The Privacy BlogPrivacy, Security, Cryptography, and Anonymity


Video: Hacker war drives San Francisco cloning RFID passports – Engadget

The law of unintended consequences strikes again. In an attempt to improve national security, the U.S. Government has been pushing hard for the widespread adoption of RFID tags in passports around the world. They are already in U.S. passports. The problem is that they are easily scanned from a distance (as shown in the video), and can be cloned. If the RFID chip in the passport is trusted by the authorities, then the security situation is actually worse, not better. Getting real passport information from someone used to be hard. It generally involved actually stealing the passport. With the scanner, one could produce large numbers of clones while simply standing around the airport with the antenna in ones roller luggage (staying out side of security).

The long range readable RFID tags also make possible all kinds of other tracking and identification. The video talks about correlating personal information from RFID enabled credit cards with the passport number to produce even better fakes.

Distribution of such devices around a city would provide much better and more accurate and automated tracking of a population than cameras with their resolution, and facial recognition issues.