Feeds

Researcher gives Elvis and bin Laden fake e-passports

Claims they'll fool e-readers. Uh huh huh

Seven Steps to Software Security

The 'fraud-proof' e-passport can be copied and altered, a Dutch security researcher has demonstrated. In tests conducted for the Times, Jeroen van Beek of the University of Amsterdam changed the chip data in a normal UK e-passport to contain a picture of Osama bin Laden. The paper also reports that van Beek has contrived to have a passport in the name of Elvis Presley accepted by a public e-reader in a Dutch town hall.

Van Beek's work builds on earlier demonstrations which showed how a passport chip could be cloned, and subsequently how this could be done without even taking it out of the delivery envelope. Such exploits could be of some use to passport fraudsters - for example a copied chip could be palmed at an unattended reader or a complete copy of a passport that hasn't even been stolen could be used so long as the bearer resembled the original holder.

Being able to write a new picture and new personal data to a chip without detection would however mean that the e-passport had been totally subverted.

This however is not quite what van Beek has done. The integrity of the data in the e-passport is protected by a digital signature, and alteration of the data will result in the passport being rejected by the reader. In addition to changing the data, van Beek appears to have been able to write a new signature to the chip that will pass muster, but only under certain circumstances.

Validation of the signatures on e-passports requires the exchange of PKI certificates between countries' issuing authorities, or the use of ICAO's PKD (Public Key Directory) system. Logically the ICAO PKD system ought to be used to provide a standard level of validation for what is intended to be a global, secure document standard. Currently, however, use of the PKD is far from universal, and many countries (the UK included) rely on bilateral exchange of certificates with other countries.

So whether or not a fake van Beek passport will pass muster will depend on a number of factors. If the reader used is an early one, it may not check the signature at all. If the passport's purported issuing authority hasn't exchanged certificates with the country operating the reader, then the signature can't be checked. And if one or both of the countries involved isn't using the PKD, again the signature can't be checked.

Which at the moment means that this class of fake would be good enough to get through quite a number of borders. The data used in van Beek's fake chips (bin Laden, Elvis) was deliberately selected to avoid accusations of forgery, but as e-passport fakery becomes more plausible, it seems only a matter of time before researchers, campaigners or plain old forgers start trying to get them through borders. And in the case of the latter, if they succeed, how will we tell? ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.