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Cracking a Crypto Hard Drive Case 238

Posted by kdawson
from the easy-button dept.
juct writes "A label on the box reading 'AES' does not ensure that your data are protected. heise examined a hard drive enclosure with an RFID key that is typical of many similar products. They found that the 128-bit AES hardware encryption claimed in advertisements was in fact a simple XOR encryption that they were able to break easily with a known plaintext attack." The manufacturer of the drive examined has announced that the product is being retooled and will be reintroduced later this year, presumably with actual AES encryption.
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Cracking a Crypto Hard Drive Case

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  • by palegray.net (1195047) <<philip.paradis> <at> <palegray.net>> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @02:33AM (#22472018) Homepage Journal
    For God's sake, can't the company's executives be charged under a criminal statute? Fraud, anyone? I guess their next product will use advanced ROT13 encryption technology.
    • by Nero Nimbus (1104415) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @02:35AM (#22472022)
      Hey, that's better than ROT26.
    • by GaryPatterson (852699) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @02:35AM (#22472024)
      It'll be so good, it'll do ROT13 twice!
    • by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @02:59AM (#22472150)
      It's not fraud if it's still AES. In this case AES stands for the claims which are Advanced Equine Stool.
    • by mxs (42717) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:18AM (#22472242)

      For God's sake, can't the company's executives be charged under a criminal statute? Fraud, anyone?
      AES was used /somewhere/.

      It's /never/ a good idea to rely on cryptographic features when you don't know exactly how they are implemented. A vendor telling you they use AES is completely and utterly worthless, and always has been. It's a nice buzzword people like to use.

      It's also NEVER a good idea to use any "crypto developed in-house". Manufacturers love to tell you since they developed it and their development is secret and such that their product is safe and secure, much more secure even since nobody knows how it works.
      Cryptologists laugh at those claims, and everybody else should, too. These non-encrypting devices are a good reason as to why they do so.

      If you want truly encrypted files and disks, don't rely on cheap external enclosures. TrueCrypt is not hard to use and offers a decent level of protection (forget Windows crypto, it's littered with backdoors unless configured JUST right, which is not an easy task and definitely not default). Under linux, it's decidedly easy to use AES encryption on block devices.

      I guess their next product will use advanced ROT13 encryption technology.
      For good measure, they'll apply it twice -- after all, twice is better than once.
      • by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:24AM (#22472470) Homepage
        This is, of course, also the reason why you should never trust any closed-source products to do anything important. You have absolutely no clue about what it does and how it does it, no matter what it claims to do.
        • by garutnivore (970623) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:06AM (#22473422)
          Open source is better than closed source for security code but it is not a silver bullet. The idea is that you want to have as many objective and capable coders able to examine the security code. That way, weaknesses in the code or shady things like back-doors are likely to be spotted and publicized. Closed source creates a significant obstacle against that examination. Open source does not create the obstacle but even without obstacle to examination you have no guarantee that objective and capable coders will actually examine the code.
      • > It's also NEVER a good idea to use any "crypto developed in-house". Manufacturers love to tell you since they developed it and their development is secret and such that their product is safe and secure, much more secure even since nobody knows how it works.
        > Cryptologists laugh at those claims, and everybody else should, too. These non-encrypting devices are a good reason as to why they do so.

        Indeed, the only purpose for which this kind of thing should ever be considered is when your threat model sa
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TubeSteak (669689)
        Hardware crypto, such that key authentication/management is done without any computer interaction, means I don't have to worry about the security of the machine I'm using and it means I can use secure storage on a locked down box that does not allow software to be installed.

        If you want truly encrypted files and disks, don't rely on cheap external enclosures. TrueCrypt is not hard to use and offers a decent level of protection

        People want portable hardware solutions.
        Stop suggesting software and give us viable (ie secure) hardware alternatives.
        What are the not-so-cheap external enclosures?

        • by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:41AM (#22472542) Homepage

          Hardware crypto, such that key authentication/management is done without any computer interaction, means I don't have to worry about the security of the machine I'm using

          Wrong. If the machine you are using is compromised, anyone with access to it can access your data as soon as you unlock it, either with your physical key, or with a password. Doesn't matter if you use software or hardware encryption. If your text editor can read the file on the disk, so can any other program on the computer.

        • by mrbluze (1034940)

          People want portable hardware solutions. Stop suggesting software and give us viable (ie secure) hardware alternatives.

          The crypto solution in OS X is a practical model. Linking the folder tree encryption with the standard login password is good (without the loss of the GUI). If the solution was applied to Linux and was open-sourced, it would be no biggie to use an RFID tag or some device instead of a password. Perhaps at the loss of the RFID (person walks away), the device could lock or something.

          As for 'hardware', realistically speaking I think it's false security if only the external hard-drive is 'secure'. Wherever the person plugs it into can be compromised. Therefore every system the person uses must be trusted, which means it might as well contain the necessary software to decrypt the drive contents, which means you don't need a hardware alternative if you are serious about security.

      • For good measure, they'll apply it twice -- after all, twice is better than once.

        Its no joke. The IT group where I work have failed to provide a low latency link to a new system and proposed a compression box to install in the link. When I complained that this wouldn't work they suggested putting a second compressor in series to make the most of the bandwidth.

        And yes I know that latency has little to do with bandwidth. Thats a different story.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by xSauronx (608805)
        (forget Windows crypto, it's littered with backdoors unless configured JUST right, which is not an easy task and definitely not default). care to cite a source? i know a couple of people who would vehemently argue that windows crypto is very secure indeed and would be interested to read more about it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mxs (42717)
          From the horse's mouth, actually : http://www.microsoft.com/technet/archive/security/news/efs.mspx?mfr=true [microsoft.com]

          It's a very spinny article, of course.

          The algorithms uses are, by and large, peer-reviewed ones believed to be implemented securely (i.e. 3DES, AES, etc), so thsoe people you know would probably be right on that front (though I obviously can't check the source code myself; this is not an empty "open source is better than X" proclamation, but rather a cold, hard fact in cryptology : if the source is not
    • by msauve (701917) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:47AM (#22473638)
      although they perhaps didn't do due diligence.

      They used a chipset from INNMAX, the IM7206 [innmax.com], believing it provided AES encryption to data. INNMAX's marketing [innmax.com] strongly implies that AES encryption is being used for data on disk.

      According to the article, when confronted with this situation, INNMAX's response was

      The IN7206 merely uses AES encryption when saving the RFID chip's ID in the controller's flash memory. The company explained that actual data encryption is based on a proprietary algorithm. The company claims the IM7206 only offers basic protection and is designed for "general purpose" users.
      Cheap Chinese Crap.
      • by Svartalf (2997) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @09:57AM (#22474138) Homepage

        Cheap Chinese Crap.


        Definitely not anything unheard of. Sometimes you get a gem out of the Chinese stuff. Most of the time, though, you
        get shoddy workmanship, which is what you expect. That's because the incentives are on cutting corners wherever you
        can on the stuff over there. That's part of why I question any value in much, if not most, of the offshoring we keep
        insisting upon doing here in the States.
  • Would something like TrueCrypt [truecrypt.org], where you can easily look at the source, be a better solution? At the very least, it could avoid problems like these.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kcbanner (929309) *
      Its not the same thing. We're talking about encryption in the device (apparently), so its done before it hits the computer.
      • I'm aware it's not the same thing :). While I understand the performance benefits of doing the heavy computation with specialized hardware, I'm questioning the wisdom of trusting any embedded encryption platform that isn't easily audited for correct operation. What about devices that actually perform encryption using the algorithms claimed, but the implementation of the crypto routines contains a flaw that isn't easily detected? What do you do about it when your organization has a few of them in production? Closed platforms make me nervous when security really matters.
        • by davmoo (63521) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @02:56AM (#22472136)
          There's another disadvantage to hardware encryption like this product, even if it worked correctly, and why I also favor something like TrueCrypt (which is infact what I use) even if it might make a bit more work for the computer. The maker says "this is our special chip, and here's the source for our firmware for you to inspect"...now, how do you *know* that's really the firmware that's on that chip? Very few of us are in a position where we could take that source and make our own chip. In a situation where I want to be assured of security, I'm going to not only use TrueCrypt, I'm going to compile it myself.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:45AM (#22472346)
            I'm going to not only use TrueCrypt, I'm going to compile it myself.

            That won't help you. You need to read Reflections of Trusting Trust by Ken Thompson: http://cm.bell-labs.com/who/ken/trust.html [bell-labs.com]

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Workaphobia (931620)
            I don't know what's in the book the AC above recommended, but it's true, compiling TrueCrypt yourself adds no security over accepting a binary from the official website (I'd assume it's them you'd be getting builds from, since it is in fact a windows program). If you're paranoid enough to not trust the developers, then you're paranoid enough to require hiring a trusted party to basically recreate the software for you.
          • by evanbd (210358) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:21AM (#22472698)

            Especially since compiling the code yourself is completely sufficient to prevent security flaws. Erm. You were planning to audit it, right? Since everyone knows that's sufficient [bell-labs.com].

            Computer security is hard. Doing it right is really hard.

    • by fm6 (162816)
      Sure, open-source encryption softwareis more trustworthy than closed source. But this is a hardware solution.
    • by blackwing0013 (680833) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:00AM (#22472156)
      Call me back when they have released something based on version 5.0 that "works" with Linux. Right now, the newly released 5.0 series is broken on Linux. It will cause your machine to lockup on most kernel versions used by Linux distros. Apparently, according to the authors of Truecrypt, they require you to upgrade to the latest release of the Linux kernel, which may not be an option for most of us.

      Secondly, even if you were able to make it work the Linux kernel on your machine, the new FUSE-based Truecrypt 5.0 series is only 1/20-1/10 of the speed I get from the 4.x series. From 20-40 MB/s, now I only get 1-5 MB/s.

      I am now considering to switch to dmcrypt+luks.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pla (258480)
        Call me back when they have released something based on version 5.0 that "works" with Linux.

        Why would they bother, except as a sort of read-only compatibility mode to recover Windows volumes?

        Under Linux, you already have stable loopback device support. You can literally encrypt (or compress, or snoop, or whatever filter you can think of applying to block-device traffic) anything, without needing another tool to do it.
        • by Eivind (15695)
          You would bother if, for example, the use-case was transporting files securely between different computers, some of which run windows.

          It's quite convenient to partition a usb-device in 2 parts, one tiny holding TrueCrypt in "traveller mode" and one larger partition encrypted with TrueCrypt.

          That was you can read and write the data on any system you care to, and still are reasonably secure against data-loss should you, for example, lose the usb-gadget during travel, or similar.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Viol8 (599362)
        "Right now, the newly released 5.0 series is broken on Linux. It will cause your machine to lockup on most kernel versions used by Linux distros."

        While they're hardware may be faulty an OS should NOT lock up just because its gets unexpected signals/data down a USB cable. Sounds to me like there was a major issue with some or other linux driver.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by SirTalon42 (751509)
          Trust Crypt uses a kernel module (entirely software solution). It isn't a USB device.
      • by Teun (17872) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @09:04AM (#22473706) Homepage
        Nothing stops you from using version 4.3. Even when you think you need a GUI, there are several available.

        In the mean time I'm quite happy with the new 5.0.
      • by Chops (168851)
        FWIW, dmcrypt+luks is what the Debian installer uses if you ask for an encrypted disk, and for me it's worked a treat so far.
    • by Lars T. (470328)

      Would something like TrueCrypt [truecrypt.org], where you can easily look at the source, be a better solution? At the very least, it could avoid problems like these.
      Since we are talking about en-/de- cryption inside the hard drive case - no, not really.
      • by jibjibjib (889679)
        Isn't encryption outside the case actually more secure?
        • by Per Wigren (5315)
          Yes, it is, but that was not the point.
        • by Lars T. (470328)

          Isn't encryption outside the case actually more secure?
          Yes, but it is also pretty much useless for a portable drive that is supposed to be pluggable into just about any computer - but only usable when the RFID key is present.

          To the OS this is just an USB2 drive, unless the key is missing - then it's a brick, also to anyone who "finds" it. Or it would be, if it had decent encryption.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:06AM (#22472412)
      This was a hardware solution. There's reason to want your encryption done in hardware (less CPU load for example).

      However more importantly, what good does the source really do you? I mean I can get the Truecrypt source, and I can look at it, but it really isn't going to tell me anything other than that I'm not very good at C++. I'm not a programmer by trade, so I certainly can't trace through all the complicated code that makes up a program like Truecrypt (it even includes assembly).

      What's more, even if you are a programmer, it doesn't necessairily do you any good. Cryptography is a pretty specialized field and a pretty complex one. So while you might be able to trace through all the code and see what it does, do you have all the cryptographic knowledge to know if it is doing everything right? Can you tell the different between a properly and improperly applied algorithm? Will you notice a minor bug in assembly where they put a JNA instead of a JNAE? You might conclude everything looks fine, but be wrong simply because you don't understand how it works well enough or because the error is non-obvious.

      Now please don't misunderstand, I'm not saying I think Truecrypt is untrustworthy. Far from it, I use and trust it. I am just saying that there is the false warm fuzzy myth about OSS that tends to get thrown around on /. a lot. That the code is open doesn't mean anything because 99.999+% of people can't "easily look at the source" since it won't be meaningful to them. A source audit is only useful if the person doing it is an expert and does a thorough job.

      Well, while that certainly can, and does, happen with OSS, it can happen with closed software as well. Being open doesn't make it inherantly secure, and doesn't mean a normal person can tell.

      For that matter, to really check crypto software you don't just need a code audit, it is even more important to do a results audit. Basically you take data, you encrypt it, and then you look at the result and see if it is good. You treat the software like a black box because the question isn't "Is it producing the correct result based on the code," the question is "Is it producing the correct result based on the cryptosystem." If I wanted to audit Truecrypt I wouldn't so much be interested in how it did things internally. Heck, even if I was an expert it might easily have a bug I'd miss (since after all other experts had written it and missed said bug). What I'd be interested in is having it do encryption, then comparing the result against controls. Maybe another AES implementation I knew to be good, maybe one I wrote, maybe a bit of a test worked out by pen and paper, maybe just trying to do cryptographic attacks against the ciphertext..

      Regardless of the method, what I'd want to do is verify operation, not design. I imagine that's what they did in this case. Drive claims "this is AES encryption" so they do a little compare and contrast and, what do you know, it isn't.
      • by Bert64 (520050) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:23AM (#22472704) Homepage
        Well, just because you may not know too much about C or encryption...
        I'm not really inclined to trust some company that says product X is secure, but i'm far more likely to trust a string of unconnected individuals, especially if some of those individuals are recognised cryptography experts or have at least studied cryptography at a reputable establishment.
        Sure it's not perfect, but its a huge step in the right direction. The only perfect solution would be to study cryptography and programming (in whatever language) yourself first.
      • There's reason to want your encryption done in hardware (less CPU load for example).

        Just to put things in perspective for this specific case, full-speed encryption of the I/O traffic of a 2.5" drive would be pretty cheap with today's processors. I happen to have a dev tree of OpenSSL 0.9.9 on my system, and its AES-128 implementation runs at 160 MByte/s (in 64-bit mode) on my dual-core 2.4 GHz Athlon 64. A typical 2.5" drive like the one cracked by Heise has a sequential I/O transfer rate of 50 Mbyte/s.

      • Checking the results of crypto software isn't generally useful, except in this particularly pathological case where they didn't even implement the algorithm they claimed!

        The reason being, security weaknesses in crypto software aren't generally of the nature that they encrypt/decrypt wrongly (rendering your data entirely useless). They're more like keys get reused improperly, or privileges can be abused, or keys are written to disk, or exposed via a side-channel attack, like the timing of encryption, etc.
  • So what happens... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @02:37AM (#22472034) Journal
    ...when you lose the RFID fob?

    Does the mfg keep a list of serial #s and RFID keys so they can mail you/thief a replacement?
    • All the fobs are encoded with the special key: QWERTYUIOP1234567890. Don't worry though, the key is copyrighted internationally and cannot be used without proper authorization. Devilishly ingenious, those wily engineers...
      • by kcbanner (929309) * on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @02:57AM (#22472142) Homepage Journal
        I think this is actually true in some cases. I once worked on some 2.4ghz radios from a certain vendor, and if you forgot the admin password you could expose them to the net and they could "unlock" them (YIKESOMG). They also had a version where you gave them the MAC of the radio and they gave you a special "unlock" password over the phone. Yea. It wasn't even random either, it was an english word iirc. The world of proprietary network gear = ugh. I prefer building them myself using Soekris or similar.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gandhi_2 (1108023)
        laugh it up fuzzball...

        er wait, sorry. well some companies REALLY do rely on copyright for security. An example is the ASSA key and lock company. They make some really nice keys, but what makes them hard to copy? Copyrights on the "code" represented by the teeth on the keys.

        This is totally different than a patent on a real cool key, it's a copyright on the "data" that essentially is the serial number for sales account, dealer, region, and country.

        Their whole selling point is that no one can copy a key i

    • by mxs (42717) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:25AM (#22472270)

      ...when you lose the RFID fob?
      Glad that you asked. Thank you for being our customer. Please go download http://vendor/recover.exe [vendor]. It will recover your data on your harddrive. This is a feature. Thank you for your business.

      Does the mfg keep a list of serial #s and RFID keys so they can mail you/thief a replacement?
      Quite honestly the entire concept is flawed. a.) if you loose your key and somebody else can furbish another one, your crypto is broken by default. You cannot trust it to secure anything at all. b.) RFID IDs as keys ? Sure, everybody knows RFIDs can ONLY be read at a distance of several centimeters. Right ? RIGHT ?

      The question you should be asking is "If somebody copies my key, can I change the lock ?"

  • Yet another reason to encrypt your entire hard-drive with Linux in addition to hardware based encryption. Wish I knew enough to tell if it was working, though. Sure without the keys my hard-drives seems unreadable, but I am not a crypto expert.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by palegray.net (1195047)
      Defining security is the process of calculating that magical combination of (1) the value of what you're protecting, (2) what is costs you to protect (encrypt) it, and (3) the computational cost a determined adversary would have to expend to break the crypto. Determining an adequate level of protection for personal data is left as a personal exercise.
  • by pembo13 (770295) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @02:44AM (#22472070) Homepage
    This can't possibly be legal. Even the CEO should have an idea if one of their newest product does some highly technical thing which it advertises as a major feature. I don't expect him/her to know how AES works... but he should at least be sure that it is working on the drive. I'm sure his pocket change could hire a contractor to test this.
    • MOD PARENT UP (Score:4, Insightful)

      by chebucto (992517) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:01AM (#22472160) Homepage
      TFA says the chip manufacturer was misleading, implying that AES was used for all data when in fact it was used for the key.

      That said, the case manufacturers should have tested the product themselves. They should at least offer returns / refunds.
      • Manufacturer link. (Score:3, Informative)

        by palegray.net (1195047)
        Here's a link to the manufacturer's website [easy-nova.de]. Why don't we all ask them what they were thinking?
      • If I bought that case, my partner in business is the company that sells those cases. Whether they got tricked by their supplyer, whether they knew what's going on, I don't care. I only care that the product they sold to me isn't what it should be, thus I have the right to a refund. Whether they can reimbuse from their suppliers isn't my business and frankly, I don't care.

        And I shouldn't have to. When you buy a mainboard, should you be required to make sure all those chips, capacitors and other parts they us
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Mike1024 (184871)
      the CEO [...] I'm sure his pocket change could hire a contractor to test this.

      I'm not sure the $20 Chinese-made USB hard drive caddy market has produced many millionaire celebrity CEOs :)

      Michael
  • Trust (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mikey-San (582838) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @02:48AM (#22472084) Homepage Journal
    The manufacturer of the drive examined has announced that the product is being retooled and will be reintroduced later this year, presumably with actual AES encryption.

    Trust is a precious resource that you must cultivate; it's not a boomerang. Never risk throwing it away.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Have you ever used a boomerang before?
      Someone usually ends up catching it with the back of their head.

      I think trust IS a boomerang.
      • by Yetihehe (971185)
        The REAL australian aboriginal boomerangs never return. Because they are embedded in someone's chest...
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Opportunist (166417)
          So the analogy is flawed. Boomerangs are not a tool for protection but for cracking.

          Guess the Germans are going to outlaw them in a bit.
    • Re:Trust (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:11AM (#22472204)
      Yea, it is so!

      The precious resource of trust can only be grown slowly, fed by the nutrients of honesty, the rains of commercial and/or interpersonal interaction, and the sun-like rays of consistency. Like the noble crops of wheat that adorn the fields of the Great Plains, it is only finally harvested in the autumn of our lives. But, unlike those nutritious grains, its wholesomeness fills the belly of our souls every day of our lives.

      Nay, trust is _not_ a boomerang.
    • Freecom equally bad (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CarpetShark (865376) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:59AM (#22473690)

      Trust is a precious resource that you must cultivate; it's not a boomerang. Never risk throwing it away.


      Agreed. This is exactly what freecom did when they sold me a usb bluetooth adaptor with an antenna. I dropped it one day, and the little case popped open. OK, that happens; no big deal. What WAS a big deal though, was the antenna -- it was simply a bit of plastic, swinging from a hole in the case. There were no wires attached to this, nothing else near it that even suggested it might have accidentally been shipped with a "placeholder" or something like that. It was simple, unadultered fraud. The antenna might as well have been made by Tomy, which is a shame, as otherwise, it worked fine, and the antenna probably was unnecessary after all (I bought that model FOR it's antenna figuring it wouldn't hurt, and might help).

      What do freecom gain from this? Something like $5, I'd guess, after the store etc. take their cuts.

      What do they lose? Me, as a an IT industry purchaser, ever buying their products again. Me telling other IT people on slashdot what I think of Freecom.

      What could they have done instead, to compete with manufacturer X's? "We're confident in our product's reception/transmission, and have no need for gimmicks like the antennas manufacturer X uses." I probably would have bought a lot more of their stuff after that.

      Dumbasses.
  • by corsec67 (627446) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @02:52AM (#22472110) Homepage Journal
    XOR doesn't immediately mean that it is a crappy form of encryption. One Time Pads [wikipedia.org] can be a very good form of encryption, if the pad is generated correctly and used only once. But, that isn't very useful for encrypting a hard drive. It looks to me like the "encryption" in the box was just a 512 byte key used like a OTP for each sector, which is trivial to break, as the article says.

    Stream Ciphers [wikipedia.org] also use XOR, but are much more convenient to use and could very easily be used to encrypt a hard drive.
    • by RupW (515653) * on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:21AM (#22472258)

      Stream Ciphers [wikipedia.org] also use XOR, but are much more convenient to use and could very easily be used to encrypt a hard drive.
      The problem is that very few stream ciphers allow you to quickly seek to an arbitrary point in the stream - so unless you just want to read the entire drive sequentially you're SOL.

      The only exception I've read about is SEAL [wikipedia.org] but IIRC that's still patented by IBM.

      • by JohnFluxx (413620)
        If it did let you seek to an arbitrary point, then wouldn't it be a block cipher rather than a stream cipher, by definition?
    • by kiltyj (936758) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [jytlik]> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:28AM (#22472280)
      To enforce parent's point, many (if not all) of the best modes of operation (CCM, etc) for block ciphers like AES use XOR -- it would be silly to think of cryptography without XOR.

      It is also true that one can use AES (ignorantly) in a way that allows decryption as described in the article. Using Electronic codebook (ECB) [wikipedia.org], for example, with the same key for each block, would provide no security beyond what would be provided by a reused OTP. Sadly (though obviously insecure), this is still technically using AES as a block cipher -- it's just using an insecure mode of operation. My first thought was that the manufacturers used ECB, or a similar insecure mode of operation (trusting the claim of using AES).

      From reading the article, though, it seems the manufacturers even admitted only using AES "when saving the RFID chip's ID in the controller's flash memory" and that "actual data encryption is based on an algorithm developed in-house." Just goes to show that if tried-and-true algorithms / ciphers are available, you should NEVER have to develop your own.
    • by Woek (161635) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:48AM (#22472354)
      XOR is not an encryption method, it's just a binary operation. It's what you XOR your data with that determines if your encryption is good or not. That's what is the problem in this case.
    • by Xenna (37238)
      You could use a one-time-pad like device with Crypto-RAID (patent applied for). One disk contains the key and the other contains the cyphertext. One is useless without the other. You'd get in trouble once you start updating files because with a true OTP you should never reuse the key.

      X.
  • This is nothing new (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SchizoDuckie (1051438) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @03:28AM (#22472286) Homepage
    Actually, this is nothing new. A couple of months ago the dutch colleagues at tweakers.net had a couple of great reports on how crappy the 'fingerprint security' USB drives are. Most of them are ont he same level of crappyness this one is.
  • by kasperd (592156) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:14AM (#22472438) Homepage Journal
    The good thing about having the crypto performed in the enclosure is, that you can perform this kind of analysis. Had the same "encryption" been implemented directly on the disk or in a usb stick, it might not have been noticed, that it was so weak. My take on this is to never trust the crypto performed by such an enclosure unless there is a software implementation doing the exact same thing, and that one has been carefully inspected. The point of doing the encryption in hardware is performance, it does not add any additional security.
  • by lintux (125434) <slashdot@w[ ]er.gaast.net ['ilm' in gap]> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @04:59AM (#22472620) Homepage
    I have an AES-encrypted ext3 partition on some portable drive somewhere (using the encrypted loopback device) and I once had the impression that it has the same problem, just XORing every sector with the same 512-bit key. Am I the onlt one? I don't have the drive here right now to check it out, unfortunately..
  • by therufus (677843) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @05:18AM (#22472688)
    If you make something that has some form of security (anything really) and you promote that it has security, surely the last thing you do before you release it is test your security. In IT especially, if you ever release a product to do with security, you have to expect that there will be a group of nerds (or even one) who will try to hack your security just so they can say they've done it. It's pure embarrassment that such a simple encryption mechanism is locking down a so-called secure device.

    Am I wrong?
  • WTF? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EddyPearson (901263) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:01AM (#22473120) Homepage
    Why havn't they been charged with fraud and false advertising.

    If I sell you a padlock, claiming that its made of steel, when actually its made of a Silly Putty and rubber bands, then I'm going have my day in court. Why Tech vendors seem TOTALLY immune to this kind of prosecution.

    Puts me in mind of SecuLock (was that the name?), they were featured here a while back, they make "secure" USB memory sticks, they claimed AES encryption, killswitches and other bells and whistles, but if you were to have a quick look at one of the DLL's exports, you can see a an Unlock routine. You see, the user's password wasn't used as a key, Oh no, they had one global key and a simple IF to check the passwords.

    Though this is much, much worse, it beggars the question; how can we berate employees for losing disks and laptops, when the vendors are happy to look us in the eye and lie to us, about standards that I was able to implement when I was about 16.

    It's either government interferance (remember, the USA's law forcing vendors to embed backdoors for them), or its just plain lazy, either way, it's got to stop.
  • by nickovs (115935) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:02AM (#22473406)
    It's perfectly possible that they have actually implemented AES, they've just done it wrong. It is not uncommon to use AES in Counter Mode [wikipedia.org] or Galois/Counter Mode [wikipedia.org], especially in high-throughput hardware implementations. This is reasonably strong providing that the key used for each disc block is different (for example by hashing or even just XORing the block ID with the base key). However, if the key is left the same for every block then you would get exactly the effect observed here, and the resulting solution is very weak indeed.

    So, it's perfectly possible that they are not lying at all, they just are not very good at crypto.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:54AM (#22473668)
    Sure its "easy" to crack if you know about these things , but the encryption is just meant to protect against casual snooping if the drive is stolen. Lets be honest , most thieves would have trouble spelling their own name on their crack cocaine receipts, what are the odds on them being able to decipher the data on an XOR'd drive? They just want to sell the drive on and the mug who buys it down the pub will find it won't work anyway because he doesn't have the fob. Is he going to hire some hacker from L337D00d5-r-u5 to decode the data for him? Doubt it. Sure theres a possibility but then theres probably a greater possibility of fraudsters going through your garbage or intercepting your post.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @09:59AM (#22474152)
    Well, welcome to the new world of IT. Now it's official that we got the first fake products that the time has come, IT security has become an issue.

    How do you know? Well, companies finally realize that yes, we want some sort of security. They usually have no idea about it (how should they, their administrators are usually some goons hired from the street who know how to use a mouse, what makes them administrators is that they know that TCP/IP ain't the Chinese secret service. MAYBE they can build a VPN tunnel). But encryption?

    You know what the brass level says in this case: "Ain't there some product we can buy?" And in comes stuff like this. Stuff that promises security. Nobody can verify it (in the average company), but their admin might even have heard of AES, knows it's decent and thus buys the product. Why? Hey, it says "AES encryption" on the box!

    We'll see a lot more products like this in the near future. Then, in about 2 years, companies will realize that they will have to spend money on people to get real security. It's just like it was with the advent of networking and later when "the internet" came into companies. First, they tried to buy products (which were just as shoddy as this one, promising "easy installation" wonders only to work ... well, sometimes), later they hired some sort of goons who could credibly talk the average HR guy under the desk in IT babble, and a few went on and hired real IT people.

    It will be the same with security. Today you have the "buying the wonders" phase. Give it two years and companies will start to train or hire security people. Yes, many will stick with the goons with better fast-talking skills than IT skills, but some will go for good security people.

    So, personally, I'd start digging into that sector. We'll see more of that soon.

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