Risk

2/3/2009
12:56 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
50%
50%

Think Electronic Passports Are Secure? Think Again

With a little time, and a $250 investment, a security researcher says he has shown how easy it is to capture electronic passport data, and then create cloned passports.

With a little time, and a $250 investment, a security researcher says he has shown how easy it is to capture electronic passport data, and then create cloned passports.Anyone involved in information security in 2002 recalls the "war driving" craze. Researchers would drive around a downtown area with a wireless-enabled notebook and a copy of NetStumbler seeking unencrypted wireless networks. The idea was to show how few wireless networks were secured through encryption. Later this week, security researcher Chris Paget is taking a similar approach, this time with RFID-powered documents.

The attack also brings back memories of the days at which cell phone cloners used to be able to clone mobile phones from roadsides and bridges.

Rather than cloning cell phones or war driving, Paget has dubbed his attack "war cloning."

According to Kelly Jackson Higgins' Dark Reading story, Paget has found a way to crack the EPC Gen 2 RFID tags used in the passport cards the U.S. Department of Homeland Security allows in accordance with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative for travel among countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Paget says he was able to buy a used RFID scanner from eBay, and tweak it so that it can sniff the data from the passports:

Until now, security researchers for the most part have shied way from hacking away at the new e-passports and e-driver's licenses to illustrate the potential privacy problems because the necessary scanners are expensive -- nearly $3,000 new -- and tough to get. "I found a way to procure equipment on the cheap and repair it and make it do exactly what I wanted it to do," Paget says.

Unlike previous RFID hacks that have been conducted within inches of the targeted ID, Paget's hack can scan RFID tags from 20 feet away. "This is a vicinity versus proximity read," he says. "The passport card is a real radio broadcast, so there's no real limit to the read range. It's conceivable that these things can be tracked from 100 meters to a couple of miles."

Paget says he was able to drive his car at 30 mph and capture an RFID tag in a matter of seconds. "The software for [copying them] lets you just choose the tag you want to copy, wave a blank tag in front of it, and it writes it out," he says.

The security and privacy concerns with these electronic passports aren't new, but ease and cost-effectiveness of this attack seems to be -- and illustrates the need for true authentication and encryption for an adequate level of security.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
1.9 Billion Data Records Exposed in First Half of 2017
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  9/20/2017
Get Serious about IoT Security
Derek Manky, Global Security Strategist, Fortinet,  9/20/2017
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
Security Vulnerabilities: The Next Wave
Just when you thought it was safe, researchers have unveiled a new round of IT security flaws. Is your enterprise ready?
Flash Poll
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
Enterprises are spending more of their IT budgets on cybersecurity technology. How do your organization's security plans and strategies compare to what others are doing? Here's an in-depth look.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.