Were Adam and Jamie's plans for an RFID-busting episode banjaxed by the credit card companies?
Fresh from their success at Nvision, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman – better known as the Mythbusters – have found themselves in the middle of a global conspiracy conducted by major credit-card corporations. At least, if Adam's comments at a recent conference are true.
According to CNet
, Savage was asked by an audience member at an un-named conference why the team – which host a show aimed at testing common myths in an often explosive manner – had never tested the well-publicised vulnerabilities of RFID chips, including the well-known (and well-cracked) MiFare Classic.
In a video
of the conference, Savage details a call which took place between Tory Belleci – a member of the show's B-team – and Texas Instruments as part of the research carried out ahead of a planned RFID-busting episode. Sadly, Belleci got more than he bargained for: as well as Texas Instruments, the call featured the chief legal councils for American Express, Visa, Discover, and “everyone else
” which left the team feeling “way, way out-gunned
In a fit of foot-stomping reminiscent of the recent court-ordered ban
on a talk regarding the vulnerabilities in the MiFare Classic-based CharlieCard transport payment system, the Discovery Channel – which owns the show – were told in no uncertain terms that “they were not going to air this episode talking about how hackable this stuff was, and Discovery backed way down, being a large corporation that depends on the revenue of the advertisers.
” Savage continues with the explanation that the idea of an RFID-busting show is now “on Discovery's radar and they won't let us go near it.
Bad news for a show which has, in the past, demonstrated shortcomings in PIR-based security systems, tumbler-based safes, and top-end biometric locking systems: especially when one considers that hiding the truth about RFID's security issues isn't going particularly well
. As has been demonstrated so very many times in the past, security through obscurity is no security at all.
Texas Instruments, on the other hand, recalls the conversation very differently. In a statement, the company claims that the credit card companies were only involved “to help Mythbusters get the right information
,” and that only “one contactless payment company's legal counsel member
” was involved. The company further asserts that “technical questions were asked and answered
” and that it was waiting “for Mythbusters to let us know when they were planning on showing the segment
” when they heard “that the storyline had changed and they were pursuing a different angle which did not require our help.
Do you think Adam and Jamie should be allowed to show the TV-watching world how insecure in-the-wild RFID really is, or is it information that is better left unaired? Share your thoughts over in the forums