Crack MD5, avoid a ticket

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News.com.au reports that a Sydnew magistrate has thrown out a speeding case because the speed cameras use MD5 to secure the data:
Lawyer Dennis Miralis, who has won several high-profile cases against the RTA involving speeding motorists, said the case proved a public inquiry into speed cameras was desperately needed.

"The integrity of all speed camera offences has been thrown into serious doubt and it appears that the RTA is unable to prove any contested speed camera matter because of a lack of admissible evidence," Mr Miralis said.

The case revolved around the integrity of a mathematical MD5 algorithm published on each picture and used as a security measure to prove pictures have not been doctored after they have been taken.

Mr Miralis argued that the RTA had to prove the algorithm it used was accurate and could not be tampered with. He said: "It is our understanding that since speed cameras were introduced approximately 15 years ago on NSW roads, not one single speed camera photograph has been capable of proving an offence."

Obviously this is good news for speeders everywhere, but realistically, it seems pretty unlikely that the speed cameras use MD5 in a way that would be susceptible to tampering by the current attacks. Certainly, if we're in a situation where cryptography can't be introduced as evidence unless it's provably secure than that more or less means that it can't be used as evidence at all, since even the provably secure algorithms depend on some unproven assumptions.

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2 Comments

Well, it also implies that you couldn't admit things like fingerprint identification into evidence because they are far less "proven" than most widely accepted cryptographic algorthims.

I'd love to see a judge set a precedent for what is an acceptable error rate. But I doubt it will never happen. They won't even define what "reasonable doubt" means in quantitative terms.

I think the problem in this case is not that the court was unwilling to accept evidence related to cryptography, but that the transit authority, given 8 weeks to find a expert witness to introduce that evidence, was unable to produce one.

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