Feeds

Hack your bank for $995

Cambridge boffins post gory details on Web

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Banks all over the world can be hacked and PIN numbers seized by exploiting a flaw in a common cryptoprocessor made by IBM, researchers from Cambridge University have found.

The cryptoprocessor in question, the IBM 4758, sits at the end of cash machines and scrambles the PIN number that people type in, as well as the program used to verify the PIN at the other end.

It uses a minimum 64-bit encryption (112-bit for keys), conforms to the US Data Encryption Standard FIPS 140-1 Level 4 and was thought to be impossible to crack, even physically. But the problem does not lie with the cryptoprocessor but the software it runs on - Common Cryptographic Architecture (CCA), which comes free with the 4758.

The CCA software requires two or more people to combine their access priviledges before any security changes can be made. As such, it was thought that codes could only be cracked if there was collusion between two high-level bank employees.

The Cambridge researchers - Michael Bond and Richard Clayton - found however that they could persuade the 4758 to send its encryption key (stored only within the cryptoprocessor itself) to them if it was itself encrypted with a 3DES (triple DES security) key.

All you need to know is the value of the "exporter key". Thus, with "a mixture of sleight-of-hand and raw processing power", you can get hold of a cryptoprocessor's key and from that point you can access to every piece of data sent through it - which could be hundreds of thousands of card numbers with their relevant PINs.

The only problem then remaining is getting a high-enough level of access to a bank's computer system. Not easy, but not impossible either.

Messrs Bond and Clayton reckon they need 20 minutes at a console to get the information and then two days or so to break it down. All you need is some nous and a standard $995 Altera FPGA evaluation board.

"A crooked bank manager could duplicate our work on a Monday and be off to Bermuda by Wednesday afternoon," Mr Clayton said.

The researchers posted full and extensive details of their methods on the Internet last night, stating that "our main reason for publishing this attack is to demonstrate the power of our parallel key search machine". They also allege that IBM was informed of the possibility of such an attack a year ago but has failed to fix the problem or produce any patches.

That now looks very likely to happen and banks that use the 4758 will have to upgrade security immediately at huge cost.

The entire business can be seen at the researchers' Web site here. ®

Related Link

The researchers' Internet posting
IBM's cryptoprocessors

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
Oi, Europe! Tell US feds to GTFO of our servers, say Microsoft and pals
By writing a really angry letter about how it's harming our cloud business, ta
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.