[26 September 1966] A potential security flaw may permit counterfeiting of many types of electronic cash smart cards now circulating in Europe and under test in the U.S., according to a report by John Markoff in the Sept. 26 New York Times, page D1. The flaw is documented in a research paper that is about to be published by Richard Lipton and two colleagues (one of whom seems to be Richard DeMillo). Lipton is chief scientist at Bell Communications Research (Bellcore) as well as a professor of computer science at Princeton. DeMillo, vice president for information technology at Bellcore, said "Our technique is like tiny lever that makes it possible to pry open the vault that the secret information is stored in."
The attack evidently depends on forcing the smart card to make a calculation error; the error would be used to provide information about the secret data maintained within the card. The error might be triggered by irradiating the card or through other means.
A Mastercard executive who had been shown a draft of the report characterized the attack as "speculative." Thorough assessment of the practicality of the attack and its implications for chipcard manufacturers and e-cash vendors awaits full publication of the report.