Light Reading

Malware in the Air?

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
3/15/2006
50%
50%

For the first time, researchers have raised the possibility of RFID tags being infected by viruses and worms.

In a paper being presented today at the Pervasive Computing and Communications Conference in Pisa, Italy, sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) , a group of computer scientists show just how susceptible radio-frequency tags may be to malware.

"Up until now, everyone working on RFID technology has tacitly assumed that the mere act of scanning an RFID tag cannot modify backend software, and certainly not in a malicious way," the paper's authors write. "Unfortunately, they are wrong."

Under certain conditions, they say, RFID tags can be intentionally infected with viruses that can then find their way into the backend databases used by the RFID software.

As RFID spreads from retail supply-chain applications to a host of uses in logistics, warehousing, and other businesses, the specter of viruses spread from tiny tags via handheld scanners into enterprise software platforms could significantly slow the technology's spread. (See DHL Chips in on RFID.)

Today's presentation in Pisa provides details on how to spread viruses via RFID as well as how to defend against them. The paper is being published, the authors, say, to warn the designers and users of RFID not to deploy vulnerable systems.

"By making code for RFID 'malware' publicly available, we hope to convince them that the problem is serious and had better be dealt with, and fast," said author Andrew Tanenbaum and his colleagues, in a statement.

"Viruses on RFID tags present two issues," comments David Adams, senior vice president for corporate strategy and technology at Denver-based Trenstar, which manages thousands of beer kegs in the United Kingdom using RFID tags. "How to protect the flow of information on the tag itself and how to prevent any virus from making from the tag to our application level that is fed from the RFID network." (See Brewers Tap Into RFID.)

Trenstar, Adams adds, has created a proprietary data structure for information, which searches for corrupted data at each stage in the supply chain where the tags are scanned. The company also analyzes all data flowing into its application layer for known viruses, including RFID-generated data.

"Any good data collection system has to be set up so that it's very specific in what sort of data it's looking to collect," adds Dan Mullen, executive director of AIM Global, a trade association for the barcode and RFID industries. "That's just good practice, and it's been around for a long time."

The paper outlines three scenarios: a prankster who replaces an RFID tag on a jar of peanut butter with an infected tag to infect a supermarket chain's database; a subdermal (i.e., under-the-skin) RFID tag on a pet used to upload a virus into a veterinarian or ASPCA computer system; and, most alarmingly, a radio-frequency bag tag used to infect an airport baggage-handling system. A virus in an airport database could re-infect other bags as they are scanned, which in turn could spread the virus to hub airports as the traveler changes planes.

"Within a day, hundreds of airport databases all over the world could be infected," the authors write. "Merely infecting other tags is the most benign case. An RFID virus could also carry a payload that did other damage to the database -- for example, helping drug smugglers or terrorists hide their baggage from airline and government officials."

The broadness of the authors' claims, however, betrays a lack of understanding of how specific RFID systems are designed, says Mullen.

"If you're looking at an airport baggage system, for instance, you have to know what sort of tag's being used, the structure of the data being collected, and what the scanners are set up to gather," he explains. "Look at it in a vertical application fashion to see what specific concerns might be present there."

A renowned computer scientist, Tanenbaum developed the Minix operating system, a precursor to Linux.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Networks of the future will rely on "white box" switches and servers rather than proprietary hardware and that's going to alter the shape of the communications industry. Who says so? John Chambers.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Intros Smart Device for eLTE

3|30|15   |   05:25   |   (0) comments


Huawei has developed a secure, location-aware multimedia smartphone for its eLTE trunked radio solution, says Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Win Video, Win All

3|30|15   |   06:44   |   (0) comments


Video is going to be the next main source of revenue for operators. Operators have big opportunities and advantages to monetize video services. Globally, Huawei has helped more than 70 operators achieve over 30 million video subscribers. Watch this video for more.
LRTV Custom TV
The Benefits of HyperScale Clouds for NFV

3|27|15   |   01:50   |   (0) comments


Hyperscale cloud has been developed by the Internet giants to support the creation and delivery of software-based services at blistering speeds, and at the lowest possible cost. The original ETSI NFV vision was to adopt hyperscale cloud architecture and practices. This vision has become somewhat obscured along the way, due to misunderstandings about the hyperscale ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
eLTE Rapid Meets the Need for Speed

3|26|15   |   4:45   |   (0) comments


Designed especially for emergency and dedicated ad hoc local mobile communications coverage, Huawei's eLTE Rapid solution can deliver trunked voice, video and data coverage for multiple users over a 6km range and be set up in just 15 minutes, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
On Videos: Challenges & Opportunities

3|26|15   |   5:56   |   (0) comments


Most everything is now connected. And along with 4K and 4G technologies, everyone could be creating and broadcasting video contents. Users are expecting better video experience with any screen, anywhere and anytime. Operators will meet new challenges, but also see some big opportunities.
LRTV Custom TV
JDSU: Delivering Dynamic Networks for a Personalized Experience

3|26|15   |   5:59   |   (0) comments


Light Reading speaks to JDSU at Mobile World Congress 2015 about new solutions in the areas of HetNets, VoLTE, backhaul, virtualization, big data analytics, and real-time intelligence.
LRTV Custom TV
Smarter Service Chaining & New Ways to Benefit From Qosmos Technology

3|25|15   |   03:11   |   (0) comments


David Le Goff, director of strategic and product marketing at Qosmos, explains how the company has added application awareness to subscriber information to make service chaining more efficient and reduce costs for networking and infrastructure. In addition, Qosmos technology, which has been delivered as C libraries, is now also available as a virtual machine, ...
Between the CEOs
Qosmos CEO: The Changing Face of DPI

3|24|15   |   13:53   |   (0) comments


LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures. Also, how the comms market is becoming more like the automotive industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
FC Schalke Scores With Its Agile Stadium

3|24|15   |   6:23   |   (0) comments


Top German soccer club FC Schalke 04 has deployed a new, agile WiFi network from Huawei in its Veltins-Arena stadium and is reaping the benefits in terms of customer satisfaction and business opportunities, explains marketing chief Alexander Jobst.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Insights on Mobile Video

3|24|15   |   7:51   |   (0) comments


More people than ever are now watching videos on smartphones. Seventy percent of mobile traffic will be video traffic until 2018. In this video, Huawei's exports give their insights on mobile video in terms of business model, network planning and 4G network construction.
LRTV Documentaries
The Rise of Industry 4.0

3|24|15   |   02:26   |   (9) comments


Are you ready for the fourth industrial revolution? It's a big deal for influential operators such as Deutsche Telekom.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Getting Connected With eLTE

3|23|15   |   06:04   |   (0) comments


Trunked radio communications have entered the 4G LTE world, and with Huawei's eLTE solution, can now deliver a full range of data and video services as well as push-to-talk voice, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
Upcoming Live Events
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 5, 2015, Hyatt McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
May 6, 2015, Georgia World Congress, Atlanta, GA
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
AT&T Woos SMBs With Small-Scale WiFi
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 3/26/2015
Just Don't Say IBM Is 'Relaunching' Networking Business
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 3/26/2015
TV Everywhere Nears Mainstream Adoption
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 3/27/2015
Carriers Are Bright Spot in BlackBerry Q4
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 3/27/2015
Comcast Says TWC Deal Will Close Later
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 3/26/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures.
Chattanooga’s EPB publicly owned utility comms company has become a poster child for how to enable a local economy using next-gen networking technology. Steve Saunders, Founder of Light Reading, sits down with Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB, to learn how EPB is bringing big time tech to small town America.
Cats with Phones
Naptime Click Here
"This is how I feel about your conference call."