Feeds

The romance and mystery of a good hack

Plus an actual wedding

Security for virtualized datacentres

DefCon Blog: Final The 2007 Defcon badge (currently selling on eBay for $202.50) came with its own SDK, which explains why, by Sunday, a couple of attendees had hacked theirs to play music from their iPods.

They were two of some 50 contest winners, of whom the most tired – and wired – were the 20 person team who spent 22.5 hours solving the "mystery box" (the hack required knowledge of cryptography, electronics, lockpicking, literature, and rotary phones).

Scottish Defcon staffer Zac Franken wowed everyone with his work on building access control systems. While everyone is focusing on the extra security afforded by biometrics over magnetic stripes, they're overlooking the fact that many of these systems rely on the aging but widely used Wiegand protocol.

Franken showed up with a screwdriver and a specially wired plug smaller than a USB key. Remove plastic cover. Remove two screws. Cut wires. Insert the cut ends into Franken's plug. Close it back up. And presto, Franken can intercept all the system's commands and use cards he has prepared to replay the last successful user, disable the system, re-enable it, and, in the next version, download all valid users (up to the storage capacity of the plug). These systems are in use in airports as well as buildings, by the way.

The only solution, Franken says, is to replace the protocol, which sounds like almost as massive an undertaking as convincing the European authorities to listen to some security people before letting loose RFID passports.

German researcher Lukas Grunwald has been trying to explain to the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the European authorities that the format they have chosen for images, JPEG2000, is easy to exploit.

"It's nothing to do with IT security," he was told. "These are security documents." But, he said, these systems are running on Windows XP...

It ought, he thinks, to be possible for a sufficiently motivated traveller to alter the database of acceptable travellers while the passport is being read. The system design is, he said, like going to an ATM, putting in the card, getting the cash – and only then putting in a PIN for checking.

"Cool, isn't it?"

There is, to be sure, plenty of motivation for such things. Peter Gutmann, of the University of Auckland, estimates, from substantial research, that an Eastern European programmer can earn $200,000 a year from writing really clever malware. Today's viruses value stealth so much that they download anti-virus software and remove their competitors. They only want one thing: money.

Gutmann proposed no solution, but the methods Nick Mathewson laid out for social attacks on anonymous networks might be promising (Mathewson is a programmer for the TOR anonymous network). Briefly, the strategy is: "Let's you and him fight." Perhaps organised crime can be distracted by religious wars over which are the best servers.

In the meantime, Defcon closed out for 2007 by marrying off US Treasury special agent Andrew Fried to federal agent Laura Askey. Mazel Tov. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
NOT OK GOOGLE: Android images can conceal code
It's been fixed, but hordes won't have applied the upgrade
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
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?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.