Feeds

Car immobilisers easily circumvented by crafty carjackers

Crap crypto to blame

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Weak cryptography means that car engine immobiliser technology has become easy for crooks to circumvent.

Nothing weaker than 128-bit AES is considered sufficient protection for e-commerce transactions, but car manufacturers are still using proprietary 40-bit and 48-bit encryptions protocols that are vulnerable to brute force attacks. Worse still, one unnamed manufacturer used the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) as the "secret" key for the immobiliser.

The weakness of the technology was exposed in security research by ethical hacker Karsten Nohl of Security Research Labs, who links the weakness of the technology with a growth in car thefts in Germany last year, following years in decline.

Nohl outlined preliminary findings from his research at the recent Embedded Security in Cars conference, in Bremen, Germany. His research covers the communications between card immobilisers and engine electronic systems in dozens of cars. For example, Nohl was able to crack the Hitag 2 car immobiliser algorithm used by Dutch firm NXP Semiconductors in around six hours

The research builds on work by other computer scientists and encryption experts dating back at least five years. In 2005 Ari Juels of RSA Labs and researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, circumvented the encryption system used by Texas Instruments.

Manufacturers of car immobiliser technology have defended the robustness of their technologies.

"To our knowledge the direct causal link between the failure to adopt AES systems and the rise in car theft cannot be drawn," Thomas Rudolph of NXP told New Scientist.

Texas Instruments claimed its proprietary cryptographic systems might be stronger than AES. Nonetheless both firms are in the process of phasing out their home-cooked crypto tech in favour of industry standard encryption systems based on 128-bit AES. ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Google recommends pronounceable passwords
Super Chrome goes into battle with Mr Mxyzptlk
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
Reddit wipes clean leaked celeb nudie pics, tells users to zip it
Now we've had all THAT TRAFFIC, we 'deplore' this theft
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
TorrentLocker unpicked: Crypto coding shocker defeats extortionists
Lousy XOR opens door into which victims can shove a foot
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.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
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?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.