Security? What Security? Automatic Toll Systems And Passports Found Easily Hackable

from the security-as-an-afterthought dept

At this point it shouldn't be a surprise that various systems that shouldn't be are quite easily hacked, but that doesn't make it any less disturbing. Over at this years Black Hat event there was a demonstration of just how easy it is to hack the automatic toll devices used at most bridges and toll roads throughout the country. The stunning part is that it appears that the folks who created these transponders did almost nothing to keep them secure. They're constantly broadcasting and they include no encryption. And this is a device that often connects directly to a registered credit card. Sense a potential problem? The researchers who showed this pointed out that it wouldn't be difficult for someone to clone your transponder and make you start paying for their tolls. Alternatively, it could be used to create an alibi for someone planning to commit a crime -- since police have used toll crossing data to establish where someone is.

Meanwhile, over in the UK, an investigation has found that the chips in the supposedly "fakeproof" e-passports are easily cloned, manipulated and passed through the checking machine -- which is especially worrisome given that 3,000 blank e-passports were stolen just last week. Of course, people have talked about the possibility of such hacks for years -- even before they were put in place -- to show how silly it was to think they were secure. And, of course, the best response comes from the UK gov't. After being presented with the fact that the chips can be changed or modified, the statement from the government was: "No one has yet been able to demonstrate that they are able to modify, change or alter data within the chip. If any data were to be changed, modified or altered it would be immediately obvious to the electronic reader." If you keep saying it, maybe you can pretend it's true.

In both cases, though, the striking thing is that these aren't "surprise" vulnerabilities. They should have been somewhat obvious to those who crafted these systems in the first place. Both are now working on "patches" to deal with the problems, but it's pretty difficult to completely patch a system that's so widespread -- and either way it will take some time. So why weren't these systems designed with better security in the first place?
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Filed Under: automatic toll, e-passports, ez pass, fastpass, hacking, passports, security


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  1. identicon
    Matthew, 31 Oct 2011 @ 9:27am

    Re: Security in a different place

    They don't actually photograph every license plate and car that goes through. If the transponder reads- no photo. That's why I am stuck paying for $57 worth of tolls that have been run up and down the east coast while my car and transponder have never left Maryland. EZ Pass has no intention of refunding my money or giving me a new transponder to replace mine.

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