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What do you think, do we have a potential security issue or not?

Researchers: We Cracked Car Alarm System
January 29, 2005 10:19 PM EST
BALTIMORE - Researchers said Saturday they have found a way to crack the code used in millions of car keys, a development they said could allow thieves to bypass the security systems on newer car models.

The research team at Johns Hopkins University said it discovered that the "immobilizer" security system developed by Texas Instruments could be cracked using a "relatively inexpensive electronic device" that acquires information hidden in the microchips that make the system work.

The radio-frequency security system being used in more than 150 million new Fords, Toyotas and Nissans involves a transponder chip embedded in the key and a reader inside the car. If the reader does not recognize the transponder, the car will not start, even if the key inserted in the ignition is the correct one.

It's similar to the new gasoline purchase system in which a reader inside the gas pump is able to recognize a small key-chain tag when the tag is waved in front of it. The transaction is then charged to the tag owner's credit card.

Researchers said they were able to crack that code, too.

"We stole our own car, and we bought gas stealing from our own credit card," said Avi Rubin, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins who led the research team.

Texas Instruments was recently given demonstrations of the team's code cracking capabilities, but the company maintains its system is secure.

Tony Sabetti, a business manager with Texas Instruments, said the hardware used to crack the codes is cumbersome, expensive and not practical for common thieves.

"I think the way in which it's presented as being inexpensive to do and quick and all the rest of that is an exaggeration," Sabetti said. "And because of that, we believe the technology still is extremely secure for the applications that it's used in."

But Rubin said the code-breaking demonstrations illustrate that developers did not pay enough attention to security.

"I think the implications are that it sets us back about 10 years ago where we were with car security," Rubin said.

In the seven years the technology has been in use, Texas Instruments has never had a reported incident where a car has been stolen or a gasoline-purchasing tag has been duplicated, company spokesman Bill Allen said.

The Johns Hopkins team, which was funded by Bedford, Mass.-based RSA Security Inc., recommended distributing free metallic sheaths to cover the radio frequency devices when they are not being used.
 

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Yeah right in seven years no one has cracked the system. GM has had their passkey coded deterrent for years, and Escalades remain the most stolen vehicle in many area (in relation to number sold).

While the transponder key is a plus, I always knew that determined thieves always have a way to get your car if they really want it. I bet what these researchers found has already been known in organized theft rings for some time now.
 

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I agree with Eric L.

Just keep paying that collision/comprehensive car insurance.
 

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I can imagine this issue would be more serious in an 05 Murano with intelligent key - i.e. the car can be started without a key at all!
 

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Mr. 3 K, 3/3/5. 5K,10/5/7
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Hey watch that! I don't need any more worries!!
 

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Mr. 3 K, 3/3/5. 5K,10/5/7
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I think I'll finally draw the line. :D
 

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Murano_driver, I guess you must be watching your MO at this hour! I think it is almost 3 am in NY... :eek:
 

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SO much for Nissan Theft Deterrant system

http://www.securityfocus.com/news/10386


'Thiefproof' car key cracked
By John Leyden, The Register Jan 31 2005 8:33AM

Researchers have discovered cryptographic vulnerabilities in the RFID technology used in high-security car keys and petrol pump payment systems. The attack against Texas Instruments DST tags used in vehicle immobilisers and ExxonMobil's SpeedPass system was identified by experts at Johns Hopkins University and RSA Laboratories.

The algorithm used in TI's DST tags is an unpublished, proprietary cipher that uses a 40-bit key. Using a black-box reverse-engineering method, the team were able to unravel the algorithm used in the DST tags. This information allowed them to programme a commercial microchip costing less than $200 to find the secret key of a gasoline purchase tag owned by one of the researchers. Using 16 of these PFGA devices in parallel allowed researchers to reduce search time from 10 hours to around 15 minutes.

The vulnerable technology is used in more than six million key chain tags used for wireless gasoline purchases and in an estimated 150 million keys for newer vehicles built by at least three leading manufacturers. The researchers warn that tech-savvy criminals could wirelessly probe a car key tag or payment tag in close proximity, and process this data using the code breaking techniques to crack secret keys and circumvent cryptographic security safeguards. This might allow crooks to charge their own gasoline purchases to the tag owner's account or to get around electronic vehicle immobilisation techniques. Crooks would still need to defeat physical locks to steal cars.

"We've found that the security measures built into these devices are inadequate," said Avi Rubin, technical director of the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute and an author of the study. "Millions of tags that are currently in use by consumers have an encryption function that can be cracked without requiring direct contact. An attacker who cracks the secret key in an RFID tag can then bypass security measures and fool tag readers in cars or at gas stations."

The researchers have alerted Texas Instruments about the initial findings of their research, which continues. The team recommends a program of distributing free metallic sheaths to cover its RFID devices when they are not being used in order to make attacks more difficult.

The company that markets ExxonMobil's SpeedPass system has said it has no knowledge that any fraudulent purchases have ever been made with a cloned version of its device. ®
 

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Eric L. said:
...I always knew that determined thieves always have a way to get your car if they really want it. I bet what these researchers found has already been known in organized theft rings for some time now.
You're right on there. There's no such thing as an unstealable car. As good as the manufacturers make the antitheft systems, someone out there is going to be clever enough to figure out how to defeat it.
 

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The use of RFID has been around for a while.. it's the latest identification and crack of a poorly implements encryption that has made this possible..

RFIS can be read from SEVERAL meters away.. now all it take is a portable device (size of breafcase) and a set of lock picks and your MO is a goner..

This is what happens (very often) with private encryption algorithms/systems.. they may be secure for a while, but once they info is out, they usually get cracked easily (if they information was publicly available initially they would have done it so that no holes existed, as people would have pointed it out..)..

Heck.. the MO has a computer which is more then capable of doing a proper 1024 bit encryption, which would take years with the same hardware they are using..


I think the people with the speedpass have a lot more to worry about.. all it takes is the hardware, and a stroll in a the mall, and whammo, you would have a few dozen codes to use (and they are cheap to write to a chip and clone a speed pass)..

prepare for lots of "free gas" going around..
 

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Well, I just removed my SpeedPass from the Mo. Guess I won't be using it anymore.
 

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hmm just had a thought.. who wants to bet that in the RFID data, is the pin combination that is used on the key...

imaging scanning an RFID tag through a briefcase/jaket and being able to know what pins are cut into the key.. now that could be dangerous.. i hope this is not the case..

time to wrap your keys in aluminum foil.. ;)
 

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Lets all scream Panic and run out and destroy our.....well sumthin.

Come on guys, lets show a little cool here.

The other thing we can do is shine it on.

Before this article no one here had even heard of a Murano being stolen with the key
No one had reported bogus gasoline charges.

The average car thief is a complete doofus.
Even the Pros haven't shown themselves to be PHDs in electronics.


I think I'll just keep on keepin on.

Homer
 

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I'm sure the same thing was said about fake fronts on ATM bank machines.. now you hear about them quite often..
 

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I agree with Homer "Even the Pros haven't shown themselves to be PhD in electronics" If you have one of those titles or that capability, you don't have to steal cars. :D
 
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