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Author Topic: Radio was the security weakness  (Read 3347 times)
AC7CW
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« on: April 13, 2017, 10:07:16 AM »

https://thehackernews.com/2017/04/emergency-tornado-siren-hack.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheHackersNews+%28The+Hackers+News+-+Security+Blog%29&_m=3n.009a.1471.eh0ao09rcy.vil

One of the easier hacks, ever: record the transmission and play it back. The contractor is getting $100,000 to switch over to p25 probably...
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Novice 1958, 20WPM Extra now... (and get off my lawn)
N8YX
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« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2017, 10:10:25 AM »

The authorities are the only ones professional enough to have radios.
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W9ZIM
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« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2017, 10:39:37 AM »

A lot of people still think radio signals are some kind of voodoo magic and don't realize that anything transmitted through the air is available to anybody with the right equipment to receive it.  I still remember when cell phone users were shocked to discover that their phones were really little more than two-way radios, and then the government put a band-aid on it by blocking those frequencies in consumer-grade receivers.

For any government system, I would think basic encryption on all radio transmissions should be the absolute minimum precaution, but then when you have a government official who still thinks radio signals are some kind of voodoo magic signing off on the project, well, you get the sort of thing being discussed here.
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DL8OV
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« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2017, 12:50:43 AM »

Given the directional nature of the signal and the scarcity of equipment would it not be better to signal the sirens using microwaves?

Peter DL8OV
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W9IQ
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« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2017, 02:29:59 AM »

156 microwave links? I don't think that is anywhere in the vicinity of practical or economical.

- Glenn W9IQ
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- Glenn W9IQ

I never make a mistake. I thought I did once but I was wrong.
G3RZP
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« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2017, 05:36:47 AM »

With all these systems, you need a strict 'need to know' policy on the encryption. But the problem still remains that somebody doing maintenance or repair does have a need to know, and simple things like having the info on an encrypted memory stick means that a loss of it still compromises the system. How soon depends on how much effort is put into breaking the encryption.
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W9IQ
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« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2017, 05:56:41 AM »

Peter,

Quote
With all these systems, you need a strict 'need to know' policy on the encryption.

In the security field, we tend to view security by obscurity as a bad plan. With a well engineered cryptographic system, you can publish everything (not that you need or want to) except the private keys and it will remain secure within the useable lifetime of the crypto algorithm.

- Glenn W9IQ
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- Glenn W9IQ

I never make a mistake. I thought I did once but I was wrong.
SM0AOM
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« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2017, 06:45:54 AM »

This was actually quite common in "the old days".

The government-owned nationwide TV distribution network in Sweden unintentionally went down at least three times during the 70's and 80's because of its use of in-band unencrypted tone signalling to turn on and off the transmitters at the TV sites.

This was a remote control system that was delivered with the first and second generation TV transmitters, and which used tone pulse signalling in the sound channel. "Transmitter off" was 10 pulses (="zero" on a telephone rotary dial).

The first incidents were caused by bird sounds and telephone signals in TV programmes that managed to emulate the tone sequence, but the last one, which compelled the network operator to accelerate the upgrade process to out-of-band signalling, was caused by a journalist that had taped the turn-off sequence off-air and managed to replay it in a live broadcast.

The "Remote Control Bureau" at Swedish Telecom Radio had to take a lot of flak from higher-up management for allowing such a vulnerable system to be in operation for so long.
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W2NAP
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« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2017, 06:27:46 PM »

A lot of people still think radio signals are some kind of voodoo magic and don't realize that anything transmitted through the air is available to anybody with the right equipment to receive it.  I still remember when cell phone users were shocked to discover that their phones were really little more than two-way radios, and then the government put a band-aid on it by blocking those frequencies in consumer-grade receivers.

For any government system, I would think basic encryption on all radio transmissions should be the absolute minimum precaution, but then when you have a government official who still thinks radio signals are some kind of voodoo magic signing off on the project, well, you get the sort of thing being discussed here.

49mhz cordless phones. oh those were some fun days
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I AM THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS!
AC7CW
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« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2017, 06:28:24 PM »

A lot of people still think radio signals are some kind of voodoo magic and don't realize that anything transmitted through the air is available to anybody with the right equipment to receive it.  I still remember when cell phone users were shocked to discover that their phones were really little more than two-way radios, and then the government put a band-aid on it by blocking those frequencies in consumer-grade receivers.

My view of the competency of public sector workers has been skewed a little more every time I read about an emergency wherein the various responders could not talk to each other. I mean, this has gone on for decades now and I doubt it's over with. Much of the time Hams are called in to relay messages.

I do recall the cellphone controversy. Preceding that consumers found it hard to believe that their wireless phones inside their houses were not safe from hackers. I took my dad's phone along in his pickup truck and demonstrated that as we drove I could pick up dial tones from houses. Then they found that no privacy was built into the cell system. I tried to tell the congress that it was a technical problem and should be handled by upgrades from the carriers but the carriers just did what they do: paid some legislators.
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Novice 1958, 20WPM Extra now... (and get off my lawn)
G3RZP
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« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2017, 05:07:17 AM »

Quote
With a well engineered cryptographic system, you can publish everything (not that you need or want to) except the private keys and it will remain secure within the useable lifetime of the crypto algorithm.

But somewhere in the system, the private keys have to be known for maintenance when things go down. Even if they supplied to maintenance ready burnt into a ROM, you really need the ICs with the key in them to be fitted with the special chemical that dissolves the metal very rapidly on exposure to air, and can't be readily washed off. That was certainly done for some programmable ICs that were intended to hold crypto keys at one company I worked at.

There are still people who think that there really are totally secure web sites. At the early stages of the development of the European Radio Equipment Directive, the European Commission wanted data for all radios to be held on a 'secure' web site available to the radio administrations of 28 countries. This data included how to put the radio into a test mode to prove compliance with the necessary standards. When it was pointed out that this would allow medical implants such as pacemakers fitted with radio telemetry to be put into test mode and the battery run down, they would not accept that this could be a problem. It took a lot of lobbying to get such a dangerous idea removed.......
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W9IQ
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« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2017, 05:29:56 AM »

Peter,

Quote
But somewhere in the system, the private keys have to be known for maintenance when things go down. Even if they supplied to maintenance ready burnt into a ROM, ...

The state of the art has advanced considerably from the days of storing private keys in any readable form. There are now cryptographic processors that once loaded with the private key, any other copies of the private key can be destroyed as the crypto processor envelops all necessary crypto operations.

In the scenario of this thread, only the transmitter/initiator needs the secure crypto processor. All the receiving sites only need the public key which can be freely known. The primary attack surface has now been largely narrowed to the transmitter and the security procedures related to it provided that there is no common, exploitable weakness in the receive sites.

In the event of a suspected breach of the transmitter security, a new key pair is created. The private key is loaded into the crypto processor and the public key is distributed for the receive sites.

- Glenn W9IQ
« Last Edit: April 16, 2017, 05:32:52 AM by W9IQ » Logged

- Glenn W9IQ

I never make a mistake. I thought I did once but I was wrong.
K7RBW
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« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2017, 06:23:09 AM »

From the article:
Quote
It is believed that the hacker who managed to trigger alarm last Friday somehow managed to gain access to the siren system documentation to know the exact tonal commands that trigger an alarm, and then just played that command signal repeatedly.

Um... or they just listened to the radio before the sirens went off and pressed "record."
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W9ZIM
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Posts: 159




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« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2017, 07:13:16 AM »

Quote
With a well engineered cryptographic system, you can publish everything (not that you need or want to) except the private keys and it will remain secure within the useable lifetime of the crypto algorithm.

But somewhere in the system, the private keys have to be known for maintenance when things go down. Even if they supplied to maintenance ready burnt into a ROM, you really need the ICs with the key in them to be fitted with the special chemical that dissolves the metal very rapidly on exposure to air, and can't be readily washed off. That was certainly done for some programmable ICs that were intended to hold crypto keys at one company I worked at.

Two-factor authentication with a key that is randomized every 60-seconds would pretty much solve that problem.  Just give the maintenance guy a temporary fob that is revoked as soon as the job is done.
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G3RZP
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« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2017, 02:34:18 PM »

 
Quote
Just give the maintenance guy a temporary fob that is revoked as soon as the job is done.

I guess that becomes the equivalent of the 'one time pad'. Then the next problem appears of the administration.......some underpaid jobsworth somewhere thinks they know better than to follow the system.. or another Jonathan Pollard appears and lets things out....
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