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Fun with passports and paperclips

Boy scout hacking

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Black Hat Blog The best tax is the tax the other guy pays; the best hacks are the ones that only affect the other guy; the funniest technical glitches are the outages of the other guy's microphone. No such luck: David Thiel is exploring the ways that downloaded media files can be hacked. You have nothing to fear but your bittorrent habit.

These aren't, he agrees, hacks that are being seen "in the wild", but the potential is there. Media files are downloaded from everywhere and anywhere; media players are casually left open on people's desktops all the hours they are at work. No one thinks anything of clicking on a media link on a Web page or downloading (yet another) codec. Still, Thiel believes that the potential is there for media files to carry all the same kinds of malware we've seen infect the formerly safe havens of email and PDFs.

If that's not enough, Andrea Barisani and Daniele Biano are ready to create road blocks. Using only some inexpensive electronics and a bunch of cleverness they have figured out a way to hack the RDS-TMC broadcasts that are used to deliver traffic information via in-car satellite navigation systems. The bridge in Minneapolis doesn't have to collapse to mess up traffic if enough satnav systems can be told it's happened. Fun!

More cheap electronics that Adam Laurie is happy to help you acquire can also help you play games with the RFID chips in your passport, Oyster card, or…well, increasingly, pretty much anything. Laurie, who apparently frightened the Guardian, can open an RFID-guarded safe with…a paperclip. The UK wants to make hacking tools illegal, by the way.

The manufacturers whose gear was involved in both these presentations came up with remarkably similar explanations why these hacks were not a problem: it's impossible, if it's possible it takes a lot of knowledge. And – a Black Hat favourite – anyway, it's illegal!

Both these presentations are reminders of how much of the technology we increasingly depend on was designed as ain't-it-cool experiments. Why would you think about security when you're going hey, look, you can make phone calls over the Internet! And it's free! It's like the fabled Irishman: how would you make the Web secure? Well, I wouldn't start from here…

Web 2.0 takes Web 1.0 and makes more of a security mess. Think it's safe to do Web 2.0 applications in a Wifi hotspot? Robert Graham and David Maynor played the nifty trick of sniffing and storing the cookies of everyone who was checking email and generally goofing off instead of listening to their every word. Definitely the lazy way to identity theft; I don't have to steal your credit card if I have your cookie. Log out of Gmail all you like, but the copied cookie is still good. They call it "sidejacking": eavesdrop and replay.

And finally…let's watch today's Iron Chefs hunt bugs! Gentlemen, you may only use software you've written yourself. You have 45 minutes. GO! ®

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