Many of you may have heard about the new Matkakortti, being rolled out as of last week (10.11.2009). Ads for the new card have appeared all over the place, and urge people to change the card during their next re-charge. The new card has a nice flashy green graphic printed on it, no doubt to reflect the new eco-features of the card.
So what changes? According to YTV, the previous blue cards have reached the end of their life-cycle. “As with credit- and debit-cards, the cards have to be changed out every few years”. Also, the new cards are now ISO 14443A compliant (specifications for RFID cards). I have a funny feeling the last cards were compliant as well, but there’s no data on this. They were made by Mifare as well (as the new cards), so i think they were compliant.
The color of the card changes, but also, the type chages. The old cards were MIFARE classic. This is a card that has a 48-bit encryption key, that is seeded based on the “start-date” of the card, i.e. when it was first turned on. This system has been broken multiple times. To give you an idea of how easy it is, it takes about 12 seconds on a standard laptop computer to break the built-in Crypto-1 encryption scheme.
The cards are ASIC based, and have a very limited storage space. There are 1K and 4K versions of the card, and accounting for read-only data put in by the manufacturer, the de-facto storage space of these cards was 752 bytes and 3440 bytes respectively. That’s a whole lot already!
The new cards are based on later revisions of MIFARE technology. There are two basic types that will be rolled out now (the specific models are not listed, but i’m going to find out one way or another):
- MIFARE DESfire. This is the regular “multiple use” card that most of us use every day. More on this later.
- MIFARE Ultralight. This is the “use once” tourist card, which can be charged once, and then thrown away after use.
DESfire is a new card type that MIFARE came out with in 2002. There is an EV1 (evolution 1) version of the card, which was released in 2006 and offers more options and better crypto. Which system is used here, i’m not sure as i said, but i’ll find out. This is an entirely new card compared to the old stupid cards. They sport a real NXP made microprocessor, and more memory. There are 2, 4 and 8KB versions of the card. They come with a propietary DESfire operating system, which uses a real directory/file structure in the storage space. The crypto is upgraded from “Crypto-1”, using a 48bit key, to a minimum triple-DES, i.e. 3x56bits keylength, and up to a 128-bit AES in the EV1 variant. The NXP microprocessor is 8051 based, and has separate hardware crypto-accelerators for both AES and 3DES, which makes the crypto transactions even faster than before.
Ultralight is the use-once version of the cards. Cheaper to manufacture, it’s apparently made out of some kind of thick paper. There are also two versions of this card, the Ultralight, and the Ultralight C, which are from 2001 and 2008 respectively. The plain-jane version offers no crypto at all, and 512 bits (64 bytes) of memory. The C variant offers crypto, more storage-space, and ISO 14443 compliance. It is highly likely, that the version being rolled out is the C version, because it has features that make it suitable for mass transportation (i.e. abrasion resistance and crypto).
So why are the cards being changed for real? I’ll offer a few guesses. One, is that the new cards are cheaper. That’s a big thing when it comes to public transport and anything government funded. The Apollo astronauts reminded each other that they are going to the moon in a craft built by the company that made the cheapest offer. I’m not saying cheap is bad in this case though.
The new cards are also more ecological. Also a big thing in government projects, and easier to sell to consumers. The cards are either made out of bio-degradable plastic, or paper.
All methods of public transport will be fitted with GPS. Some already have it (trains, trams and some busses), but i suppose they’ll be rolling this out to every damn thing. This makes tracking not only the vehicle easy, but also tracking you. They can stamp your card with exactly the stop you got on. Where you got off is another matter entirely, but in any case. The bus and the reader knows where you are, and when you get on, the card will retain this information, along with personally identifiable information. This information is said not to be readable by regular kiosks and other recharge outlets, but only by ticket inspectors or law enforcement “should the legal need arise”. In any case, the expanded memory and processing capability, plus the new crypto, make the cards very hard to hack, and capable of storing hoards of information, and not just a “one travel” buffer, which contains your last transit. This of course, is pure speculation on my part.
Why replace an already working system? Well, that’s anybody’s guess, and the site they put out doesn’t really give a specific reason. The fact that the new cards are cheaper, is a small issue, when we consider that there are already what.. a million cards in circulation that now all have to be replaced? Expanding the system to new areas? Okay, but why not just expand the current, tried and tested (and broken :)) system? The cards are at the end of their lifespan? Why? My card is seven years old and it works just fine. I’ve had it in my pocket, my wallet and god knows where. There are no moving parts, and no exposed chips, as with regular smart cards. The exposed components tend to wear out and that is a good reason to change your card. But it doesn’t apply to the Matkakortti. Sure, if you bend the card, it’ll snap, but i bet the new cards are just the same.
I also have a hard time believing that standards compliance is a reason for the overhaul. The old cards are based on the same basic technology, i.e. RFID, which should in itself adhere to ISO 14443. If it didn’t, okay, but adhering to standards isn’t a benefit for the consumer in this case. Everyone is forced to either use the cards, or pay each trip with cash, which leaves little options. The standard defines how well the card should withstand physical abuse, but again, i stress that my card is still working after seven years. Abuse-resistance was not an issue with the old cards either.
So the Fox Mulder in me deduces that this is just a way to track us even more closely. The hacking of cards wasn’t an issue in Finland, at least not that i heard of, but with the new cards, this becomes practically impossible, unless there are vulnerabilities in the implementation of the crypto, or predictability in the key-generation (or exchange) as with the previous system. This removes any chance of an “open and fair” system, meaning that i can’t buy a MIFARE reader, and dig out the data that they have store on me personally, on the card. I’m not even looking for free travel or some such shit, i just want to know how the system stores and uses my data.
I’ll be following up on this as i get my hands on the new card. I’ll be retaining a few of the older cards, just to make comparisons, should such an opportunity arise. I’m still in the market for a MIFARE reader, but i haven’t gotten off my lazy ass and bought one yet.
Source to my rambles are: