Dutch public buildings have major security problem, professor says

14th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Dutch governmental and commercial buildings have a major security problem, computer professor Bart Jacobs told Dutch media Thursday

14 March 2008

AMSTERDAM - Dutch governmental and commercial buildings have a major security problem, computer professor Bart Jacobs told Dutch media Thursday.

His comments followed the news released Wednesday that Jacobs and his students hacked the code of Radboud University's access cards for students and employees, using minimum investment and simple technology.

The students at the university in Nijmegen in the eastern Netherlands initiated the hacking attempt to test the security of the access cards.

Holders of so-called Mifare access cards, of which billions are used worldwide, need to swipe their cards next to a machine that "reads" the card and then opens the gate or door.

As opposed to other cards, a Mifare-card does not need to be inserted into a machine, nor does the owner need to type a PIN-code.

The students demonstrated they were able to retrieve the code of the card at a distance of several metres from cardholders swiping their card next to a machine.

They would then copy the code onto an empty magnetic card to create a fully functional duplicate card.

Last months, Jacobs and his students already announced they had successfully hacked the code of the new national public transportation card, originally due to be introduced in the Netherlands in 2009.

The students successfully managed to retrieve the code and then made numerous copies of the card, enabling free travel in trains, trams and buses in the Netherlands.

Among others, the Hong Kong subway uses the same type of cards recently hacked by Dutch students.

The national public transportation card was originally famed for its "waterproof security," but it is no longer certain it will be introduced in 2009.

Most Dutch governmental, public and military buildings can be accessed only by use of Mifare cards. Many businesses also use Mifare cards.

The Green and Socialist parties, both members of the opposition, have requested an emergency debate in parliament to discuss the compromised security of Dutch buildings.

[Copyright dpa 2008]

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