By Daniel Terdiman
Gaming and Culture
September 3, 2008
MythBusters co-host Adam Savage is stepping back from public comments
suggesting that legal counsel from several credit card companies led the
Discovery Channel to pull the plug on an episode dedicated to security
holes in RFID.
At the Last HOPE conference in New York in July, Savage told a crowd of
several thousand people that his theory on why MythBusters had not gone
forward with a planned episode on RFID (radio frequency identification)
hackability was that on a conference call to discuss the matter with
technicians from Texas Instruments, the lawyers for the credit cards
companies had put the hammer down on the show.
"Texas Instruments comes on along with chief legal counsel for American
Express, Visa, Discover, and everybody else (co-host Tory Belleci and a
MythBusters producer) were way, way out-gunned," Savage told the crowd,
"and (the lawyers) absolutely made it really clear to Discovery 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 upon the revenue of the advertisers. Now it's on Discovery's
radar and they won't let us go near it."
But Texas Instruments spokeswoman Cindy Huff told CNET News on Tuesday
that things had gone a bit different than Savage had said.
"In June 2007, MythBusters was interested in pursuing some great
myth-busting ideas for RFID. While in pursuit, they contacted Texas
Instruments' RFID Systems, who is a pioneer of RFID and contactless
technology, for technical help and understanding of RFID in the
contactless payments space," Huff said. "Some of the information that
was needed to pursue the program required further support from the
contactless payment companies as they construct their own proprietary
systems for security to protect their customers. To move the process
along, Texas Instruments coordinated a conversation with Smart Card
Alliance (SCA) who invited MasterCard and Visa, on contactless payments
to help MythBusters get the right information. Of the handful of people
on the call, there were mostly product managers and only one contactless
payment company's legal counsel member. Technical questions were asked
and answered and we were to wait for MythBusters to let us know when
they were planning on showing the segment. A few weeks later, Texas
Instruments was told by MythBusters that the storyline had changed and
they were pursuing a different angle which did not require our help."
And now, even Savage is saying that he got his facts wrong.
Register now for HITBSecConf2008 - Malaysia! With
a new triple-track conference featuring 4 keynote
speakers and over 35 international experts, this
is the largest network security event in Asia and
the Middle East!