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Dutch transit card crippled by multihacks

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The introduction of the Dutch public RFID transit pass will be delayed because it can be easily hacked.

The final blow was given by researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London, who confirmed earlier findings by Dutch Institute TNO that the card isn't properly secured.

The Dutch Green Party and the Social Party have called for a complete halt to the card's development. They say introduction of the card would be totally irresponsible.

The smart card, known as the OV-chipkaart, is to replace paper tickets on all trams, buses, and trains and is already undergoing trials in Rotterdam. The development of the card, at a cost of $2bn, has been beset with problems.

In January, two students at the University of Amsterdam showed how a used single-use card could be given eternal life by resetting it to its original unused state.

Another serious fault was discovered on the card's Mifare chip by two German hackers, who were able to remove the coating and reverse-engineered the cryptographic algorithm.

The security of Mifare cards relies on secret keys with a key length of 48 bits. Knowing the details of the cipher would permit anyone to try all possible keys in a matter of days.

Last weekend, researchers of the University College London and the University of Virginia reported that they were also able to recover the algorithm. The researchers recovered the full 48-bit key in 200 seconds on a single PC.

"The security of this cipher is therefore close to zero," they concluded. "This is particularly shocking, given the fact that, according to the Dutch press, one billion of MiFare Classic chips are used worldwide, including in many governmental security systems."

The Mifare chip is also used in London's Oyster card and Boston's CharlieCard. ®

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