Australian researchers confirm RFID DoS attacks

Researchers at Edith Cowan University have proven Generation One Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags can be breached to cause a denial-of-service attack on the tags, using cheap store-bought radio transmitters.

Generation One tags, currently used by the US Department of Defense and many Australian organizations engaging in RFID trials, operate in the 902-938 MHz range. Researchers have proven a denial of service attack on the actual tags will cause them to enter an error state, allowing someone to input incorrect prices or alter location and destination parameters.

Ken Wild, senior research support engineer at the School of Computer and Information Science at Edith Cowan University in WA, said information protocols the tags use have been simplified greatly and has left them with a "bit of a hole".

Wild said Generation One tags have been designed to run on low power with an extended frequency range, without any room left for sophisticated, and secure, communications protocols.

"The tag receives what it considers an intelligent signal in the right kind of modulation, attempts to decode and then considers the signal as an uncorrectable error. The tags then reset themselves to an error state, the same status as the initial power-up state," Wild said.

"Generation 2 tags have got a much more sophisticated security, but they are still vulnerable at the air interface and you can still listen in.

"We have some very sophisticated monitoring at the university but in reality one could interfere with the tags using very simple gear - the transceiver we used is worth $140 dollars and that is the top end stuff."

Only recently students from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands wrote a virus to fit on an RFID tag, but vendors have since dismissed the possibility of RFID viruses saying the amount of memory in the tags is too small.

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Michael Crawford

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