Smartcard Hack Could Expose 2 Billion Cards
A computer club in Germany in concert with a few university students in the United States have broken into the encryption scheme designed to secure the information stored on smartcards used in everyday applications.
These cards employ a RFID technology used in an estimated two billion plus smart cards first invented by NXP.
This event is the first real breach perpetrated on the widely used MiFare Classic RFID chip. The hackers, once they figured out how to break the encryption scheme, stated that the process is easy to reproduce. NXP downplays the significance of the hack.
This excerpted from EETimes -
NXP RFID encryption cracked
Christoph Hammerschmidt - Industrial DesignLine Europe - (04/01/2008 8:11 AM EDT)
MUNICH, Germany — The Chaos Computer Club (Hamburg, Germany) has cracked the encryption scheme of NXPs popular Mifare Classic RFID chip. The device is used in many contactless smartcard applications including fare collection, loyalty cards or access control cards.
According to a report in Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Chaos Computer Club (CCC) experts along with colleagues from the University of Virginia cracked the encoding scheme with little effort. The achievement allows the crackers to read out data, recharge payment cards, copy RFID cards or generate "new" users.
The spokesperson also pointed out that the Mifare Classic is not used in security-critical applications such as passports or electronic health cards.
The Chaos Computer Club was not available for comment.
NXP MiFare RFID payment card – Image Credit: Arygon
And this excerpted from NXP about MiFare Classic –
The MIFARE® classic family is the pioneer and front runner in contactless smart card ICs operating in the 13.56 MHz frequency range with read/write capability. The MIFARE® standard IC, launched in 1995, was the first product which could be fitted into a ISO contactless smart card, and with its slim coil allowed very high volume production.
Today, over 200 million MIFARE® Standard ICs are in use around the globe, covering more than 85% (source: Frost & Sullivan, 2000) of the contactless smart card market. As such, MIFARE® Standard represents the de-facto industry standard and is the benchmark for competing technologies.
And lastly, this from Computerworld –
RFID hack could crack open 2 billion smart cards
Analyst: One European government sent armed guards to protect facilities using the card
By Sharon Gaudin - Computerworld - March 14, 2008
A student at the University of Virginia has discovered a way to break through the encryption code of RFID chips used in up to 2 billion smart cards used to open doors and board public transportation systems.
"It turns out it's a pretty huge deal," said Ken van Wyk, principal consultant at KRvW Associates. "There are a lot of these things floating around out there. Using it for building locks is the biggy, especially when it's used in sensitive government facilities — and I know for a fact it's being used in sensitive government facilities."
Van Wyk told Computerworld that one European country has deployed military soldiers to guard some government facilities that use the MiFare Classic chip in their smart door key cards. "Deploying guards to facilities like that is not done lightly," he added. "They recognize that they have a huge exposure. Deploying guards is expensive. They're not doing it because it's fun. They're safeguarding their systems." He declined to identify the European country.
If you are asking the layperson what he thinks about a security breach on a card (over 2 billion of them) that carries personal information and money information and that information can be changed without his knowledge – He will say, “That is a problem!”