Feeds

Meter insecurity raises specter of free parking hacks

Cloned card could allow unlimited parking

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Black Hat Hackers have figured out a way to trick San Francisco's computerized parking meter system into giving away unlimited free parking by cloning the smart cards used to pay fees.

Speaking at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, hackers Jacob Appelbaum, Joe Grand and Chris Tarnovsky said they were able to compromise the system by monitoring the communications that occur between the electronic meters and the smart cards. They were then able to carry out what's known as a replay attack, in which the communications were repeated on their own blank smart cards.

"We own the San Francisco parking meter system," Appelbaum said in an interview with El Reg. "They clearly did not do enough due diligence if at all from a security perspective. The idea that someone is not already exploiting it is sort of laughable."

During their 75-minute talk, the team showed a picture of a cloned smart card in one of the San Francisco parking meters. It's value: $999.99. The team was careful to say they never actually used any of the stored credit to pay for parking.

The hack is only the latest to highlight vulnerabilities in a new generation of electronic payment systems that collect parking fees and bus and train fares. Parking meters in New York were compromised in 2001 using infrared remote controls, and three years later weaknesses in stored-value cards used by San Diego were exposed by a hacker who goes by the name H1kari.

Last year, three undergrads from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology uncovered critical vulnerabilities in electronic fare-payment systems used by Boston's mass transit system, but were prevented from speaking about them during the Defcon hacker conference.

The process used to hack the San Francisco system was fairly straightforward and took only three days to devise. It involved using an off-the-shelf smart-card shim, and monitoring what happened using an oscilloscope. The team then analyzed the data using pen and paper and wrote a program that would repeat the process with programmable smart cards they bought off the internet.

The smart cards work in McKay Guardian XLE meters, which can accept either coins or electronic payments. Many other cities use the same model parking meters, but because of differences in the way they are configured, the team couldn't say whether the technique they used would work outside of San Francisco.

Parking meter displaying smart card balance of $999.99

The researchers said they gained valuable insights into the meter's inner workings by purchasing them on eBay and watching how they functioned. They said their research was intended to expose weaknesses that could cost San Francisco taxpayers millions of dollars in lost revenue, and not to enable people to actually carry out the attacks.

They plan to release the source code for their replay software but will modify important bits to prevent script kiddies from using it to get free parking. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.