about the NGFW, but what are people really doing? This webcast covers 5 real-world customer... All Mobile Apps White Papers | Webcasts
Our new weekly Consumerization of IT newsletter covers a wide range of trends including BYOD, smartphones, tablets, MDM, cloud, social and what it all means for IT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!