Feeds

Dubai mobe cracking demo barred by Heathrow boffin bust

Authorities impound open source radio gear

The essential guide to IT transformation

A mobile phone security researcher has been left baffled by UK government airport authorities, who impounded basic equipment while claiming that he could be illegally exporting high-end code breaking technology.

The action meant he had to cancel a demonstration of a groundbreaking exploit of GSM encryption in the Middle East.

Steve Mueller, a German national living in London, was approached by an official while reading a newspaper in the departure lounge of Heathrow's terminal 3. It was minutes before his Emirates flight was due to take off on Monday 14 April.

In his day job Mueller works for a company that helps businesses secure their mobile communications, but was travelling as an independent researcher to present his work on GSM cracking to the Hack in the Box conference in Dubai.

The official identified himself as an export control officer, and took Mueller aside to a search room, where his checked-in luggage had been taken from the plane's cargo hold. After a swift rummage, the officials confiscated his aged Nokia 3310 and a cheap USB device called a Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP). They ignored two more phones, a laptop, and a high performance FPGA chip.

"They said they didn't know what it was, so they were taking it," Mueller said in a telephone conversation with The Register. The field on the yellow form he was given to record the confiscation that read, "the goods specified below are detained for the following reason", had been left blank.

Mueller said: "They told me they wanted to make sure I wasn't exporting any cryptanalytic equipment.

"They knew exactly who I was and where I was going. They even knew what time I was speaking."

He boarded the plane without the items, having been told they would be sent away for tests. The Nokia, which Mueller had intended to use as part of a demonstration in his talk in Dubai, also contained his personal SIM. On arrival, he posted in frustration on his blog: "Having a pregnant wife at home and not being reachable complicates my situation."

It didn't particularly surprise Mueller that the authorities were monitoring his work, however. He made waves at the Black Hat conference in Washington DC in February by announcing that he and a fellow researcher had developed a new attack that cracks standard GSM transmissions, encrypted using the A5/1 algorithm, in as little as 30 seconds.

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
Hello, police, El Reg here. Are we a bunch of terrorists now?
Do Brits risk arrest for watching beheading video nasty? We asked the fuzz
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
This'll end well: US govt says car-to-car jibber-jabber will SAVE lives
Department of Transportation starts cogs turning for another wireless comms standard
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
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?