Dubai mobe cracking demo barred by Heathrow boffin bust
Authorities impound open source radio gear
Their undetectable method impressed by being up to 10,000 times faster than the brute force number crunching it's thought government agencies use. What's more, it requires only a laptop, open source software and a $700 USRP. The pair argued that they merely exploited a known theoretical vulnerability, and that it should prompt networks to improve encryption standards.
Neverthless aware of the potential national security implications of the new method, Mueller says he met two men from GCHQ, two weeks prior to Black Hat, and got the all-clear to speak. The details of the exploit are now public.
The Heathrow officials' choice of items to confiscate was therefore particularly confusing to him. If they genuinely thought he wanted to export any cryptanalytic technology or information then they would have taken his FPGA, laptop, and paperwork too, he argued.
"The USRP is sold all over the world," he said. A USRP can be configured as a GSM scanner using software from the GNU Radio Project. Without his, Mueller's demonstration was kneecapped, however.
When Mueller returned to the UK at the end of last week, he worried when his name was called out over the plane's passenger announcement system. "I thought, oh no," he said.
More government officials were waiting for him, but only to return his equipment. The USRP had been dismantled and poorly reassembled, Mueller claimed. "The motherboard was just rattling around." No answer was given on who had ordered the shakedown.
HMRC could not confirm that it was its customs agents that confiscated Mueller's equipment. "All our work is intelligence-based. It would be inappropriate to comment on an individual case," a spokesman said.
"We have certain powers to to stop passengers and search items going in and out of the country. We appreciate people's cooperation."
The spokesman said Mueller should contact HMRC directly if he has specific complaints. ®