Print 27 comment(s) - last by Zoomer.. on Jan 7 at 12:12 AM

Critics decry the design's increased range

With the original incarnation slammed over security concerns, a new breed of RFID-enabled passports received the U.S. State Department’s stamp of approval last Monday. The new passports are set to launch this spring for U.S. citizens entering the United States through land and sea checkpoints.

Readable at up to 20 feet, the next-generation design is supposed to help increase passports’ security and reduce the omnipresent lines found at entry points around the country.

Compared to the previous generation of RFID passport – dubbed “e-Passports” – the new generation of RFID passports contain security features that are far more protected, with many of its developments based on the 4,000+ responses received by the State Department on a public request for comment in December 2006. New security features include:

  • A “randomized unique identification” system that produces a different ID each time the chip is accessed
  • A digital signature that can help identify when the passport’s data has been altered
  • A metallic insert in the passport’s spine and front cover that blocks radio signals when the cover is closed.

While many critics continue to express privacy concerns, the new security features are sufficient to pacify at least some of the passport’s vocal critics. “At the moment, the security protections in U.S. passports are pretty good,” said Ari Juels, Chief Scientist and Director of Massachusetts-based RSA Laboratories, in a December 14 statement to the Los Angeles Times.

The new passport design will use “vicinity read” RFID technology, as opposed to the previous generation “proximity read” technology, which need to be swiped at a scanner and were only readable from a few inches.

However, while the new passports are a definite improvement, critics stress that they are far from perfect. Critics have particularly attacked the new passports’ increased range, which many claim will help facilitate identity theft. In one example, mobile security company Flexilis found the passport’s metallic shielding inadequate, allowing for the passport’s transmitter to be read even when it is closed.

To demonstrate this, Flexilis posted a YouTube video demonstrating a proof of concept where a trashcan armed with an explosive charge detonates as a dummy equipped with the “shielded” passport passes by. The threat, it says, is that terrorists could use the passports’ increased range to selectively identify Americans in foreign lands, possibly taking action against them that may include bodily harm.

Despite the new passports’ flaws – which the Los Angeles Times says are nothing to lose sleep over – most everyone agrees that the changes are a much-needed improvement over the current RFID passport, which gained pariah status among security circles for notoriously weak security features.

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Why not...
By Strunf on 1/4/2008 11:43:36 AM , Rating: 2
Why not a credit card like passport? Or have the passport included on your ID card...
You have to wait that people move on (walk) so there's close to no difference between just walking and walking while passing the card through a scanner.

Anyway I don't even get the point of this, around here the queues exist at the baggage check and the RFID can't do a thing about it.

RE: Why not...
By sonoran on 1/4/2008 3:01:15 PM , Rating: 2
Why not a credit card like passport?

You haven't travelled internationally much, have you? Foreign border control points like to stamp your passport as a record of when you entered...and when you're supposed to leave. Entry stamp on the way in - exit stamp on the way out. That way they can tell if you overstayed your visa. How could they stamp something like a credit card?

The size and format of passports has apparently been pretty standardized for a long time.

RE: Why not...
By Alexstarfire on 1/4/2008 8:15:07 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I'm sure that it'd be done digitally just like they do with the RFID tags. Hope you just had a lapse in logic there.

RE: Why not...
By morton on 1/4/2008 11:33:31 PM , Rating: 2
So you're volunteering to foot the bill to supply the readers and databases and support systems to every immigration checkpoint in every country where someone holding one of your credit card passports is likely to enter or exit from?

RE: Why not...
By Strunf on 1/5/2008 4:23:52 PM , Rating: 2
The same guys footing the bill for the RFID would do it for this kind of thing... the other countries would just adapt. A scanner and a database would pay for itself in no time on any country that has a high volume of travelers, and other countries could have this kind of passport for their own travelers too, I don't see any reason to think the passport format we have now is the best we can get.

RE: Why not...
By Zoomer on 1/7/2008 12:12:59 AM , Rating: 2
In the meantime, you would be denied entry to these countries. Good move!

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen
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