Thursday, May 04, 2006

Smart Fasteners, Normal People

Ok, so I found the story on smart fasteners, as previously promised. Reading it requires free, mandatory registration, so use Bug Me Not. For the most part, the technology sounds interesting, although I'm not thrilled with the idea that my neighbor will be able to disassemble my car without touching it, but hey, that's the price of progress!

Actually, the thing I really dislike is a sub-current running beneath the article, but never actually stated. Not only might this type of technology prevent thieves from removing your airbag, but it might also prevent you from doing any maintenance on your own vehicle. Or you neighborhood mechanic. After all, these unlocking codes will be pretty valuable, so maybe we should only let the auto dealerships have them. They should have been the ones servicing your car all along anyway, right.

Ok, now for my favorite quotes from the article, starting with the worst statement of all.

A potential security breach threat apparently doesn't exist. "I wondered what's to prevent some nut using a garage door opener from pushing the right buttons to make your airplane fall apart," said Harrison. "But everything is locked down with codes, and the radio signals are scrambled, so this is fully secured against hackers."

Now, first, this statement appears to have been made by "Kirby Harrison, a senior editor at Aviation International News, who attended the debut of intelligent fasteners at a trade show in Hamburg, Germany, last year", and not the inventor. However, that doesn't make the statement any less laughable. WEP was locked down with codes and scrambled radio signals too, and it is considered next to useless nowadays. Different situations entirely, but the point stands. As crypto experts are fond of saying, anyone can invent a code that they themselves cannot crack.

The mechanism that holds auto airbags in place is a natural for intelligent fasteners, said Steve Brown, product development director at Textron. Installing airbags with conventional screws is tedious and expensive, and it doesn't provide security. An estimated 50,000 airbags are stolen each year for resale, he said. Intelligent fasteners only respond to radio signals that use appropriate codes. This would prevent removal of airbags by unauthorized people, Brown said.

Ok, as if the first statement wasn't sufficient cause for a cracker/hacker somewhere to decide that the system would be broken (and trust me, a direct challenge like that is more than sufficient), this provides us with a financial incentive. Once the system is broken, stealing airbags just got easier. Instead of breaking in with tools, and risking leaving fingerprints and the like everywhere, walk up with your laptop, and watch the airbag disconnect from the car so you can grab it and take off, no other tools needed. Or, just steal the whole car (perhaps using this method, then disassemble the whole thing easily & at your leisure.