Dutch Chipmaker Sues To Prevent Researchers From Publishing Info About Security Flaws

from the security-by-obscurity? dept

NXP Semiconductors, which was formerly Philips Semiconductor division, is suing some researchers to prevent the publication of a paper outlining the security flaws in smartcards made by NXP. These smartcards are widely used for transit systems and building locks. Of course, the fact that these cards have been insecure has actually been known for quite some time. Rather than fixing the problem, though, NXP spent plenty of effort denying any problem existed. Now that multiple researchers have demonstrated that the problem really does exist, NXP is claiming it hasn’t had enough time to fix the problem, and thus is suing to prevent publication.

Of course, if NXP hadn’t wasted so much time insisting there was no problem, perhaps it would have been closer to a fix. And, most importantly, those who are looking to use this vulnerability already have access to it. Publication in a journal isn’t going to alert criminals — they already know about it. What it could do, however, is get more researchers helping on a solution. But, apparently, NXP would rather pretend that if they keep the details hidden, they can pretend there is no problem.

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Companies: nxp semiconductors

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Comments on “Dutch Chipmaker Sues To Prevent Researchers From Publishing Info About Security Flaws”

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8 Comments
Jake says:

I can kind of see the argument in favour of not publicising leaks like this until after you get a satisfactory official response from the company, and the YouTube video demonstrating the ‘attack’ looks more than a little contrived. I would however have more sympathy for NXP if they’d written back to say they were working on a solution and asking the university to hold off on publishing its results until they’d sorted it out.

TravisO (profile) says:

Don't play hardball when you're the one who will lose

NXP is making a very bad move, especially if multiple separate people or groups know about the flaw. They’re just asking for a writeup of the flaw to be posted anonymously on some key forums.

Obviously the group that discovered the problem alerted the company, have them time to fix, no fix is available (the problem isn’t always easy or quick) but NXP should have made a plea to hold back, but instead they’re resorting to hardball tactics, and I say you fight fire with fire, release the hounds!

Computer Consulting Kit Preview Blog (user link) says:

security is too important ...

It seems to me that any problem that compromises security (which is incredibly important in this day and age, more than ever before) and affects others should be reported as a warning immediately, even before a solution has been reached. People do need to know what they’re using, and when it goes “bad,” they need to know how to adjust their behavior with it accordingly and protect sensitive and important information. Even Microsoft, who has been pretty seriously hurt (though not necessarily financially!) by Vista’s many initial failures and problems admitted to their mistakes and provided quick solutions or at least work-arounds and adjustments.

Merijn (profile) says:

after it's broken, it keeps that way

As far as I know, Professor Bart Jacobs and his crew have already had a few free rides to prove that the system is broken. Trying to silence a university professor won’t fix your problem. Also I do not know the laws of my country, the Netherlands, well enough to guess what they try to use as a legal means to their cause in the attempt to silence their neighbor. Radboud university and NXP are located in the same city.

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