Entries Tagged "keys"

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UK Police and Encryption

From The Guardian:

Police last night told Tony Blair that they need sweeping new powers to counter the terrorist threat, including the right to detain a suspect for up to three months without charge instead of the current 14 days….

They also want to make it a criminal offence for suspects to refuse to cooperate in giving the police full access to computer files by refusing to disclose their encryption keys.

On Channel 4 News today, Sir Ian Blair was asked why the police wanted to extend the time they could hold someone without charges from 14 days to 3 months. Part of his answer was that they sometimes needed to access encrypted computer files and 14 days was not enough time for them to break the encryption.

There’s something fishy going on here.

It’s certainly possible that password-guessing programs are more successful with three months to guess. But the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act, which went into effect in 2000, already allows the police to jail people who don’t surrender encryption keys:

If intercepted communications are encrypted (encoded and made secret), the act will force the individual to surrender the keys (pin numbers which allow users to decipher encoded data), on pain of jail sentences of up to two years.

Posted on July 27, 2005 at 3:00 PMView Comments

Hymn Project

The Hymn Project exists to break the iTunes mp4 copy-protection scheme, so you can hear the music you bought on any machine you want.

The purpose of the Hymn Project is to allow you to exercise your fair-use rights under copyright law. The various software provided on this web site allows you to free your iTunes Music Store purchases (protected AAC / .m4p) from their DRM restrictions with no loss of sound quality. These songs can then be played outside of the iTunes environment, even on operating systems not supported by iTunes and on hardware not supported by Apple.

Initially, the software recovered your iTunes password (your key, basically) from your hard drive. In response, Apple obfuscated the format and no one has yet figured out how to recover the keys cleanly. To get around this, they developed a program called FairKeys that impersonates iTunes and contacts the server. Since the iTunes client can still get your password, this works.

FairKeys … pretends to be a copy of iTunes running on an imaginary computer, one of the five computers that you’re currently allowed to authorize for playing your iTMS purchases. FairKeys logs into Apple’s web servers to get your keys the same way iTunes does when it needs to get new keys. At least for now, at this stage of the cat-and-mouse game, FairKeys knows how to request your keys and how to decode the response which contains your keys, and once it has those keys it can store them for immediate or future use by JHymn.

More security by inconvenience, and yet another illustration of the neverending arms race between attacker and defender.

Posted on July 11, 2005 at 8:09 AMView Comments

Flaw in Pin-Tumbler Locks

This paper by Barry Wels and Rop Gonggrijp describes a security flaw in pin tumbler locks. The so called “bump-key” method will open a wide range of high security locks in little time, without damaging them.

It’s about time physical locks be subjected to the same open security analysis that computer security systems have been. I would expect some major advances in technology as a result of all this work.

Posted on March 7, 2005 at 7:27 AMView Comments

Flaw in Winkhaus Blue Chip Lock

The Winkhaus Blue Chip Lock is a very popular, and expensive, 128-bit encrypted door lock. When you insert a key, there is a 128-bit challenge/response exchange between the key and the lock, and when the key is authorized it will pull a small pin down through some sort of solenoid switch. This allows you to turn the lock.

Unfortunately, it has a major security flaw. If you put a strong magnet near the lock, you can also pull this pin down, without authorization — without damage or any evidence.

The worst part is that Winkhaus is in denial about the problem, and is hoping it will just go away by itself. They’ve known about the flaw for at least six months, and have done nothing. They haven’t told any of their customers. If you ask them, they’ll say things like “it takes a very special magnet.”

From what I’ve heard, the only version that does not have this problem is the model without a built-in battery. In this model, the part with the solenoid switch is aimed on the inside instead of the outside. The internal battery is a weak spot, since you need to lift a small lid to exchange it. So this side can never face the “outside” of the door, since anyone could remove the batteries. With an external power supply you do not have this problem, since one side of the lock is pure metal.

A video demonstration is available here.

Posted on March 2, 2005 at 3:00 PMView Comments

Hacking a Bicycle Rental System

CallABike offers bicycles to rent in several German cities. You register with the company, find a bike parked somewhere, and phone the company for an unlock key. You enter the key, use the bike, then park it wherever you want and lock it. The bike displays a code, and you phone the company once again, telling them this code. Thereafter, the bike is available for the next person to use it. You get charged for the time between unlock and lock.

Clever system.

Now read this site, from a group of hackers who claim to have changed the code in 10% of all the bikes in Berlin, which they now can use for free.

Posted on February 21, 2005 at 8:00 AMView Comments

Physical Access Control

In Los Angeles, the “HOLLYWOOD” sign is protected by a fence and a locked gate. Because several different agencies need access to the sign for various purposes, the chain locking the gate is formed by several locks linked together. Each of the agencies has the key to its own lock, and not the key to any of the others. Of course, anyone who can open one of the locks can open the gate.

This is a nice example of a multiple-user access-control system. It’s simple, and it works. You can also make it as complicated as you want, with different locks in parallel and in series.

Posted on December 23, 2004 at 8:36 AMView Comments

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.