[Dave Birch] Digital Money denizens will undoubtedly have been following the evolving MiFare security story (basically, researchers discovered the secret algorithm used in MiFare Classic products — in quite a clever way, it has to be said) with great interest. The details are not relevant to this post, but you’ll recall that the essence of the story is that some researchers reverse-engineered a MiFare chip to discover the hiterto secret algorithm used to protect chip contents and discovered a weakness that enabled them to obtain keys. NXP were not terribly happy about this, as you might imagine. This problem is potentially serious, because millions of MiFare chips are used for applications ranging from public transport tickets to corporate access control. There is no arguing with their findings, and the inevitable consequence is that the MiFare Classic implementations will need to be replaced with the new MiFare Plus chips when they reach commercial shipment volumes next year sometime. MiFare Plus differs from MiFare Classic in that it uses standard AES encryption: The algorithm is public, and the security of the system relies on keeping the keys secret, which is the preferred way of handling transaction security nowdays. Anyway, last week we heard that

Chipmaker NXP, formerly Philips Semiconductors, is taking Dutch Radboud University to court on Thursday to prevent researchers publishing their controversial report on the Mifare Classic chip.

[From NXP sues to silence Oyster researchers | The Register]

We don’t yet know what the outcome of this was, and I have no idea of the legal rights and wrongs, but I did notice this response this morning:

Dutch semiconductor manufacturer NXP is making a mistake suing Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, says Karsten Nohl, a University of Virginia graduate student who worked with others to break the MIFARE cryptographic algorithm.

[From Nohl: NXP making ‘terrible decision’ : Contactless News]

I’m very interested in Karsten’s opinions, especially because we’re going to be having a little chat in Vienna at the end of September at Mobile Banking Security. As the brochure says,

In this interview style session, chairman David Birch, Consult Hyperion, will lead a more light-hearted and informal discussion with Karsten Nohl, University of Virginia, about his research team’s experiences of cracking the security of the MiFare chip.

I’m not sure either NXP or Karsten will be especially light-hearted if they are still in court, but I’ll do my best to help.

I’m also going to be running a workshop on security for mobile proximity payments, so if you ask me, Mobile Banking Security in Vienna on 29th September to 1st October 2008 is going to be enjoyable and useful. Once again demonstrating their magnificent commitment to knowledge, scholarship and humankind, the wonderful people at IIR have given me a three-day delegate pass for this event — worth an astounding TWO THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED AND NINETY FIVE EUROS — to give away on this blog as a competition prize. So if you are going to be in Vienna on those dates and you’d like to come along to hear some of the leaders in the field discussing mobile banking security, then all you have to do is be the first person to respond to this post with the year in which Eindhoven, the headquarters of NXP, became part of the Netherlands.

In the traditional fashion, this competition is open to all except for employees of Consult Hyperion and members of my immediate family, is void where prohibited and is committed to a 100% reduction in CO2 output by the year 2525. The prize must be claimed within one month. Oh, and no-one can win more than one of the Digital Money Blog prizes per calendar.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


  1. Discounting possible short term occupation during the Dutch revolt Eindhoven first became part of the Netherlands in 1629.

  2. We have a winner! Send me your contact details Gerhard and I will arrange for your complimentary delegate place.

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