Smart Card Fail

The Stockholm local transit people (SL) introduced a so-called smart card over  a year ago, and called it SL Access. Now, usually anything that SL introduces costs a pile of money and doesn’t work. We kind of expect it to be that way.

And, true to form, as SL were about to introduce their expensive system it became clear that the technology used, the Mifare RFID card system, had been hacked. The details of this are all over the net now. “Mifare hack” will get you started. It’s fair to say that this is not a good system, and as leaky as a sieve full of sponges.

Still life with RFID chip

It works like this, for those who don’t know. You “load” your card (or more correctly you update a database somewhere using your cards ID) and then swipe your whole wallet, with the card inside, over the reader. It’s actually a nifty system, despite the whole not-secure aspect, as you avoid having to dig out the card every time.

I noticed, by turning the card a certain way, that you can see the chip. It was about 5 mm across which, for the Americans, just means very small.So I reasoned if it could be removed from the card, then it could be put into more interesting objects that one could swipe across the reader.

Such as a head. Or a banana. Or a Mars bar. You get the idea.

Unfortunately, once extracted, the chip doesn’t work. A quick googlement showed that there is a thin antenna wire connecting to the chip that circles the perimeter of the card. This interacts with a magnetic field over the reader using good old-fashioned induction and transfers the data required. No wire, no data.

So it’s back to the drawing board with that one. Would be nice however to get me some hardware and hack the thing properly. I figure, in the interests of helping SL improve their security, it’s the only kind thing to do.

/ paddy

Platform Pointers

At 7.30 in the morning I pass through the excruciatingly busy Gullmarsplan station just south of Stockholm.

Here people are channelled cattle-like through a very badly designed environment as they emerge from buses, subway and trams.

You would think that the staff might be doing something to alleviate the congestion, or open the barriers to allow people through, or help people with buggies up and down stairs. But no, they have more important things to be getting on with. And that is to stand around and point.

Yes for some reason three or four uniformed personnel stand around on the platform, at the peak of the morning rush hour, and simply point.

When they’re not pointing, they are chatting to each other. But usually they just stand there and they point.

The pointing appears to be a general “this way to the trains” which is interesting as they are standing right beside the trains, and the trains are large and blue and kind of hard to miss.

It might be a “Look, there is space available on this part of the platform” kind of thing except for the fact that they are pointing at the entirety of the platform where some space may always be found.

I was indeed puzzled for a long time. But I now think that the pointing means: “Keep on moving as you were, that’s it, you’re doing fine, everything is just hunky dory.”

It’s nice to see, after four years of advanced pointing in a university, that these people can get some work somewhere. And it’s also nice to know that I am paying 700 Swedish crowns a month so that they can be there and do what it is they love to do. Which is to point.

It just goes to show, you should always follow your dreams.

Wherever they might point.

/ paddy