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305 comments

Great articel (-1, Offtopic)

Mipoti Gusundar (1028156) | more than 7 years ago | (#16881930)

Really interesting me, keep up the good work, I liove this place.

I have one doubt, what is -1 offtopic meaning?

Re:Great articel (5, Funny)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 7 years ago | (#16881964)

Wait for a few minutes and you'll see ;) In the meantime, you might want to read the FAQ [slashdot.org]

Re:Great articel (1)

geoff_smith82 (245786) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882472)

Re:Great articel (0, Redundant)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882544)

What are you trying to tell me with this link?

nice (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16881932)

suck

Another DRM? (0)

sarathmenon (751376) | more than 7 years ago | (#16881942)

I don't know why a simple thing as desgining a security algorithm can be so hard. There are a lot of standards and implementations out there. It *just* would have been better if governments started using a public/private key policy to safeguard all the data.

Re:Another DRM? (1)

Spiked_Three (626260) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882024)

Maybe they know something you don't?

Re:Another DRM? (3, Informative)

Decaff (42676) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882088)

The security algorithm was good. The problem was they did not keep the keys secure.

Re:Another DRM? (2, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882260)

I don't know why a simple thing as desgining a security algorithm can be so hard.
It's not hard at all! The trouble is you see, it's not cheap.

Re:Another DRM? (2, Insightful)

sarathmenon (751376) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882330)

It's not hard at all! The trouble is you see, it's not cheap.

But just look at history. A better choice always takes more time to create, and is more expensive to design and implement, but in the long run it pays off much better. Take Unix, most of RSA's products, etc. There's no short cut to success, there is no overnight solution. Its just that a lot of people with power can't simply realize that common fact.
Well, to whoever said common sense was common ....

Re:Another DRM? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16882306)

The basic problem isn't the algorithm they choose. It's that their goal is incompatible with security.

They wish to establish a world where all people can be instantly identified, correlated with commercial profiles, and tracked wherever they travel.

How can this be done "securely"? It cannot.

Let's assume you get these politicians to understand some basics of encryption and physical security (and good luck with that). So, you now have a system where all people can be instantly identified and tracked by the government. Secure from... what, exactly? Secure from being tracked by unauthorized people?

Who is unauthorized, and why? I certainly have no say in who gets authorized to track me. Thousands or hundreds of thousands of random workers have access to the "authorized" level. This doesn't sound very "secure" to me.

It's like an electrocution collar you get to wear around town, "secure" in the knowledge that its encryption protocol is flawless. The only people who can activate it are from the police department, or friends of police officers, or people who sneak into the police building and use a computer there when nobody's looking. It is secure, and cannot be triggered except from the police station. Yet, in the broader sense of security, the mere fact of the collar's existence around my neck is the absolute opposite of security.

It doesn't really matter how secure they make the algorithms. A system whose purpose is to authoritatively track and identify all individual humans "from above" is insecure, by definition.

Re:Another DRM? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882436)

The problem is they dont keep it simple. Add complexity and the problems start to creep in.

Re:Another DRM? (3, Interesting)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882440)

I don't know why a simple thing as desgining a security algorithm can be so hard.

True - provided you're trying to get Alice to talk to Bob! Those two know a thing or two about cryptography by know and can deal with keeping keys secret, using strong passwords etc.

It all gets rather harder if you're dealing with a huge messy system composed of hoardes of busy people who neither understand nor wish to understand the system. And that's just the immigration officers, never mind joe public!

The system that they cracked seems entirely fit for the (obviously intended) purpose of preventing casual sniffing of the RFID information. It makes the perfectly pragmatic assumption that, if the bad hats get physical posession of the passport you're screwed anyway.

They could have used a "secret" key (or something more sophisticated) because every immigration desk in every participating country then needs a secret key to "unlock" the info - and as soon as one of those (inevitably) leaks every passport in a dozen countries would have to be updated or replaced.

The problem is that all any technological change like this can achieve is to make counterfieters work that little bit harder (the article didn't say if the info had been digitally signed - which would really help there and would be totally unrelated to anti-RFID-snooping measures).

I donno. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16881944)

"So why did Steve Boggan and a friendly computer expert find it so easy to break the security codes?'"

I donno. Why?

Why? (1)

DuranDuran (252246) | more than 7 years ago | (#16881956)

> So why did Steve Boggan and a friendly computer expert find it so easy to break the security codes?

He helped issue them in the first place? No, just joking.

But seriously, he didn't, did he?

No surprise there then (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 7 years ago | (#16881960)

Cracking the passports was inevitable, as is the cracking of the ID cards when they come in. Computer security on such a large scale is very, very difficult to get right.

Many large companies have invested huge sums of money into trying to prevent their systems being cracked. Take cable/satellite TV providers for example. Looking at the government`s record on IT projects, it was obviously doomed to failure from the start.

The id cards... were... to be based on the same (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#16881980)

technology. So in a sense, they've already been hacked. The word "DOH" springs to mind.

 

Re:The id cards... were... to be based on the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16882138)

DOH = Department of HomelandInsecurity?

Re:No surprise there then (4, Funny)

baadger (764884) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882078)

Computer security on such a large scale is very, very difficult to get right.

They should have called in the experts, Microsoft!

"Sorry sir you can't travel this evening as you haven't run your RFID chip through Passport.NET Live Update recently. We recommend you do this every second Tuesday of the 6 months proceeding travel or you may lose your right to enter your home upon return."

"Sir, do you have the 25 digit customs key for your new passport? It should have been printed on the back of the envelope it came in."

Passenger: "Excuse me, I'm having some problems with Genuine Passport Activation. I paid £66 [ukpa.gov.uk] for this a month ago but when I tried to board the International Express 737 this morning I was told that wasn't genuine."

Re:No surprise there then (5, Informative)

mikerich (120257) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882344)

They should have called in the experts, Microsoft!

Okay I know you're joking, but Microsoft have been one of the biggest critics [theregister.co.uk] of the UK government's ID card system as providing the ideal conduit for ID theft [ntouk.com] ; so perhaps the Home Office really should have called them in.

Re:No surprise there then (1)

bobcuspe (710114) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882652)

Computer security on such a large scale is very, very difficult to get right. The problem is not that security is difficult to get right. Sometimes it is only a security circus. The motivation is not to improve the security. Another problem is that not everybody that thinks that understands security really do. Is these passports really worth even if they happen to be uncrackable ?

News at 11 (2, Insightful)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 7 years ago | (#16881966)

Governments fail. Shocking!
Remember, kids: government intervention is good.

Re:News at 11 (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16882410)

Er, I know this place is infested with raving Libertarians, but surely even you lot can manage to agree that border security is one of the few small areas that a Government has legitimate domain?

Easy to clone (5, Interesting)

SomethingOrOther (521702) | more than 7 years ago | (#16881986)

Home Office spokesman.
"If you were a criminal, you might as well just steal a passport."

Missing the point dude.
If my passport gets stolen, I report it. It gets cloned, I've no idea somebody is impersonating me, screwing up my life (and others).
Please people, support NO2ID [no2id.net] and tell Blair where to shove his flawed ID cards and CCTV cameras.

But no, this is great news (4, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882048)

It means you can get away with all sorts of stuff and then claim "It wasn't me mate", someone must have cloned my passport.

We do have some complete fuckwits in charge. Of course, we do have some complete fuckwits voting for them, so it kind of balances out. Someone care to suggest an improvement on democracy?

 

Re:But no, this is great news (3, Funny)

Shemmie (909181) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882064)

Democracy works. We just need to thin the population down a little. I suggest a set of tests, and then firing squads.

Question session: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16882184)

"Are you a politician or solicitor?"
"Yes"
BANG

Re:But no, this is great news (3, Funny)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882406)

> I suggest a set of tests, and then firing squads.

If you skip the tests and move straight on to the firing squad you'll at least get rid of all the unlucky people - and let's face it, it's them who knock things over and break them, crash their cars etc...

Re:But no, this is great news (2, Funny)

shmlco (594907) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882454)

Fine, but I get to design the tests....

The UK is not a democracy (4, Informative)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882086)

We don't have a democracy, in either the pure form (which is an unworkable ideal anyway) or the popular interpretation (which is much more sensible approach in practice).

Blair has an absolute majority of MPs in Parliament, which effectively means he can force through almost anything. That doesn't mean an absolute majority of the electorate support him. Remember, Labour lost the popular vote in England at the last general election, and even with the support of MPs from our neighbour countries to prop them up, they still only received around 1/3 of the overall popular vote.

Blair and co have gone about forcing laws through and creating legacies, but the simple fact is that they have no mandate to bring in the kinds of sweeping change they are championing, unless at the very least they also have support from the other main parties who brought in other people's votes. Clearly in many of these so-called anti-terrorism matters, they do not.

Re:But no, this is great news (1)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882116)

Someone care to suggest an improvement on democracy?
Democracy's not the root problem. It's the scale. Nothing will work well on a scale this large. There are too many competing interests among a population of millions to satisfy anyone fully, much less everyone.

Of course, that's not even close the complete problem. No major wars for two generations, service economies, mass-media conglomeration, and plain stupidity and/or apathy by the public all contribute to the current problems. But democracy (indeed, most politcal systems) does work on a small scale. Decentralized government is the way to fix the world, and because of military needs, it'll never happen.

Re:Easy to clone (1)

martin (1336) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882108)



I heard John Reid on radio on Wed justifying ID-Cards by saying it would stop identity theft..I nearly crashed the car I was so mad.

ID-cards will get 'cloned'/copied eventually too. Technology on it's own isn't a cure-all.

Re:Easy to clone (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882412)

Indeed. In order to get an identity card in the first place, you have to prove your identity with something. Whatever that something is, could just as easily be used by someone pretending to be you. Or you could just use that something to prove your identity in the first place, negating the need for the card.

If I had known ten years ago that all this was going to happen, I would have signed up for my electricity, gas, water and telephone services all in different names -- and encouraged everyone I knew to do the same.

Re:Easy to clone (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16882152)

If my passport gets stolen, I report it. It gets cloned, I've no idea somebody is impersonating me, screwing up my life (and others).
But that's exactly the point of this 'cracked' encryption: you *can't* clone the passport just by reading the RFID in someone's coat pocket.

You need to read printed details to get access to the RFID. Sure, you can pick-pocket the passport, read what you need and then clone the RFID - but then you could just pick-pocket an old fashioned passport and spy-camera the page. But I can't pwn your life just by standing next to you on the tube.

RFID's coming whether you tinfoil types like it or not. Why not start a business manufacturing Faraday-cage passport holders or something?

Re:Easy to clone (4, Informative)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882234)

But that's exactly the point of this 'cracked' encryption: you *can't* clone the passport just by reading the RFID in someone's coat pocket.

Well this is so, but if you read the FA then you'll see a more plausible attack involving someone who knows your name and address (the postman in that case). Nevertheless it seems the fundamental problem here is that the key on the chip can be brute-forced. A simple change ought to fix that - either have the chip shut down after three incorrect keys have been tried, or (better) have it implement an exponential back-off for each failed attempt.

Rich.

Re:Easy to clone (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16882374)

OK, fair enough, I stopped at the paragraph before that as it happens. So put in measures so the passport can't be read through the envelope, e.g. sealed foil jacket. Of course the postman could just open the letter anyway but hey he already could to read the details from the passport.

Back-off is reasonable except then someone just wanders through Heathrow spamming passports with their 10m-range RFID reader and then nobody flies.

Re:Easy to clone (1)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882614)

Back-off is reasonable except then someone just wanders through Heathrow spamming passports with their 10m-range RFID reader and then nobody flies.

That would be funny though :-)

Rich.

Ah, I think there's a knock at the door. Police?

Re:Easy to clone (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882542)

My suggestion was rather quite simple.

Have it only give the correct answer half of the time.

Then of course, you really wouldn't be sure if it's giving the correct answer at all unless you already knew it.

Re:Easy to clone (2, Informative)

protactin (206817) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882258)

Please people, support NO2ID [no2id.net] and tell Blair where to shove his flawed ID cards and CCTV cameras.

Also, 10 Downing Street have now made it easy for you to petition against the introduction ID cards [pm.gov.uk] .

Re:Easy to clone (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882370)

> It gets cloned, I've no idea somebody is impersonating me, screwing up my life (and others).

You do if each use gets logged.

Re:Easy to clone (2, Interesting)

Xzerix (977030) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882580)

Just clicked on NO2ID.

Register now! Just give us your full name, and address including postcode!

What else would they like? DNA sample, fingerprints?

How indeed ... (2, Informative)

spellraiser (764337) | more than 7 years ago | (#16881996)

I just finished reading the article.

In short, the weakness lies in the fact that although DES3 is used to encrypt the communication between the passport chip and the reader, the key is based upon data that's available on the passport:

By last month, Booth, Laurie and I each had access to a new biometric chipped passport and were ready to begin testing them. Laurie's first port of call was the ICAO's [International Civil Aviation Organisation] website, where the organisation had published specifications for the new travel documents. This is where he learned that the key to opening up the secure chip was contained in the passports themselves - passport number, date of birth and expiry date.
...
The Home Office has adopted a very high encryption technology called 3DES - that is, to a military-level data-encryption standard times three. So they are using strong cryptography to prevent conversations between the passport and the reader being eavesdropped, but they are then breaking one of the fundamental principles of encryption by using non-secret information actually published in the passport to create a 'secret key'. That is the equivalent of installing a solid steel front door to your house and then putting the key under the mat.

Re:How indeed ... (4, Insightful)

pe1chl (90186) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882044)

This is because the encryption is not supposed to make the content inaccessible.
The reader at the cutoms employee's desk has to be able to read the passport data. It has to know the key.
Instead of installing a super-secret key in all readers around the world (and having to pray that it does not somehow leak out), the designers opted to use a separate key for each passport and have it printed on the passport itself, so that it can be used by the reader.
This is only intended to protect against the "reading in the metro" scenario. Not to protect against reading your own passsport using an RFID reader.

Also, many scenarios written after such discoveries assume that the readability of the data implies it can be modified to commit fraud. This is not true. The data is signed using public-key encryption, and modifications are easily detected by the reader.

Re:How indeed ... (1)

sauron_of_mordor (931508) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882124)

"Instead of installing a super-secret key in all readers around the world (and having to pray that it does not somehow leak out), the designers opted to use a separate key for each passport and have it printed on the passport itself, so that it can be used by the reader." why not both? Why not a sequence of timedomain limited superkeys?

Re:How indeed ... (4, Informative)

xoyoyo (949672) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882126)

If you read the TFA you'll find that it doesn't make any claims about being able to modify the data. It does however go on to list the ways an attacker might retrieve the data and make use of it.

To be fair to the system designers it does make the whole system a little more secure in that the data on the chip has to be matched with the paper information. But only a little: if I found someone who looked sufficiently like me AND I could gain access to their passport the system is just a compromised. Arguably moreso as the claimed extra security will lead to an unjustifiable rise in trust.

Considering the following scenario: a crooked hotel clerk (in Europe you usually have to show your passport when checking in) takes your passport "to be photocopied". Using the key information on the passport they clone every passport that comes their way. This way they can build up a stock of passports matching all conceivable faces to be resold. This actually becomes more useful the longer the system is in operation as the ten years of a usual passport's lifespan can make your face change dramatically.

The end result is a system only marginally more secure than before.

Re:How indeed ... (1)

dumbo11 (798489) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882194)

"The end result is a system only marginally more secure than before." According to the article they'd need ~ 24 hours to crack each passport (assuming a 5 digit code), so in that respect it's a hugely more secure? IMHO, there are 3 things that are gained: a) a little bit of security. b) the ability to scan passports in/out of a country more quickly. c) a chip in a passport that could be extended to contain other bio-identity information without loads of pointless scare-mongering (fingerprint/iris scan/brain dump/whatever).

Re:How indeed ... (4, Informative)

xoyoyo (949672) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882244)

No, the 24 hours the article gives is if you can't see the password but you know some information about the target. If you have access to the actual passport access is instantaneous. Effectively a cloner just does exactly the same as an immigration control officer.

Re:How indeed ... (1)

dwarfsoft (461760) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882290)

So you believe that the key needs to be human readable when you already have a machine readable passport? They could have used a randomized key that was included in the Machine Readable portion down the bottom. It didn't have to be based on personal information at all. That would have made brute-forcing the chip a whole lot more difficult, and therefore required that the theives have physical access to the passport.

Re:How indeed ... (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882448)

Physical access to someone's passport is not hard to obtain. Many hotels and campsites insist to see the passports of foreign nationals. All it takes is few bent people in a few tourist resorts, and you can build up a stock of identity information. As a previous poster stated, the more identities you have, the more likely it is that one of them will resemble somebody who wants a false passport.

Re:How indeed ... (1)

CortoMaltese (828267) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882504)

The machine readable zone, specified by ICAO, is widely used, also by countries that aren't rushing into electronic passports. Which means that the contents of the zone are difficult to change. And if you read the specs, you realize there's hardly any space left for adding key entropy. Which is why they started using information that is already there, and of that information, only passport number, date of birth, and expiry date have a check digit.

Basically, what you suggest could've been done, but not within the time frame set by the U.S.

Governments and computers don't mix (3, Insightful)

geoff lane (93738) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882018)

The dumb thing is that the personal information is SUPPOSED to be unencrypted - it's part of the spec. Thus, the 3DES (Ha Ha) encryption of the "hello" connection is irrelevant; though if the key really is based on public information it looks like someone really has lost the plot.

In any case, isn't 3DES being phased out because the cost of cracking it has fallen dramatically recently?

Re:Governments and computers don't mix (2, Informative)

tonigonenstein (912347) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882076)

sn't 3DES being phased out because the cost of cracking it has fallen dramatically recently?
No. DES is easy to crack, but 3DES is quite secure. Its disadvantage compared to e.g. AES is its inefficiency.

Nothing to see here... (5, Insightful)

ericlondaits (32714) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882022)

The author of the piece (yeah, TFA) gets his panties in a bunch because the encryption key of the passport (which has the data encrypted with 3DES) is passport number, date of birth and expiration date. Then he says:
So they are using strong cryptography to prevent conversations between the passport and the reader being eavesdropped, but they are then breaking one of the fundamental principles of encryption by using non-secret information actually published in the passport to create a 'secret key'
What fundamental principle of encryption are they breaking? If anything, a fundamental principle of encryption is that there can't be such a thing as a "secret key" if you're either putting it in the passport or if you're deploying it to everybody that needs to scan passports (remember DVD encryption?).

What's important is to have the data in the passport (along with the picture) digitally signed, in order to avoid tampering. The article claims that these passports are indeed signed and they didn't break the signature. Big surprise, since all they did was get a RFID reader and decrypt 3DES with the key right in front of them.
"If you can read the chip, then you can clone it," he says. "You could use this to clone a passport that would exploit the system to illegally enter another country."
Don't see how you can... but anyway an exploit would be a problem with the reading software, not with the passports. And it could be more easily patched after deployment.

The article then presents some more valid points... but these have nothing to do with the basic encryption being broken. FUD mostly, surprise, surprise.

Re:Nothing to see here... (2, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882098)

"If you can read the chip, then you can clone it," he says. "You could use this to clone a passport that would exploit the system to illegally enter another country."

Don't see how you can
Which part are you disputing?

The, "if you can read it you can clone it" part?
Or the, "you could use a cloned passport to exploit the system" part?

I think the first is obviously true.

I think the second only requires a small amount of imagination - clone a passport of someone who looks similar to you and you are good to go, especially since the customs agents will inevitably start relying on the computer to validate people rather than their own judgement.

Re:Nothing to see here... (2, Insightful)

ericlondaits (32714) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882146)

I think the second only requires a small amount of imagination - clone a passport of someone who looks similar to you and you are good to go, especially since the customs agents will inevitably start relying on the computer to validate people rather than their own judgement.

You wouldn't even need to clone it for that... merely steal it. If agents inevitably start relying on the computer that's where the problem lies. The checking procedure could be designed in order to somehow "force" a visual ID.

There's a lot you can innovate in that direction, which deals more with psychology than encryption. While making un-clonable passports would probably be a lot harder if not impossible.

Re:Nothing to see here... (1)

denebian devil (944045) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882664)

You wouldn't even need to clone it for that... merely steal it. If agents inevitably start relying on the computer that's where the problem lies. The checking procedure could be designed in order to somehow "force" a visual ID.

But if the passport is stolen, then it's possible for the rightful owner to report it as stolen, in which case when that similar looking person tries to use the passport to cross a border, the nice officer doesn't need to bother doing a visual check because the computer would signal the officer that the passport was stolen, starting a whole other set of more detailed investigations.

Re:Nothing to see here... (2, Insightful)

mikerich (120257) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882280)

I think the second only requires a small amount of imagination - clone a passport of someone who looks similar to you and you are good to go, especially since the customs agents will inevitably start relying on the computer to validate people rather than their own judgement.

Yep - just think how often your credit card signature is actually checked against that on the slip. Over here in the UK we've moved to chip 'n PIN, but a couple of recent trips to America really shocked me - my signature was NEVER checked against that on the card and on several occasions I paid using a terminal where the card was swiped, no PIN needed, no signature.

Passports and ID cards are going to go the same way. The government is telling us the passports/cards are guaranteed unforgeable so the users of the card are going to assume the card is the 'gold standard' for identity. If the card says it is genuine, then let that person through, don't worry about double-checking - the system has to be right doesn't it?

Re:Nothing to see here... (2, Interesting)

Venner (59051) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882566)

You'll probably find this guy's experience both amusing and utterly appalling. How far can you really go with credit card signatures?
http://www.zug.com/pranks/credit/ [zug.com]

um, if you can copy the data (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882150)

You can clone the passport, as the article says the facial biometric is a joke, 20-25% false positives or negatives. Which leaves just the photo, a bit of makeup, coloured contacts, hair dye. So essentially the new passport is no better than the old one but gives people the warm fuzzy feeling that all is right with the world because the computer says so.

 

Re:Nothing to see here... (4, Interesting)

archeopterix (594938) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882218)

"If you can read the chip, then you can clone it," he says.
Don't see how you can... but anyway an exploit would be a problem with the reading software, not with the passports.
The "read -> clone" implication might be a bit of an overstatement, but if the chip identifies itself (and the passport) to the reader by revealing _all_ of its contents, then the only barrier to cloning is the availability of programmable RFID chips. Cryptographically speaking (*), they could have done better. There exists something called zero knowledge protocols [wikipedia.org] which makes it possible to identify a party without revealing the secret information used for identification, i.e. without helping the potential cloner.


(*)I don't know whether RFID chips are capable of implementing zero knowledge protocols (they require some computing power), but if they can handle 3DES, then the answer is probably yes.

Re:Nothing to see here... (2, Interesting)

CortoMaltese (828267) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882256)

The encryption and message authentication keys for the so called basic access control, specified by ICAO, are based on the machine readable zone of the passport. It's the funny lines at the bottom of the passport, with a lot of filler characters '<'. Passport number, date of birth, and expiration date are the only fields that have a check digit, which is why they were chosen as the base for the keys. The entropy is not very high, especially because the fields are not random.

The machine readable zone was chosen for key seed, because it is already there, and the readers are already there. I guess the idea is that it's better than nothing. It makes eavesdropping and cloning slightly harder than without. But just slightly. It is indeed possible to do both without very much effort. Forging (i.e. creating a passport with phony information but with a correct digital signature) is another story, very hard.

The EU is going to mandate the use of so called advanced security mechanisms, a.k.a. extended access control, for biometric passports that contain sensitive data, such as fingerprint or iris images. Such passports will have a Diffie-Hellman key exchange for encryption and message authentication, and a PKI based terminal authentication for granting access to sensitive data. The EAC spec [www.bsi.de] is available from German BSI by request.

Oh, and before someone shouts that all RFID tags should burn in hell, I'll just say that the passport chips are contactless, or RFID, smart cards, and have next to nothing to do with RFID tags. The chips can, among other neat things, perform RSA operations using 2K-bit keys in reasonable time. Cracking the actual chip is very difficult.

Re:Nothing to see here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16882320)

What are they going to issue me with when I refuse to have one? Am I disbarred from going abroad because I see this for the useless tech scam it is?

Re:Nothing to see here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16882462)

A prisoner number and a broom to clean the gulag with, comrade.

Re:Nothing to see here... (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882562)

> The entropy is not very high, especially because the fields are not random.

The entropy is a joke. Expiration date - what's the lifespan of a UK passport (don't have mine to hand, or I'd check)? That's your window for expiration date. Most people will replace passports before they expire, so you can even shorten that window. Not to mention, it's a date, which severely limits the number of valid values. Date of birth? A little harder; if you can see the person, you can get an idea of likely birth years though, and birthdays are not exactly evenly distributed throughout the year. Only passport number is going to hard to figure out, and if they're numbered sequentually (probably are) it's not that hard.

Sure, it's not going to be possible to get it on the first attempt, but it's also not what you'd call secure.

WHY? (1)

Red Moose (31712) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882036)

Why was it easy to crack the passports? Because they never had anything to do with security, dumbass. Like all other contracts, the purpose was to make money by taking it from the population that gave it up in taxes.

The world, QED.

Re:WHY? (1)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882348)

... and we have a winner!
Someone please give Red Moose a cookie.

fake passports in 911? (4, Insightful)

testadicazzo (567430) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882042)

from the article:
irst it is necessary to explain why the new passports were introduced, and how they work.After the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre, in which fake passports were used, the US decided it wanted foreign citizens who presented themselves

Is this true? I had the impression that the 911 terrorists had valid ID, but I haven't read the 911 commssion report...

Can somone point me to some information confirming or disproving this assertion?

Re:fake passports in 911? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16882066)

For many years, the authorities in the USA got more and more irritated by the fact that it was so easy to commit all kinds of fraud in a free country.
But it was very difficult to tighten the grip on the citizens and visitors. After all, it was a free country. In the cold-war years, they were pointing fingers at "the enemy" and explaining that citizens were "not free" there. They were being tracked.

But when the cold war was over, the authorities really wanted to limit this freedom. They were waiting for an opportunity to do so. 9/11 was the big opportunity.

mod parent up (1)

jetxee (940811) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882442)

It would be also really interesting to know if 9/11 attackers had valid of forged ID documents.

Re:fake passports in 911? (1)

myspys (204685) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882372)

Is this true? I had the impression that the 911 terrorists had valid ID, but I haven't read the 911 commssion report...

oh, you mean one of these terrorists http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1559151.stm [bbc.co.uk] ?

Re:fake passports in 911? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16882384)

at h ttp://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/09/27/inv.suspects/ is a list of hijackers, it notes of having had valid forms of id ordered for many of the suspects.

Re:fake passports in 911? (1)

jetxee (940811) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882468)

Thank you for information! This was what I wanted to know.

There is always at least one legal workaround for any legal obstacle.

Re:fake passports in 911? (1)

mellowinottawa (1022343) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882494)

No, none of them used invalid identification, each and every one had completely valid passports from their home countries and completely valid US visas in them.

Re:fake passports in 911? (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882546)

Kind of true.
The hijackers, all but one, used authentice state issued identification in order to hide thier nationalities. However they did use fake passports to obtain that autentic ID.
The one who did not used this actual passport, again authentic.
It should be noted that a passport was not needed for the flights they were on(all internal to the US) but they needed some form of ID to prove who they were when at check in.
http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Not es.htm [9-11commission.gov]

The article is missing one word. (4, Insightful)

Big Nothing (229456) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882068)

FTA: "Remember, information - such as a new picture - cannot be added to a cloned chip."

I believe the missing word is "yet".

As usual, it leaks (3, Insightful)

TrueKonrads (580974) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882084)

As usual, the RFID passport leaks information and is easy to clone.
I don't want to sound trollish, but the major force behind biometric passports worldwide is Homeland Security in USA: "You want visa free entrance to US? Make biometric passports!". Honestly, this is plain bullying.
Besides, if the border guard thinks the passport is "secure", then he'll spend less time thinking about that person and just rely on the big "OK" that pops on his screen when he swipes the thing instead of evaluating the person with his brain and guts.
TFA mentions brute-force protection. For a thing, like credit card, that can be replaced within 3-5 days, it's ok, but for a passport, that some joker "brute-forced" and now it is locked, it is really tragic, especially if You are away from home and this is Your only ID.
I think that the ID should be un-trivial to counterfeit. It should deter "common" people from tampering with it for some small, petty crimes. For well funded operations, obtaining a real passport isn't a problem - bribe the migration official and he issues You one on whatever name.
My slightly watered point is - ID should be used for "some" identification. Trust is a human thing and not machine solvable.
Heck, Your motherboard may be bugged right now by some weird conspiracy and no matter what security measures You take, such as bug sweeps or cable checks, You're screwed already since CIA and NSA and Mossad altered the CPU. It's a human thing.

Re:As usual, it leaks (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882332)

I don't want to sound trollish, but the major force behind biometric passports worldwide is Homeland Security in USA: "You want visa free entrance to US? Make biometric passports!".
Not really the plans for the electronic passport started in the 1990 by the UN's ICAO, the first set of written/approved plans came in early 2002, it was agreed to by the member of ICAO in 2004. In the agreement they said they would implement and require its use. The US got the members to move up the time table, and implement it, not really being strong armed about it.
Now before the RFI system you did have the machine readable bar code. This was implmented in the early 80s, then around 1986 28 countries standarded on the ICAO format and opened up thier borders to fellow members with no visa. In 2004 the US did start requiring(along with a few other countries) that they would only accept the passport of fellow members of the visa waiver program that had the bar code in them, so thoses people with passports around 25 years old would need to get new passports.

The US is not completly free of the bulllying, in thier passports they are making the encryption harder then the one used by the ICAO and used in these UK passports and because of that some contries are having to purchase different equipment then originally planned.

And this leads me to say (2, Insightful)

Tainek (912325) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882132)

And Again, We the british Public ask, what exactly have we gained from being forced to pay over our hard earned cash for these cards?

Re:And this leads me to say (1)

SEMW (967629) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882188)

A very pretty, pre-customised, credit-card-sized drinks coaster!

Trivially simple fix : add a signed fingerprint (2, Interesting)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882160)

That would enable very cheap readers to authenticate passports and holders, and no option to fake it.

Even if people were to succeed in faking it, a criminal (let's not go down the terrorist route for once) wouldn't be able to erase his old identity from the books without deep inside help, which would probably be noticed by too many people.

Re:Trivially simple fix : add a signed fingerprint (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882382)

Also the passport would be useless to anyone else in case of theft.

Re:Trivially simple fix : add a signed fingerprint (2, Interesting)

operato (782224) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882572)

have you not been watching movies? it's really simple to fake fingerprints!

"This doesn't matter" spin (4, Insightful)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882174)

Oh, how I hate this kind of spin: "This doesn't matter," says a Home Office spokesman. "By the time you have accessed the information on the chip, you have already seen it on the passport."

It matters a great deal because what they said couldn't be done can be done.

It transpired a couple of years ago that some models of the expensive Kryptonite bicycle lock could be opened with a BIC pen. The Kryptonite company could have spun this by saying "This doesn't matter, because the security expert who demonstrated this didn't really steal the bicycle, and bicycle owners actually keep their valuables in their safe deposit boxes."

What the Kryptonite company really did was acknowledge that this was a serious problem and recalled all the locks.

Would that the UK government addressed the security problem instead of the PR problem.

Re:"This doesn't matter" spin (1, Insightful)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882598)

It matters a great deal because what they said couldn't be done can be done.

Well, until a cloned passport successfully makes it through one of their scanners, we don't know that it can be done. One possibility (though it's probably giving them too much credit to have thought of this) is that the passports actually contain 2 sets of data: one that is readable using all of the known key (as discussed in the article), and a second set that is only readable via a secret key. The purpose of the known key it to provide passport forgers with a red herring. They think "aha...I'm much smarter than them. They thought they had this secure, but they've screwed up, and now I've got the data". Then they clone it, try to get through customs with it, and...the forgery is detected. So now...how did it fail? Did they screw up during the cloning? Who knows?

Its easy to crack a system when you can brute force it in private. It's a lot more difficult when you've got one attempt with someone standing there watching.

Again, I doubt this is the case, but it's a possibility.

two things (3, Insightful)

tonigonenstein (912347) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882176)

1. I don't understand why they use RFID. If you are not supposed to read it from further than two centimeters then why not use a contact chip (smartcard) ? It would be as practical to read and you would be sure that no one could read it without your knowledge. 2. The argument in the article that goes "if you can read it you can clone it" it completely bogus and make them sound like idiots. Have they never heard of challenge-request authentication ? The basic idea is that the reader authenticates the chip to ensure it is not a forged one. To do this you have a shared secret in both the chip and the reader. The reader then sends a random challenge to the chip, which encrypts it with the secret and send the result back. The reader does the same operation and compares the result. If it matches it considers that the chip knows the secret and is thus original.

The key idea then is that the chip never sends the secret directly, so a cloner could never guess it, even if it could issue an unlimited number of challenges to the original chip. And without the secret, it cannot produce a clone that would authenticate.

So in short to clone the chip you need more than the chip, you need to compromise the manufacturer of the system to get the secret.

Re:two things (1)

backwardMechanic (959818) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882294)

But as I understand the article, the UK passport does not include any sort of challenge-response authentication - that's part of the problem.

Re:two things (2, Insightful)

CortoMaltese (828267) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882394)

1. They do use a smart card chip, it's just contactless, or RFID if you will. It's not a dumb RFID tag. The most time consuming operation at the border control is reading the face image from the chip. The protocols available in contact chips have almost an order of magnitude slower communication speeds than in the protocols for contactless chips. It matters.

2. In the case of basic access control, as specified by ICAO, being able to read the chip means that you are able to clone the chip. It's a weakness in the protocol. Basically the big secret is printed on the passport (passport number, date of birth, expiration date), so it's not difficult to obtain. And even if you don't have physical access to the passport, the key entropy is low, which helps eavesdropping considerably. You don't have to compromise the manufacturer or anything. The big challenge is coming up with a passport book that passes as a real one.

Hasn't anyone learned... (1)

lantastik (877247) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882178)

...from the entertainment industry?

Here I will attempt to abuse a completely overused cliche:

Production value of a typical Hollywood theatrical blockbuster: ~$150M
DVD distribution production costs: ~$7M
Developing an "unbreakable" security algorithm: ~$1.5M

Having some PERL monkee write a few lines code to make you look foolish: Priceless
s''$/=\2048;while(){G=29;R=142;if((@a=unqT="C*", _)[20]&48){D=89;_=unqb24,qT,@ b=map{ord qB8,unqb8,qT,_^$a[--D]}@INC;s/...$/1$&/;Q=unqV,qb2 5,_;H=73;O=$b[4]>8^(P=(E=255)&(Q>>12^Q>>4^Q/8^Q))> 8^(E&(F=(S=O>>14&7^O) ^S*8^S>=8 )+=P+(~F&E))for@a[128..$#a]}print+qT,@a}';s/[D-HO- U_]/\$$&/g;s/q/pack+/g;eval
Some things money can't buy, for everything else, there are retards to spend frivolously on the next big "THING".

CRACKERS!! (1)

RedOregon (161027) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882264)

So how long will it be before someone calls for their arrest and they get thrown in jail?

Journal written by... (1)

eraserewind (446891) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882312)

Hadn't seen articles posted from someone's Slashdot journal to the front page before. Is this a new trend or just a random occurrence?

The one thing they get right and /. missreports! (1, Interesting)

bWareiWare.co.uk (660144) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882336)

How much happier would /. be it they based the security of the nation on a system that assumed you could make it imposible to copy digital data?

For once the experts got it right and realised the chips would always be copyable - and concentraited on making them unmodifiable!

The encription was only to stop people skiming your passpord whilst it is in your pocket (think Tin Foil Hat), and this has certanly not been broken. By using a unique key for each passport and not doing a centerilised lookup for each read makes this a very very secure system.

Why they used a contactless system in the first place, and what they will do when the signing is cracked are totaly diffrent matters.

People, people, people (4, Informative)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882342)

Have we learned nothing?

The article states that if you can see the human-readable part of the passport, or even just take a good guess at the details, you can extract the rest of the data from the RFID chip -- and clone it. Encryption is used to ensure that nobody can eavesdrop on a transaction once initiated, but that doesn't help the fact that every transaction is presumed legitimate -- and the very nature of RFID means that you aren't always able to know that a transaction is taking place. If there isn't a human being checking passports, just a machine -- and one day, that is exactly how it will be -- one of those cloned RFID chips will be enough to get you past it.

Attempting to automate people out of the loop is asking for trouble, because we can always know what tests a machine is performing and falsify the results. Criminals are not stupid -- and smart people can often be bought. If the anticipated returns are high enough, you can be sure that someone will put up the stake. Security through obscurity is worse than no security, because it leads people to believe that their details are safe when they are not.

By the way, if you want to see how easy it is to commit identity theft, start here [google.co.uk] .

Not just British passports; US and other EU too (1)

Yer Mum (570034) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882392)

All RFID passports are compatible and follow the same standard, meaning that all passports issued with RFID in the US and EU have the same flaw.

Not Cracked, same FUD (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16882490)

How is this cracked?

The passport functioned as designed. The only thing the key is designed to prevent is remote surreptitious downloading of the data from the chip. If you hand someone the passport, what sort of privacy do you expect?

Call me when they can successfully ALTER the chip data and create a valid digital signature. Merely copying the data won't help.

Call the Arisians! (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882492)

What we really need is some super-advanced alien race to make contact and hand us a totally infallible identification symbol. It might also help cut down on the problem if it made any potential identity thief drop dead on the spot.

The instant telepathic communication feature would annoy the hell out of the cellphone companies, but might make cinemas a bit quieter (shame about all that writhing polychromatic light from people's wrists reflecting off the screen).

Trouble is, we'd probably be dragged into some silly cosmic "war on terror" as a result.

Re:Call the Arisians! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16882648)

Good idea, but the Arisian suppliers don't deliver. Telepathically Verifiable ID and personal appearance to collect is the only way you get one. And there's no parking within a kiloparsec of the offices.

hey dude! want to dupe my passport? (1)

operato (782224) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882500)

person A: hey i just the new "biometric" passport.
person B: cool!

person A sits down beside B

person A: want a duplicate copy of it?
person B: no thank you i've already got it.

Clueless (3, Insightful)

delt0r (999393) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882612)

This reporter is clueless. I stoped reading when he/she said that 3DES is "military encryption times 3". DES was a civ cyper by desgin and was "broken" a long time ago due to weak keys and such a small key space. 3DES was quick fix and is still used and is still OK in some situations. But it is not military standard (I think AES is however).

As others above have stated, this is not "cracked" either and they are unable to change the data on the chip. Futhermore they need to read the inside page of the passport to "sniff" for the chip data. I would be happier however, with a contact card rather than contanctless....

Whats wrong with some kind of PKI? (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 7 years ago | (#16882676)

Basicly, the machines owned by the various governments would encrypt the data with a key belonging to that government (e.g. the UK has a machine) and then the machines at the airports (if the airports are fancy enough to be able to read the machine readable part of the passport) use a matching public key.
As only the government would have the private part of the key, only the government can encrypt data that the processing machines can read (and for those who say the keys will be stolen, look at things like the RSA signing key for XBOX 1 binaries, that hasnt been stolen, brute forced or otherwise obtained yet.
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