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.

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.

Sera4 recognized by Softguard as Partner

Sera4 was recognized today as an official technology partner by Softguard. We are proud to partner on security solutions with them, focused on our Latin American customer.

This integration facilitates more options to integrate into security ecosystems easily for our customers, with benefits such as real-time notifications from Teleporte and dynamic reporting.

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.

Introducing Access Manager

Teleporte makes it easy to grant physical site access to almost anybody at almost any time. Our customers issue digital keys all day long. Contrast this to setting up a Teleporte physical access control network for the first time, or adding new locks. That’s something that only happens rarely.

We recognize that a secure system is one where the user rights are in line with the job requirements. That’s why we are introducing Access Manager with Teleporte 3.15. Access Manager is a new profile created for our customers. Like a Teleporte Admin, Access Manager has all the power to grant and revoke keys and deal with any issues that might arise on the network. Unlike a Teleporte Admin, Access Manager can’t modify the locks setup in the system, or modify users, or other setup activity.

Closed circle for Access Manager; Closed and Open for Administrator

Customers who outsource their NOC manager roles will really appreciate this new role. The contractors will be able to do their jobs effectively without risk that they do things that might cause harm.

All customers will be seamlessly updated to 3.15 in May 2022. Customers should email [email protected] if they would like advice on migrating some existing Teleporte Admin accounts to the new Access Manager profile. Anyone else should contact us to learn more about what Teleporte can do for you.

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.

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.

Mechanical Keys: An Anachronism in 2021?

In 2021, your mobile device is likely the hardest-working item you own. If you left your house with only your mobile device in your pocket, would that stop you from having a productive day? Need to check your bank balance? Use the banking app. Buying a latte? Your mobile wallet can take care of that. Have to show your proof of vaccination? Your proof of insurance? Trade stocks? Turn up the heat in your house? Check to see who’s at your front door? You can do all that, from your phone.  
We have placed so much trust in the devices we carry around in our pockets, and the cloud software that secures them. We often don’t think twice about adding a password to Apple Keychain, or storing the most personal details of our lives on our phones. But for some reason, many are reluctant to place that kind of trust in their mobile device when it comes to keyless access control. 

Traditional keys are an anachronism in today’s digital world. An artifact from the past, we find some kind of comfort in having a metal key in our possession, to protect what’s important to us. As long as we have “the key”, no one else does, and we derive a great amount of security from that knowledge. 

Ring with many keys before keyless access control

In our homes, this might make sense. Most of us can say, with a high degree of confidence, that we know exactly how many keys to our front door exist, and who has them. However, most organizations are experiencing key sprawl, and they don’t even know how widespread it might be. It’s impossible to know how many times keys have been copied, who has them, who’s using them, and why. Organizations traditionally deal with a misplaced key by rekeying locks, at significant expense and inconvenience. It’s easier, people think, to give a key to anyone who needs it, and deal with the consequences of a key getting into the wrong hands, than it is to design an access control system with digital keys and identity management in mind from the beginning. 

Organizations are sacrificing security for convenience every day, with both cyber/information assets, and critical infrastructure. While a lot of effort is put into creating the illusion of compliance protocols, not enough is being put into actually securing assets. We believe that it’s not enough to lock up an asset; organizations must understand who is accessing what, when, and why.  

Access control is about more than securing assets; it’s also about implementing a defensible solution to assure regulatory compliance. Cloud-enabled access control solutions allow organizations to proactively improve operations, generate reliable audit trails, enforce safety protocols, control regulated materials, and defend litigation.  

Before you issue another mechanical key, or rekey a set of locks after an asset has been compromised, stop and think about the real value of that piece of metal. We’re confident that it’s not as valuable as the security and insights to be gained from a robust keyless access control solution. To learn more about our cloud-enabled access control platform, Teleporte, and the supporting locks and controllers, visit us here or connect with us. We’d be happy to explore these ideas with you. 

Sera4 Security – Your locks are your locks

When we onboard a new customer, we set up a complete cloud environment for our customer. At Sera4, we can only access to data about your locks, your operations and your users if you explicitly grant us access (sometimes you may choose to do that if you request specific training or support from us. This level of security around user data in the cloud is an industry best practice and is not unique to Sera4. We call each customer’s cloud environment an Organization.

What happens to the locks and controllers on a Teleporte network often gets overlooked by our customers. It is all orchestrated by Sera4 in the background. Each Sera4 lock has firmware that we’ve been developing in-house for years. This firmware includes all the security protocols to reliably and securely communicate with the Teleporte Mobile Application. It also contains a unique digital certificate that we call the Organization Control Code (OCC).

Each active lock and controller has an OCC. This OCC is the same for all locks in an organization. It filters all commands from the Teleporte Mobile Application, so that any requests or instructions that do not come from a matching Organization are ignored. This way no other Teleporte customer can interact with your locks in any way. Only you control your locks. When combined with Teleporte’s off-network architecture, we believe this is the most secure way to secure your assets.

By default, the OCC is setup to be Sera4.  When locks and controllers get moved into a new organization, the OCC is automatically updated to reflect the ownership and control of the hardware. Thanks to the magic of Public Key Cryptography, virtual keys and commands from the Sera4 organization are subsequently ignored by the lock – the new organization is the ultimate master.

Most of our customers never know about the OCC. Sometimes our customers have to change the OCC on their locks. An example when this happens is when one telecom networks’ tower assets are sold to a tower company.  It’s easy within our software to issue the command to update an OCC, but the command needs to come from the users in the right organization. This requires this users to visit each lock to change the OCC. Notably, this can sometimes be inconvenient – but is required to keep your locks secure in the field. Teleporte doesn’t use any secret or master keys.

This month, we are introducing the option for OCC sharing – the ability for organizations to share their OCC with other organizations.  We will be providing the option to customers to give their Sera4 Authorized Integrator access to manage their locks with a second OCC. This means that locks/controllers can be moved between two (or more) organizations without the complication of updating the OCC first.  Changes to the OCC will occur on the next interaction with the lock and as always – command and control of your Sera4 locks happens seamlessly.

To learn more about the OCC sharing option, please reach out to [email protected].