Feeds

Dubai mobe cracking demo barred by Heathrow boffin bust

Authorities impound open source radio gear

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Bono: Apple will sort out monetising music where the labels failed
Remastered so hard it would be difficult or impossible to master it again
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
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?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.