Daily Archives: 2009-11-11

Interview with Steven Murdoch on Finextra

Today, Finextra (a financial technology news website), has published a video interview with me, discussing my research on banks using card readers for online banking, which was recently featured on TV.

In this interview, I discuss some of the more technical aspects of the attacks on card readers, including the one demonstrated on TV (which requires compromising a Chip & PIN terminal), as well as others which instead require that the victim’s PC be compromised, but which can be carried out on a larger scale.

I also compare the approaches taken by the banking community to protocol design, with that of the Internet community. Financial organizations typically develop protocols internally, and so are subject to public scrutiny late in deployment, if at all. This is in contrast with Internet protocols which are commonly first discussed within industry and academia, then the specification is made public, and only then is it implemented. As a consequence, vulnerabilities in banking security systems are often more expensive to fix.

Also, I discuss some of the non-technical design decisions involved in the deployment of security technology. Specifically, their design needs to take into account risk analysis, psychology and usability, not just cryptography. Organizational structures also need to incentivize security; groups who design security mechanisms should be responsible for failure. Organizational structures should also discourage knowledge of security failings from being hidden from management. If necessary a separate penetration testing team should report directly to board level.

Finally I mention one good design principle for security protocols: “make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler”.

The video (7 minutes) can be found below, and is also on the Finextra website.