Aiphone: Another Digital Security Fail

Aiphone is a common door lock controller used for physical access control at sensitive sites like the White House and the UK Parliament. These are places where security is a paramount concern. They installed something that appeared physically robust, but didn’t fully consider the digital security of the system. When outfitted with NFC, the solution has a couple of critical design flaws.

The first problem is that Aiphone GT system with NFC allows unlimited attempts at the 4-digit PIN code to gain access. A cooling off period after a number of unsuccessful attempts is a simple solution that could have prevented this. With only 10,000 possible combinations, these systems can be hacked quickly

A secondary problem on this same system is that the authentication protocol is unencrypted and easy to emulate. This protocol may have been a default on the NFC subsystem. If the design team on a product is not designing for security, they might think that seeing it work as expected is good enough. Thinking like this can leave embarrassing and expensive security problems to fix when they’re made public.

Designing for Digital Security

Teleporte is designed for security from the beginning. Here are some tactics that may be helpful to consider when evaluating the digital robustness of an access control system:

  • Exponential backoff: Increasing the time before a subsequent authentication attempt can be completed. Consider an algorithm that, as a user enters more passwords, waits an incrementally longer time after each incorrect attempt. The Teleporte Failsafe Unlock algorithm uses a factor of 5 seconds before reattempt, and doubles the time before the next attempt each time.  This translates to the ability to only try authentication 10 times in 1.5 hours.
  • Rotating codes:  Changing the access code periodically.  Even with exponential backoff, a user could still try a few new codes every day.  Having the same access code available for months (or years) at a time could mean that eventually all codes could be tried.   Unlike locks that accept the same static code to open, the Teleporte solution rotates require a new code every four hours.
  • Suspending user accounts: Indefinitely suspending a user account from authenticating until a secondary method (Administrator verification) can be used to enable the account again.  Teleporte Cloud uses this method when a user tries to authenticate (incorrectly) more than 15 times in a row.
  • Encrypted transmissions:  Obscuring the authentication requests between endpoints hinders a bad actor trying to authenticate to a system.  If you can’t see what’s being used (4, 5, or in Teleporte’s case 105-digit codes) — it’s not easy to replicate or brute force in the first place.

When choosing an access control solution for anything you care about, we emplore you to put digital security at the top of your requirements list. Advanced technology is becoming more widely available and making it easier than ever for someone to gain access without physical force – and worse: without detection! Talk to us about your access control projects and we’ll help you understand the digital security considerations that are relevant to your application.

New Teleporte App and User Roles

We’re updating Teleporte again!

Our Teleporte Mobile App on the App Store or Google Play is updated to version 6.3 today. Along with various subtle improvements, this version adds a new progress bar to the interface.

The progress bar gives feedback on the status of a full locking cycle, with indications when a lock is unlocked, when it is relocked, and when the records of that action are uploaded successfully to the Teleporte Cloud servers.

While an unlock is obvious, and our interface has always shown a successful lock, the registration of these events was not shown. This update takes the guesswork out of a complete access.

On the Teleporte Server side, we’ve added two new roles beyond Administrator and User. While Administrators continue to enjoy unlimited access to the platform, our customers now have the option to select two other roles with more limited access and capabilities that better fit their requirements. 

Access Manager

This role is ideal for administrators who are only responsible to assigned keys and create users in Teleporte. These administrators are not expected to make configuration changes in the platform.

Configuration Manager

This role is ideal for administrators who are only responsible to configure the Teleporte platform, including: lock customization, site creation and configuration. These administrators are not expected to assign keys.

The following table compares the new roles. These can now be selected with a Teleporte Enterprise subscription.

If you’re interested to learn more, please book a demo with us now.

RFID Badge and Card vs. Mobile Credentials

RFID cards and employee badges with RFID capability are ubiquitous. When we moved into our current office, the building came equipped with an RFID card access control system. We moved in during the pandemic when all but essential staff were working from home, meaning that installing our own Teleporte access control system was a lower priority and didn’t happen for several months. We understood first-hand how much more convenient it was to never have to worry about lost or misplaced cards once we migrated to Teleporte.

At the same time, we hadn’t fully appreciated the security risks that the RFID system had. On our journey toward ISO 27001, we catalogued all our risks. Key cutters are available at local hardware stores and with locksmiths available everywhere, but most people don’t know that RFID cards are just as easy as metal keys to copy or share. Not all digital access control systems are created equal.

RFID Card Cloning kits are relatively easy to procure

Upgrading your Digitized Access

Some digital access systems are

  • much more secure than others;
  • more convenient than others to install and integrate;
  • more user-friendly for whoever needs to get in the door or the gate;
  • easier to monitor and assign access.

You may want to consider upgrading a door on RFID to mobile credentials for all these good reasons. We often recommend running both systems concurrently for a while as the users adjust to the new system. Over weeks or months, users will surrender their cards. This can facilitate a smooth change to the new system. In fact, that’s what we did at our office, which has been the first intensive real-world test of our new SLC2 Lock Controller.

Contact us if you want to discuss your access control system’s evolution. If you’d rather just tune in and listen to stories of what can happen when you don’t maintain your security systems, you may enjoy this podcast.

Preventing a Relay Attack

This story has been another unfortunate illustration of Bluetooth security vulnerabilities and lock vendors who may lack the expertise in cybersecurity to secure your property properly when using digital keys. In this case, the attack strategy used is known as a relay attack.

How we prevent relay attacks

Relay attacks are well known. The only excuse we can understand for making it possible is “we didn’t know better”. Security experts should. We prevent relay attacks with the following process.

  1. Every lock has its own digital certificate signed by the Teleporte Digital Signing Authority (DSA).
  2. Every Teleporte Mobile App downloads the digital certificate and authenticates the lock’s digital certificate with the Teleporte DSA.
  3. The mobile device only communicates with locks that are verified authentic through steps 1 and 2. Mobile devices use the lock’s public key to encrypt information, knowing the only endpoint capable of decryption is the lock itself.
  4. We change the encryption for every new connection between the lock and the mobile device.

Step number 4 is the key (no pun intended) to preventing a relay attack. While a sniffer might be able to see and repeat the byte sequence that unlocked the lock moments ago, the lock enforces a new method of encryption for each connection. Repeated old data is useless in future connections.

We like our competitive advantage in digital security. We’d like it even more if people could trust keyless access solutions in general.

New Icons in the Teleporte Mobile App

We’ve always considered the padlock icon in our app to be generic. It can represent all types of lock, and is meant to show the open/closed or locked/unlocked status visually.

With Teleporte Mobile App 6.2 and above, we are introducing new icons that match certain types of known lock. Our own AP3 armored padlock is the first of the new icons that customers are likely to notice. The old generic padlock icons will continue to represent unidentified lock types.

This is a cosmetic update that we hope can bring moments of charm to our users experience.

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

Sera4 is, first and foremost, an information security company. Earlier this year, we achieved ISO 27001 certification to demonstrate our commitment to cybersecurity. That project involved adapting all our company processes to match cyber-secure best practices. But we didn’t stop there.

We’ve also recognized the need for cyber-certified personnel to ensure we have the necessary expertise on staff. We’re proud to announce that we now have a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) on our team at Sera4.

What does CEH mean and do for our organization?

Ethical hackers (or white-hats) focus heavily on the hackers perspective. In the cyber world, we have primarily those who hack people (called the red team) and those who defend and fortify against them (called the blue team). The blue team learns both the toolsets and the perspectives of hackers and learn and constantly apply blue team logic to red team activities. Ethical hackers are blue team. They spend time actively doing reconnaissance activities, learning about new ways to break into a system, and then put up barriers to defend against them.

Ethical hackers certifications are another way that Sera4 continues to raise the bar on security and defence. When combined with penetration testing, this approach provides the best overall end-to-end security. We’re actively staying ahead of the pervasive threats that are becoming more common every day.

To learn more about CEH and understand why it should be a requirement for any connected service today, contact us.

Download with Confidence

We write all our own software at Sera4.

We choose to do it because we believe this is the best way to ensure both the security of the platform and the best possible user experience. Not all keyless access control providers insource their app development or software engineering resources. We believe that the risks are too high to save money like that.

There are some things you can look at before downloading an app that can give you some clues to how well-designed and maintained it is.

  • How recent was the latest update? Operating systems constantly change and security threats evolve. Apps need to be constantly updated to keep pace. We suggest that an app that hasn’t been updated within the last 4 months has been suffering for lack of attention.
  • How many downloads does it have? This can give a good sense of how much real-world use this mobile app has seen. Apps with recent Release Dates or few downloads may still have some bugs to work out.
  • How big is it? Bigger downloads are often a result of the inclusion of cross-platform libraries, media or extra code. All this extra code can present added attack surface. Besides, who wants to run out of phone memory faster?
Teleporte on Google Play — captured on April 11, 2022.

And, of course, take a look at the ratings and reviews in the app store, and decide for yourself.

If you’d like to learn more about how we design the app, our embedded code, our cloud servers for security from the ground up, contact us.

PS. Of course, we code our embedded firmware and cloud servers 100% in-house at Sera4 as well, and our apps are coded natively and independently for Android and for iOS.

Keyless Network and Server Cabinets Made Easy

Most critical infrastructure environments contain some form of network and/or server cabinets. No matter where these cabinets may be — in IT/telecom closets, wall mounted above factory floors, in remote hallways and parkades, at remote shelters, or even in data centers — the consensus is clear: access control at the network or server cabinet is a common challenge.

Keyless access makes sense in these applications. When each cabinet should be controlled independently, that’s a lot of keys to get to people and a lot of fumbling through a keyring to find the right key for that specific rack. There are no keys to forget at home, leave in the car, or to lose!

Go Keyless

Teleporte makes it easy to go keyless from a cabinet with a traditional key system. A retrofit can often be done in less than 30 minutes. Pop the old one off and put an electric one in. Pair it with a Sera4 Lock Controller and optional AccessPad, and you’re done! No wiring to the door. No mess. No IT integration required.

Take out the old handle, add a new e-handle with a Sera4 Lock Controller and you’re done.

Then, as with all our access points, you get to know who is in your specific network or server cabinet, for how long, and you can grant or revoke digital keys from anywhere, instantly. There is no limit to the number or users, keys or access events to the solution. And there is no network required to operate the management platform.

Whether you start with 1 cabinet or 1000, the experience is the same and there is no capacity limit.

Contact us and we’ll share the full details of this process and help you through the steps.

New Dashboard for Teleporte Admins

Although there have been many new features introduced and many behind-the-scenes improvements, the overall look and feel of the Teleporte Admin Dashboard has remained largely the same since 2017.

With the launch of our server 3.14 (released today, on pi day) we are previewing our new Dashboard design, built on the latest technology. After 5 years and a lot of customer use, it was time for a major upgrade. Any customers who want to try out the new interface can do so easily, as follows:

  1. Login to Teleporte.
  2. Click on your user name in the top right corner of the interface
  3. Select the option “Teleporte Dashboard (Beta)”

And that’s it: you’re in. You’ll notice an interface that should feel familiar and brand new all at the same time.

Some Highlights of the New Dashboard

The new menu

We designed this update to be intuitive and have very little re-orientation time for our existing users. For example, the Menu has been redesigned as you see to the left. This design is just more intuitive and useful than the old straight list.

New Notification Format

One of the first changes you’ll likely notice is that the Notifications look different. You can see much more information and add comments. For photo notes, you can now see the associated pictures. You can dismiss notifications by clicking the checkmark. A new Filter function is useful for selecting the types of Notifications that you are interested to see.

Real-time updates

Perhaps the most compelling feature of our new dashboard is that it updates data in real time. The original dashboard will display information that is current when it is loaded, but requires reloads to refresh the data. Real-time updates without user interaction make this Dashboard even more ready to deploy to a NOC out of the box.

There are many other updates to discover. Some are subtle improvements to be discovered in time. Others are obvious. Our goal in designing this was that by the time you have logged 30 minutes, you never want to go back to the old one.

The new Teleporte Dashboard will remain in preview for a couple of months while we encourage all our users to try it and share their candid feedback to [email protected]. After the Beta period ends and you’ve had the change to test it in your environment, we plan to migrate everyone to the new Teleporte Dashboard as the only available view. This will mean the retirement of an interface that many of us have grown very familiar with, but we are confident that the new one is worth the switch.

If you aren’t a Teleporte user yet, contact us and we’ll be happy to show you the new dashboard in a demo.

Log4j: We remain secure

A few days ago, the online world became aware of a security vulnerability in the Java log4j module, which is commonly used in web services around the world. Details about this security flaw are found in across the internet in sites like this.

At Sera4, we took action immediately with a complete security audit of our systems. This notice is meant to help our customers who are doing a security audit. We assure you that Teleporte and Sera4 remains secure and unaffected.

Sera4 does not natively use Java in our technology stack, which is the primary way services are compromised. We identified one internal tool which uses Java and log4j. However, that internal tool is not vulnerable (due to the log4j configuration) and a scan to confirms that security is maintained. 

To our customers, Sera4 confirms:

  1. All of our applications and cloud environment have not been affected by this exploit.
  2. We use one internal tool which relies on log4j; it was not affected by this exploit.  The tool has since been upgraded to 2.17.0 to ensure that future configuration changes do not render the application vulnerable.

To our anyone new to Sera4 and Teleporte, talk to us about how to get started with a keyless access control that is as digitally secure as it is easy-to-use.