Friday, January 30, 2009

Attack on speed cameras and automated tolling systems

This blog has been dormant for a long time, but I want to resurrect it for one post. I was once employed in a company which made automated tolling systems, so I have thought long and hard about the security of such systems. So far I have not found many attacks against such a system until now. Note: This is only a theoretical attack, no one should do illegal acts in practice.

The basic idea behind a toll road system is that you buy a tag from some company, you place the tag in your car. Then every time you drive through a toll collection system the tag is read and the money is automatically deducted from your account. If you do not have a tag then your licence plate is read and a ticket is sent to your home address.

This system works perfectly there are few ways to cheat the system. You cannot send a false message, as the data sent is authenticated. The key for the authentication is in the tag, and you would have to be an expert to get the key from the tag. The most obvious way to attack is to hide your number plate, but if you do not have a number plate then the police will arrest you and to make some kind of machine that flips down the number plate each time you pass is also impractical. There are also people who try to drive the wrong way through the toll collection system, and to find holes in the fence, if the toll collection system is around a town. But these attacks only saves the attacker some money and can easily be stopped.

Therefore so far I have found no good lo-tech solutions against having to pay the toll collection system. Until you start to attack (and question) the system itself. This system works because everyone who cheats have a licence plate, this plate is unique and in many instances this reading of the licence plate can be automatically read by a computer. So the whole process from collecting the picture all the way to your payment can be automated. Now what if your licence plate is not unique?

The attack is that a "victim" Bob has some friend Eve, which creates a fake licence plate to her car matching Bob's licence plate. She drives through the system a few times and probably Bob gets a ticket, which he complains about and gets the payments dropped because from the pictures one can easily see that it is not Bob's car. Now Eve gets another car which is preferably the same make and model as Bob's car and drives through again. This time Bob has an alibi for himself and his car so again the ticket will again be dropped when he complains. After this Bob is free to challenge any ticket he gets. He has already proven that someone is out to get him and that the attackers are getting better at imitating his make and model. In the end Eve can drive Bob's car through the toll collection system, when Bob is away from town.

The cost to Eve is small, She only has to drive through the toll collection system a few times for Bob to establish that someone is out to get him. The fake licence plate can be easily removed so the chance of getting caught with a fake licence plate is quite small.
The cost for Bob is small to he has to write a letter on his free time, and do some coordination with Eve so that he has an alibi for his car for when he is supposed to have driven through the toll collection system. If Eve drives Bob's car through the toll collection system in the end. Then Bob could be liable to criminal charges if he ever got caught in lying about not driving when he actually did drive through the toll collection system.
The cost to the toll collection system on the other hand is much greater. First off they loose the fake transactions, then they have to use time and pay an employee to handle the complaint, go through the evidence and formulate a reply. Now every passing by Bob has to be manually double checked if the problem persists.

The real kicker of this attack is if there are lots of Bob's and Eve's doing this. Then the cost of running the system goes sharply up for operator. (Currently only 10% of the collected amount goes to the administration of the system, and some operators pay out fat bonuses to the board of directors). To make up for this they either have to raise prices or extend the time the toll collection system is up, both of which are unpopular solutions. Also if the papers started writing about this problem, then this would undermine the whole confidence in the system, which would mean that more people would be more inclined to complain. If the loss of confidence in the system, loss of profit and political opposition from the public becomes too great, then a automatic toll collection system will be dismantled.

But make no mistake about it any attack on a toll collection system, will be fiercely resisted by the authorities. Just look at how the politicians tied to keep the toll collection system in Trondheim running longer than they had promised because it was such a good cash cow. The best way to stop toll collection systems is actually to stop driving, but this bring me to the question of how to use oil which will be another post some other time.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My Internets are dead

I could have posted about a lot of things lately.
There was a 3 week student festival this autumn which was worthy of a post. I had much fun with my friends which I could write about. The weather is something one always can comment on as it is mostly bad. I had a trip to the US to visit a friend (the girl that was engaged to my brother who died) that included much blogging material.
But I have not been blogging at all these last few weeks, and not doing much writing either. I am just waiting for Christmas and that I get to be unemployed.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How to get rich quickly (2/2)

In the last post I talked about getting rich quickly, and showed that it is not the amount of money you have that determines if you are rich or not. It depends more on what you can buy with the money, and even more on what you want to buy with the money.

Quote from somewhere on the internet: "If you earn 300 and only use 150 you are rich, if you earn 600 and use 601 you are poor".

Here are 3 ways to get rich quickly, they all involve pain in one form or another.

Be rich with less money
You do not have to be a millionaire to be rich, some of the riches people in the world have almost no money. Look into yourself and see that true happiness does not come from have a big house, a nice car, the finest clothes and vacations in every corner of the world. Some of the best moments in your life are just small events with friends or a loved one. Those are the things that make you rich. See that life is so much more than material things. Stop competing with your neighbours in having the fines house, car, etc. Live your life to the maximum and do it with good friends. The pain comes from having to adjust your expectations of richness to reality.

Sell yourself to the bank
You can have everything you ever dreamt of and you can have it soon. I am assuming that most of you that read this have university degrees and are currently happy sitting quietly doing research for some university, and complaining that you do not get well paid.
Well there is a way to fix that: Get some education in economics and marked yourself to financial companies. There are people out there in their 20's which are earning million of dollars, and you can be one of them if you work like hell, marked yourself, and be hungry for that promotion. Show that you are a cut above everybody else, if you have the university degree you have the brains that is need you just need to show the world how good you are. You have it in yourself, stop complaining and get off your ass.
Get that job earning yourself over a million dollar, and leverage that income to loan some more millions from the bank. The material dream can be yours, you just have to work like hell.

Inherit your wealth
One of the easiest ways to earn money is to inherit it. We will all be richer one day when our parents die as your children will get rich the day we die. If your family is dirt poor, do not worry, find some old person without any living relatives, make them happy and they will give you the money when their time has come. If you are an attractive girl in your 20's find some old guy in their 80's and marry him. For attractive guys in their 20's there are more single old women out there for you to shower with affection, they are not as likely to marry you, but they might be equally likely to leave you with some money. But from personal experience I would say that this is one of the most painful ways to get rich, not so much when an rich childless uncle of my father died, more when my only living grandmother died, and the most when I lost my only brother.


Monday, October 15, 2007

To be off by a bit is easy, to miss by 100km takes some effort to do

This tale starts on Thursday, when a gaming event Østfronten 1943 started, as I have mentioned earlier. I could not go to this event on Thursday, as I had some students that had a security computer lab, and my co-lab assistant had gone to Russia for the week. So although all students this week had finished quickly and were done by Wednesday, I thought it still prudent to be there on Friday (coming a little late as usual).

Then I went home to pack on Friday evening, but was not feeling to well so I ended up sleeping the whole Friday evening. My role was not as a paying participant, but rather as an extra. So I would have probably been put into a role of playing attacking Russian soldier who is about to get killed or some other role with a quick life.

So Saturday morning came and went, and I was not sure if I would go or not, but still I said I would go so it would have been fun to be there, so I packed, ate an early dinner, checked on the net for directions, checked email and mobile for messages of some sorts, and off I went. Everything was fine, I had been at that place before, I had a car and could drive back whenever I wanted and I might do some good when I came to the gaming event, although I was 2 days late.

The place where it was planed to be, was a place where gamers have been building a secluded place to have such events. The place is called Landsbyen, and it is about 100-110 km from Trondheim, but when I came there and expected 100 people, 30-40 cars, there was no one. It was only me and nature, total silence. Just me, the forest and some patches of snow on the ground.

So I had to drive 100km back in darkness, not knowing what was wrong. Had I read wrong? Had I done a mistake somewhere? Was it the wrong weekend? Had they finished already?
What it was, was moose hunting season. This had created a crisis because some government people did not allow people in camouflage to run around the woods at night with make believe guns, because of real hunters might mistake them for moose and shoot them.

This was not announced on the laiv calendar, this was not on the web pages for the event, not in any email sent to me, but in a laiv forum thread. For some this is an important forum, but for me I do not feel I have the time to check it so often. They had almost had to cancel the whole thing, but at the last moment they fond a place north of Trondheim to hold the event.

So to give you some perspective of the error, if we map the area around Trondheim to places in Denmark. You can then imagine starting from Århus and thinking you where going to an event in Odense. Only to come there and find that the whole event has been moved to somewhere outside Aalborg.

Update: I never went to the place where the laiv was. Afterwords a friend told me that he had told me to check the web because the event had been moved, but I do not remember that he said anything to me.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Snow in Tronheim

Before I continue with my rambling about getting rich quickly (which still does not have comments). I have to talk about yesterday, a strange day. Below is a picture taken from my flat that morning.

Winter has come to Trondheim.

Now if you ever wonder why I want to move back to Denmark, this picture says it all. I want to move somewhere where there is something else than rain or snow. I do not care about the fact that Al Gore or the Panel on climate change won the Nobel peace price. All I care is that the place where I live is dry. (For all you Danes who things it rains all the time, Trondheim is worse with just a few drops all day long for months on end and with early snow).

Yesterday I also bought plane tickets to visit a friend in Oslo area in two weeks time. After trying to get hold of that friend all week long to coordinate when I should come in the weekend.

Yesterday was also the which is usually when I get paid from the university. This time was no different than any other time, only that I achieved what I would call money neutrality. What I mean with that term will not be explained, only that it was a financial goal I had.

Lastly yesterday it was so cold that I had to start warming up the apartment for the first time this winter. I usually leave that task up to my 4 neighbours. I should also have packed for a trip this weekend to be part of a gaming event this weekend (Østfronten 1943), but I was too tired to do it. (I am only assisting, so my somewhat later arrival today will not affect things).

The snow did not stay yesterday, it was washed away by the rain which fell for the rest of day yesterday.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

How to get rich quickly (1/2)

In my post on financial blogs I read Mirca commented "isn't there any advice/magazine/blog about how to get rich QUICKLY?"

This post (and the next one) is my attempt to answer this question. Now I will start off with saying that there is no single way to get rich that can work for everyone, there is also no single way to get rich quickly that is without PAIN. Some will read my articles and still not like my answers, to those I would tell then to go buy a ticket to a lottery and hope it is your lucky day that is their only solution.

We first start out by defining what is it to be rich, most people will tell you that to be rich is to have lots of money. That is a good definition, but it is not correct, because of one little thing we all forget and that is that money is worthless. Money is nothing, money is represented by pieces of paper, or bits representing bank accounts in some computer, but in reality they have no real value in and of themselves. Let me give you an example:

Above is the first note in the newly created national bank of Tord. They are created by a national bank and they are usable as legal tender in the country of Tord (still to be created). They are not counted in kroner or dollar, but in units. For all practical purposes this is money.

What is missing in the previous definition is that to be rich is to have lots of money, money that other people can accept in exchange for goods or services. To really define what it is to be rich we have to go deeper, we have to define it in terms of what you can do with the money.

If you want to be rich quickly, you have to find out what you wanted to do with the money before you get them. So dear reader, what would make you rich, not in terms of an amount of kroner or dollar, but in terms of what you could do with the money? If you cannot define this, then let me give you a million units and you will be rich in a flash.

More on this next post.


Thursday, October 04, 2007


Yes, I now have a car! I have just "signed" the contract for a Mitsubishi Pajero — I got it last Sunday, yeah! Behold:

I have tried a lot of different cars, but this old wreck was the one that fitted my needs and budget the best. It comes ready with lots of miles and some rust, so that means that I do not have to mistreat a brand new car myself. It also does not need an expensive insurance as it is almost ready for the scrapheap.

And the best thing is, I did not have to wait nine days…

(this posting is a parody of a blogpost by Martin Geisler, the car is real)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Changes in lifestyle

In Denmark, I spent the evenings at work and the weekends in my apartment. The only sport I was doing was football, which is not suited to my two left feet and sometimes cycling the Brabrand-trail in the weekends. I never could find a good gaming group to hang out with in Denmark, although I did try to get one started.

In Norway I got back to my gaming group, we meet regularly each week, either on Mondays or Thursdays. This is great I get 6-8 friends over, we talk for 1/2-1 hour and then we play roleplaying games for 3-5 hours before we call it a night.

For sports I started with "innebandy" (running after a ball with a stick, like ice hockey without the ice), but that was not a sport for me. Then I started with dancing swing (Boogie-woogie and lindy-hop) and it is actually fun. I have tried to start as a beginner before, but it is actually fun, and this time I am actually getting better fast. I am starting to actually be able to coordinate my feet and hands and think of how to dance at the same time (thinking of 3 things at the same time is usually 2 more than a normal man can manage). But I still have things to work on as I am trying to complete a 8 beat move in 7 beats, which usually messes up things. An added befit is that there are more girls in the dance classes then there are boys.

For the weekends I have travelled to Oslo last weekend to visit an old friend, and I am going to Oslo again next weekend to attend a gaming event and to visit friends.

For all the good things in Denmark and all the fun I have had down there, I am a Norwegian at heart and I have 10 years of roots and acquiring friends in Trondheim. There is something said for living in one place long. If I could just merge these two places I would have the perfect place on the earth.


Financial blogs I read

There are two ways of getting more money. One is getting paid more, by getting a raise, changing jobs or taking a second job. The other way is using less, or getting more for less money. The second option is usually the better, and you can get a better life using less money. For more on this I follow these two blogs daily: The simple dollar and Get rich slowly .

For an overview of the Danish housing markets we have the following 2 part article (on a Norwegian blog which is highly negative of world markets). I can also add my own observation, when I came to Denmark November 2006, there was a sellers marked, when I left I could count 6-8 for sale signs on my way home, and I only needed 10-15 min to cycle home (downhill).


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Personal finance

I have been researching the question of personal finance (the kind of money we have and are gone at the end of the month) and global finance (the kind of money you can only dream about, and only big banks understand). Now I have accumulated enough knowledge/disinformation for at least 10 blog posts. Time will tell if I can ever do 10 blog posts without getting distracted and start talking about something else, but as I have bought Civilization 4 recently it does not leave me much time for bloging.

To start this off I have some financial information that is of global importance:
The dollar index (the dollar in respect to other important currencies) is now below 80.
For a short introduction to the significance of this: This index started at 100 in 1973, it has traded at between 120 and 80, but never below 80. Scroll a bit down in this article to see the index form 95-06.
Oil is now about to break the $80 per barrel barrier.
The mess in the American sub-prime mortgage is still not over.

Economists tell us that these things are not good for the global economy, but also remember that it is economists that got us in this mess in the first place. Now these guys control the flow of money, so if they tell us that things are going to get bad, then things are going to get bad.