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Janitor to CISO in 360 Seconds: Exploiting Mechanical Privilege Escalation

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Author: Babak Javadi

For over 100 years, the modern pin tumbler lock has been used as the gold standard of physical security. Unique designs have come and gone over the years, but only the pin tumbler lock has remained constant. Almost just as constant is a neat hack-turned-standard feature that is commonly referred to as Master Keying. Master Keying allows the use of "unique" permissions-based mechanical keys in large systems and remains in use in large business and government installations in every country in the world. Unfortunately, the oldest authentication system in the world still in wide use today is vulnerable to what many consider to be the original privilege escalation attack, predating digital computer systems completely. Known by a handful of locksmiths for decades and first publicly disclosed in 2003, this un-patched vulnerability remains one of the most dangerous and under-protected physical security weaknesses still present today. This talk will discuss a highly optimized attack method against common master keyed systems as it applies to modern locks, and will cover a couple of options for mitigating and defending against the attack.

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Babak Javadi is a hardware hacker with a wayward spirit. His first foray into the world of physical security was in the third grade, where he received detention for describing to another student in words alone how to disassemble the doorknob on the classroom door. After years of immersion in electronics and computer hardware hacking, he found his passion in the puzzling and mysterious world of high security locks and safes. In 2006 Babak co-founded the US division of The Open Organisation of Lockpickers, otherwise known as TOOOL, where he continues to serve on the Board of Directors as President. In the same year, he founded the CORE Group, a multi-disciplined security research and consulting firm. He has recently re-embraced the beauty of the baud and resumed hardware hacking with a vengeance, currently working on leading research from access controls to alarms.

Babak Javadi Babak Javadi

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