Monthly Archives: December 2006

Chip & PIN terminal playing Tetris

Many discussions over the security of Chip & PIN have focused on the tamper-resistance of terminals (for example in the aftermath of the Shell Chip & PIN fraud). It is important to remember, however, that even perfect tamper resistance only ensures that the terminal will no longer be able to communicate with the bank once opened. It does not prevent anyone from replacing most of the terminal’s hardware and presenting it to customers as legitimate, so freely collecting card details and PINs.

Steven Murdoch and myself took the chassis of a real terminal and replaced much of the internal electronics such that it allows us to control the screen, keypad and card-reader. Steven suggested that in order to show that it is completely under our control, we should make it play Tetris (similarly to the guys who made a voting machine play chess). We recorded a short video showing our Tetris playing terminal in action. Have a merry Christmas and happy New Year đŸ™‚

Update (2007-01-03): The video is now on YouTube.

Update (2007-01-05): The Association for Payment Clearing Services
(APACS) has responded:

APACS, the payments organisation representing high street banks, said the Cambridge breakthrough could be a threat.

‘People could, in theory, use this to steal account details from cards,’ said Sandra Quinn of APACS. ‘Our experts are in discussion with the manufacturers of terminals to see what can be done. Essentially what these people have done is replace the innards of a chip and Pin machine.

‘However, we would say that this has only been seen in a laboratory so far. People would not be able to create counterfeit chip and Pin cards, but they could use this information abroad to make purchases.’

Continue reading Chip & PIN terminal playing Tetris

Health database optout – latest news

This morning I debated health privacy on Radio 4’s Today programme with health minister Lord Warner. You can listen to the debate here, and there is an earlier comment by Michael Summers of the Patients’ Association here.

I support a campaign by TheBigOptOut.org which has so far persuaded thousands of people to write to their GPs forbidding the upload of their patient records to central systems. Once they are uploaded, you’ll have to prove ‘substantial mental distress’ to the government (as Lord Warner says) to get them removed or restricted. It is much simpler to tell your GP not to upload them in the first place (and you can always change your mind later if the Government delivers on its claims about safety and privacy).

For more, see TheBigOptOut.org, nhs-it.info and my previous blog posts here, here and here, and our work on children’s databases (children’s safety and privacy might be particularly at risk from the proposals, as I explain in the debate).

23rd Chaos Communication Congress

23C3 logoThe 23rd Chaos Communication Congress will be held later this month in Berlin, Germany on 27–30 December. I will be attending to give a talk on Hot or Not: Revealing Hidden Services by their Clock Skew. Another contributor to this blog, George Danezis, will be talking on An Introduction to Traffic Analysis.

This will be my third time speaking at the CCC (I previously talked on Hidden Data in Internet Published Documents and The Convergence of Anti-Counterfeiting and Computer Security in 2004 then Covert channels in TCP/IP: attack and defence in 2005) and I’ve always had a great time but this year looks to be the best yet. Here are a few highlights from the draft programme, although I am sure there are many great talks I have missed.

It’s looking like a great line-up, so I hope many of you can make it. See you there!

Health privacy … breaking news …

The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, has written a letter to all GPs and hospital medical directors telling them that if patients try to opt out of the central collection of their medical data, the Secretary of State must be told. This follows a campaign that I’ve been helping and that has attracted strong support – in the press, from GPs and from public opinion.

This letter orders GPs to break patient confidentiality – and apparently for the noble purpose of news management. I understand that at least one GP will be reporting Sir Liam to the General Medical Council. It is entirely up to the patient to decide whether to send an opt-out letter to their GP, to Ms Hewitt, or to both. It is not for a civil servant – even a very grand one like Sir Liam – to unilaterally override the wishes of those patients who decide to write to their GP but not to Ms Hewitt. (It’s also somewhat amusing as, only a month ago, officials were telling patients who tried to opt out that their GPs would decide whether to upload data.)

Developing …