03 February 2009


IT'S ALMOST TIME FOR ME TO RENEW MY PASSPORT, which I have used quite frequently over the past decade. Things have changed since 1999, as you know, and all U.S. passports now come equipped with a RFID, or a Radio-frequency identification chip.

This does not make me happy — at all — nor does the prospect of being a player in one of Orwell's visions of 1984. According to Joris Evers of CNET, "RFID tags are being included in passports despite concerns about the holder's privacy and security . At worst, the chips could let terrorists identify bearers from a distance, which means they could be used as a trigger for explosives, experts have said.

The take-up of the electronic passports is bad news for privacy, said Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security. "The risk in RFID passports is surreptitious access, and the security measures different countries are taking are varied in their scope and effectiveness," he said.

The soluytion? For protection, Schneier suggests that holders of an electronic passport should GUARD IT WELL (um, thanks for that wonderful advice). "If you're stuck with one of these passports, use a photocopy whenever you can and keep the real one wrapped in tin foil," he said.

Of course, the U.S. government has repeatedly dismissed the security and privacy concerns.

In the above video, Ethical hacker Chris Paget demonstrates a low-cost mobile device that surreptitiously reads and clones RFID tags embedded in United States passport cards and enhanced drivers' licenses.

As you'll see, it cost him less than $250 for the electronic gear capable of stealing your passport information.

Feel safer — or violated?


Blogger Anthony said...

Funny you should post on this subject, I'm up for passport renewal as well in the next year or so, and I am dreading the day that I have to walk round with an RFID passport. I definitely consider my privacy is being violated. If it goes through I am most certainly going to carry it with tinfoil or some other means of nullifying the RF transmission.

2:10 PM EST  

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