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Encryption Security Software News

Security Company Tries To Hide Flaws By Threatening Infringement Suit 124

An anonymous reader writes: An RFID-based access control system called IClass is used across the globe to provide physical access controls. This system relies on cryptography to secure communications between a tag and a reader. Since 2010, several academic papers have been released which expose the cryptographic insecurity of the IClass system. Based on these papers, Martin Holst Swende implemented the IClass ciphers in a software library, which he released under the GNU General Public License.

The library is useful to experiment with and determine the security level of an access control system (that you own or have explicit consent to study). However, last Friday, Swende received an email from INSIDE Secure, which notified him of (potential) intellectual property infringement, warning him off distributing the library under threat of "infringement action." Interestingly, it seems this is not the first time HID Global has exerted legal pressure to suppress information.
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Security Company Tries To Hide Flaws By Threatening Infringement Suit

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  • by Kevin Fishburne ( 1296859 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @12:25AM (#48192571) Homepage
    Nothing worse than a person who always finds a way to blame someone else for their own mistakes, except perhaps cold coffee or warm beer.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      There is an easy solution. Send them a picture of Goatse and tell them to fuck off.
    • by clemdoc ( 624639 )
      There is nothing wrong with cold coffee.
      Warm beer on the other hand should be considered a crime against humanity.
      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        ..how about beer with ice?

        (thailand, everyone puts ice in beer. even if it is 15 C outside and they're wearing eskimo clothing.)

        • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @08:03AM (#48194143) Journal
          Beer should be served at room temperature (not warm). If it needs to be chilled, which reduces the sensitivity of the tastebuds, then the correct solution is to buy better beer.
          • Are we a pommy?** I agree that our "ice cold" light beer stateside is far from the height of brewcraft. But there are very few liquids of any sort that I want to consume at room temperature. Even the best beers could stand to be wine-cellar temperature or a little cooler. Maybe you drink all your beer in a wine cellar, in which case carry on--"room temperature" is correct!


            **No offense meant. It's just a funny term I heard from some Australian friends. You'd do just as well to call me a POGWBABOSS
            • ... Maybe you drink all your beer in a wine cellar, in which case carry on--"room temperature" is correct! ...

              The castles of Europe were -not- all that warm. "Room Temperature" all depends on the temperature of your room. 8-)

          • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

            Beer should be served at room temperature (not warm).

            The piece of info I think a lot of folks are probably missing here is that Brits keep their rooms very cold. They've found that it not only saves them money on their heating bills, but it makes their beer taste much better.

          • I don't even like wine at the correct temperature, I want it colder. To insist that there is one and only one way to do things is the wrong attitude to take.

        • ..how about beer with ice?

          (thailand, everyone puts ice in beer. even if it is 15 C outside and they're wearing eskimo clothing.)

          I've done it. Wasn't half bad.

          • by doccus ( 2020662 )
            Problem with ice in beer, is that cubes melt. Not a problem for the first few, but if, like me, you teend to slow down after the first few pints, and can still tell the difference between stale and good beer at that point, the cubes definitely don't add to the bouquet after they melt ;-)
      • There is nothing wrong with cold coffee. Warm beer on the other hand should be considered a crime against humanity.

        Depends on the beer

        If you drink BuMilCoors, the colder the better, or just get the same effect by putting toothache medicine on your tongue first.

      • by jd2112 ( 1535857 )

        There is nothing wrong with cold coffee. Warm beer on the other hand should be considered a crime against humanity.

        That's It! Time to go to WAR with England!

      • Warm is the correct temperature for proper beer.

        the problem is that American beer is crap unless distilled to vapour (when it is effective for clearing out blocked sinuses and removing wallpaper) or frozen solid (when it is good against sprains, bee stings and such like minor injuries).

        Quite why Americans drink the stuff when it has so many better uses ... simply incomprehensible.

    • Warm beer isn't always a flaw... depends on local customs.
  • Oh, another one (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @12:33AM (#48192603) Homepage Journal

    IClass, meet Barbara [wikipedia.org].

    • Can't say I've ever heard of IClass before. Nor security by litigation. Now I have something to remember them for :-)

      • Can't say I've ever heard of [...] security by litigation.

        Then you weren't around for the DeCSS cases.

        • Can't say I've ever heard of [...] security by litigation.

          Then you weren't around for the DeCSS cases.

          I was... and security was not successfully achieved by litigation, nor even by ITAR restrictions. I think I still have my DeCSS t-shirt somewhere, with the code printed on the back. At the time that t-shirt was arguably an illegal munition, which of course is why it existed and why I bought it.

      • You've never used or seen HID products before? Do you live in a cave or just never do any work involving security? BTW their iClass products are pretty crap especially the fingerprint readers. Worked at a place who used them to secure the SCIFs and they had a false fail rate of well over 50% based on my own use and hearing about other people's headaches with them. They would also need constant resetting.

        • by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

          Probably more people have heard of them as HID Global and not iClass.

          When I saw iClass, my thought was "I can't remember, is that one of HID's brands?"

          The HID products where I work are flaky as hell too...

      • They should know that IP doesn't cover educational or research uses even of intellectual property. My response would be to call upon the bar of any lawyers involved to dis-bar the lawyers, as well as sue for mis-use of their credentials in unlawful threats, among other things--how to actually label the crimes depends on the jurisdictions involved. They get complacent when we say "this is just a normal/standard tactic by an entity attempting to stop activity/exposure it doesn't like, but it's safe to ignore"
        • by plover ( 150551 )

          You have just described the crime of barratry [wikipedia.org], or of a SLAPP [wikipedia.org]. Neither will get you disbarred.

          Remember, the bar is populated by other lawyers, and they like to practice freely. They're won't disbar someone for defending their client through vigorous means - to defend someone in any other way would be unethical to their client. A SLAPP has to be really, really egregious before it sinks to that level.

          • I cordially dissent.

            What they may call "defend [...] their client through vigorous means", others call intimidation under colors of authority. It's a crime that just isn't prosecuted anymore, and everyone BUT lawyers know better--that saying it's just vigorous representation is to ensure they aren't being unethical when it is a threat, veiled or otherwise.

            I have spent time around various lawyers--even who think this way, who can say "we did used to have some serious standards, even that lawyers weren't
  • by EzInKy ( 115248 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @12:38AM (#48192623)

    Most of the world knows that security is fleeting, and those that deepend on the law to preserve obscurity is the fleetingness of all. Do they not even consider that citizens of nations that don't give a shit about legal protections are the very people their customers need to be protected against? These companies should be paying rewards to anyone who can defeat their protections, not punishing them.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @06:49AM (#48193809) Journal

      Most of the world knows that security is fleeting, and those that deepend on the law to preserve obscurity is the fleetingness of all. Do they not even consider that citizens of nations that don't give a shit about legal protections are the very people their customers need to be protected against? These companies should be paying rewards to anyone who can defeat their protections, not punishing them.

      Aside from pure cultural dysfunction (of the sort that causes even some software companies to threaten the people who do free security testing for them, and even offer them time to fix bugs before releasing the proof of concept), the issue is that HID and friends are closer to locksmiths than to software companies.

      RFID (and non-standardized but conceptually similar contactless short range RF fobs and slightly longer range button-cell-powered keyless entry systems) tends to be painfully computationally limited, since the tags need to be cheap and need to work on a tiny power budget. The older ones are even worse, of course, since they had less efficient silicon fabrication options to work with. For the same reason, such devices aren't usually little microcontrollers with flashable software; but mostly or entirely fixed-function implementations of crap proprietary crypto systems. Depending on when the corresponding card readers and access control stuff was installed, and what the customer picked, those parts of the system may also be hard to upgrade without ripping them out and replacing them(and, since this is a physical security issue, the readers are more likely to be embedded in walls/bolted to stuff/otherwise tied down and hardwired, so it won't just be swapping out a bunch of desktops.

      Because upgrading in-software/firmware is often difficult or impossible, and upgrading involves ripping out hardware that was supposed to have years of service life, HID and friends really don't want to hear about it. They'd much rather just try to tamp down public awareness of the issue, hope that there are no high-profile breaches of customers capable of suing them, and pretend it isn't a problem until the flawed parts have aged out.

      As much as it's a repulsive, dishonest, and definitely-unworthy-of-support-by-the-courts tactic, it must be admitted that plenty of known-broken lock designs continue to more-or-less do their jobs (if attackers are still forcing doors rather than just picking locks, the lock is apparently still effective) for years after their weaknesses become public knowledge, so it is entirely probable that various HID access fobs will quietly age out without any major incidents. No need to threaten the researchers about it, though.

      • by plover ( 150551 )

        On the one hand, there is the philosophy that "locks only keep honest people out." If someone is using a hack to bypass their door security, the current legal framework could be used to charge them with trespassing, breaking and entering, illegal use of lock-picking equipment, possession of burglary tools, or some other charge. If a prosecutor wants to file charges against you for using such a device, he will. To that end, HID may feel they have to try to defend their system through the legal system, or

    • by Another, completely ( 812244 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @08:27AM (#48194299)

      They didn't threaten him for studying the algorithm, the note is about publishing code that implements their proprietary encryption algorithm. It seems more likely that they are worried about a competitor building compatible devices. If they allowed a freely published GPL implementation to be distributed without challenge, somebody might say that was implicitly approving of its distribution and therefore permitting compatible devices to be legally sold that interact with their proprietary system. I'm not sure whether that would hold up in court, but it would certainly drag out the proceedings.

      From the letter, this isn't shooting the messenger so much as normal protection of a proprietary product. If somebody eventually convinces the public that it's insecure, they will deal with that later; maybe they will even have fixed their systems by then. The important thing for now is that whatever systems are out there are all genuinely from INSIDE Secure.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        From the letter, this isn't shooting the messenger so much as normal protection of a proprietary product. If somebody eventually convinces the public that it's insecure, they will deal with that later; maybe they will even have fixed their systems by then. The important thing for now is that whatever systems are out there are all genuinely from INSIDE Secure.

        HID fixing the insecurity of their products? Hahahahahahaha. Funniest joke I've heard so far this week.

      • by plover ( 150551 )

        Nope. Legal protections for intellectual property include patents, trademarks, and copyright. However, all these have limited lifetimes. Having a trade secret means you forgo any legal protection, and you take on defending your secret through your own security systems. That means you can retain a trade secret for as long as you can keep it secret, but once the genie's out of the bottle, too bad. The courts can't help you directly, but you could sue a disgruntled employee if he published the 11 secret h

  • NoClass sounds more like it.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @12:46AM (#48192651) Journal
    He is not being threatened for copyright infringement, he's being warned about patent infringement. Here is the link to the patent in question [google.com] (there's also a European patent). Furthermore, it seems the lawyers have determined that he has not committed infringement himself, but users of his library may use it to infringe. Therefore, the letter does not even threaten any legal action at all. It's just a friendly request.....or as friendly as lawyers ever get.

    Below I will paste the specific patent's independent claims. I don't think this can actually cover generic software written for the PC, because of the 'secret memory' and the fact that they have patented the device implemented in hardware, not a software implementation of the algorithm (and how many computers actually have a pseudo-random shift register?)

    1. Method of producing an authentication code (CA), comprising cycles for reading binary words (Mn) out of a secret memory (21) comprising a plurality of binary words, wherein, at each cycle, the address for reading a word out of the secret memory (21) is generated from an address generating binary word (GA) forming the result of a combination operation (Fc, ) of words (M1 to Mn) read out of the memory during previous cycles, characterised in that it comprises a transform operation of the address generating word (GA) consisting in logically combining at least one bit (g'0, g'1, g'2) of the address generating word (GA) with at least one bit (r1, r4, r6) of a pseudo-random shift register (26).

    8. Logic machine (20, 20-1, 30) clocked by a clock signal (H), comprising a secret memory (21) in which a plurality of binary words read out at clock rate are stored, wherein the output of the memory (21) is applied to a first input (A) of a logic circuit (22) whose output (C) is fed back to the second input (B), the logic circuit (22) performing a combination (Fc, "+") of its two inputs (A, B) and producing an address generating binary word (GA) supplied to the address input (ADR) of the memory, characterised in that it comprises a pseudo-random shift register (26) and logic means (25-1, 27) for combining at least one bit (r1, r4, r6) of the shift register (26) with at least one bit (g'0, g'1, g'2) of the address generating word (GA).

    • by dutchwhizzman ( 817898 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @01:51AM (#48192867)

      His implementation only uses non-secret memory and should therefor be safe from these patents. The patents described here rely on the contents of the memory of the contraptions to be "secret" to make the process "secure".

      You could even say that the original implementation by INSIDE secure doesn't follow the patent since obviously, the memory content isn't that "secret" anymore.

  • by Strangely Familiar ( 1071648 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @12:50AM (#48192659) Homepage
    Claim 1 of the patent is pretty long, and the disputed software would have to meet all of the limitations of that claim to infringe.

    Method of producing an authentication code (CA), comprising cycles for reading binary words (Mn) out of a secret memory (21) comprising a plurality of binary words, wherein, at each cycle, the address for reading a word out of the secret memory (21) is generated from an address generating binary word (GA) forming the result of a combination operation (Fc, ) of words (M1 to Mn) read out of the memory during previous cycles, characterised in that it comprises a transform operation of the address generating word (GA) consisting in logically combining at least one bit (g'0, g'1, g'2) of the address generating word (GA) with at least one bit (r1, r4, r6) of a pseudo-random shift register (26).

    Without inspecting the software, and knowing what the HID attorney is asserting, there is no way of forming a legal opinion... and this is in no way a legal opinion, just a recitation of the first patent claim and some questions. But it does look like the method requires using a "pseudo-random shift register" and a "secret memory" among other things. Do the people who are said to infringe actually use this method? Does the code require that such a register and memory be used, or are there ways the code could be used without infringing all of the elements in the claim? Is the target of the letter simply caving to avoid consulting a lawyer?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Read any book by Donald E. Knuth. From about 1962 to 1973 for starters.
      I'm sure shift register feedback is covered - and how the h*** can you get a patent for this rubbish with all the prior art and such.
      Throw in the words secret memory and pseudo random. What a disgrace in classic CS plagiarism with a pike and twist and double bluff. FIPS is a little bit better, but with electron scanning microscopes, the word secret is now memory chip wrapped in wire and difficult to dissolve glue. If a repeating cycle w

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Because the patent covers something that meets -all- the claims, not just any individual one. Often patents build upon existing patents/knowledge. It's the overall thing that matters.

        Which is not me agreeing with software patents. I don't. Algorithms should not be patentable. Arguably implementations perhaps could be - but only if they're non-trivial and non-obvious. Complex systems that utilise those algorithms are another matter, but then it's the system not the algorithm that you patent.

        Throw in the words secret memory and pseudo random

        pseudo-random is

        • Dude, you are seriously misinformed. Don't repeat things you heard when you don't really know. A method or device need only meet all of the elements in one claim to infringe. Maybe someone once said that a device must meet all claim elements to infringe, and someone not familiar with patent law repeated that later, but remembered it as "a device must meet all the claims to infringe". Any competent person analyzing infringement first looks to the independent claims to see if there is infringement. If none of
  • The code is implemented for people to be able to play with an insecure algorithm, to test it's weaknesses. If I were the author of the library, I would have added a warning like this:

    This code is known insecure. If you ship on a real device to customers, you are such a moron that........imagine every insult Linus Torvalds has ever spoken or written, and that it applied to you. Would you want that? That's what would be the case if you used this in production code.
    Furthermore, even if you're the dumbest pe
    • That suggestion does seem like it would make it hard for the HID attorney to continue to assert that Swende is trying "to incite third parties to infringe our intellectual property rights."
  • by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @01:23AM (#48192799) Homepage
    Some software projects like LAME, x264, and libav claim to skirt around patent issues by only distributing source code, not binaries. I've always wondered if this is a valid workaround, or just some clever devs getting their hopes up.
  • Logical (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @01:23AM (#48192801) Journal

    "Being a security company, we wanna keep our mistakes secure."

  • by sxpert ( 139117 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2014 @02:50AM (#48193025)

    under european law, they have no standing for requesting this sort of code to be removed, as the code was obviously created as a research tool and for interoperability.

    screw those idiots... let's start git cloning the hell of it ;)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by zm ( 257549 )
      A French company threatening a Swedish guy with a US law.. Makes perfect sense...
  • If they were on the up and up they'd be glad for the help finding their flaws I'd think...

We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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