Do you travel often? Probably you don’t know that hackers can unlock your room door without using the master key due to a critical design vulnerability in a popular and widely used electronic lock system.
The affected locking system is the Vision by VingCard manufactured by Assa Abloy, the flaw can be exploited to unlock hotel rooms worldwide.
The Vision by VingCard locking system is currently deployed in more than 42,000 facilities in 166 different countries.
The vulnerability was discovered by Tomi Tuominen and Timo Hirvonen, security researchers at F-Secure researchers. The security duo has built a master key that could be used to unlock doors of the hotel rooms using the Vision by VingCard digital lock technology.
“You can imagine what a malicious person could do with the power to enter any hotel room, with a master key created basically out of thin air,” says Tomi Tuominen, Practice Leader at F-Secure Cyber Security Services.
“He worked side by side with F-Secure’s Timo Hirvonen, Senior Security Consultant, to devise a way to exploit the software system, known as Vision by VingCard.”
Let’s see how hackers have built their ‘Master Key,’ step by step. First, the attacker needs to get access to an electronic keycard used in the target facility, no matter it is currently active, experts noticed that even an expired key from a stay five years ago will work.
“An attacker will read the key and use a small hardware device to derive more keys to the facility. These derived keys can be tested against any lock in the same building. Within minutes the device is able to generate a master key to the facility.” continues the post published by F-Secure.
“The device can then be used instead of a key to bypass any lock in the facility, or alternatively, to overwrite an existing key with the newly created master key.”
The attacker can read the electronic key (RFID or magstripe) remotely by standing close to a hotel guest or employee having a keycard in his pocket. Another option consists of booking a room and then use that card as the source.
At this point, the attacker would need to write the electronic key and to do it he can use a portable programmer. Such kind of device is very cheap, it can be bought online for a few hundred dollars.
Tomi and Timo developed a custom software that allows creating a master key within minutes. The experts devised a custom-tailored device (actually an RFID reader/writer) that they held close to the VingCard locking system, it then tries different keys in less than one minute and finds the master key to unlock the door.
“An attacker will read the key and use a small hardware device to derive more keys to the facility. These derived keys can be tested against any lock in the same building. Within minutes the device is able to generate a master key to the facility. The device can then be used instead of a key to bypass any lock in the facility, or alternatively, to overwrite an existing key with the newly created master key.” continues the post published by F-Secure.
“The needed hardware is available online for a few hundred euros. However, it is the custom software developed by Tomi and Timo that makes the attack possible.”
The researchers notified Assa Abloy of their discovery in April 2017, since then the experts helped the manufacturer in fixing the issue.
Assa Abloy has recently issued a security update to address the vulnerability.
The experts will not publish the technical details of the attack nor will they make any the custom-hardware available.
The good news is that to date, the experts are not aware of any attacks in the wild exploiting the flaw they discovered.
Below a video PoC of the hack.
In addition, the two experts also discovered that the Vision software could be exploited within the same network to get access to sensitive customer data.