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Government officials insists new passports are secure

This week the US government plans to rollout new RFID passports to citizens nationwide. The new passports contain a chip which requires no power and contains duplicate information of what's printed on the passports. This way, government officials at air ports and other national borders can quickly verify the authenticity of printed information on the passports. DailyTech last reported that the US government planned to issue the new passports this month despite privacy concerns.

Despite the security benefits that the US government is boasting, security advocates and experts say that the new RFID passports present an increased level of danger for passport users. Because of the technology being used, remote RFID readers can read information off the passports for cloning or malicious use. The US government argues that this is no different than having someone steal a physical passport -- they wouldn't be able to use it anyway. Officials claim that the information be stored on the new passports are encrypted and cannot be copied and modified. Likewise, the information on the passports cannot be scrambled or changed because the chips are read-only.

The US State Department already has a fairly comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions website about the new electronic passports.  About half of the official Q&A from the State Department is with regard to security.  For example, the site claims "To prevent eavesdropping, Basic Access Control (BAC) is employed in the U.S. e-passport.  BAC is similar to a PIN used in ATM or credit card transactions.  In the case of the electronic passport, characters from the printed machine-readable zone of the passport must be read first in order to unlock the chip for reading.  Thus, when an electronic passport is presented to an inspector, the inspector must scan the printed lines of data in order to be able to read the data on the chip." 

Staff counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington said that "many of the advantages the industry is touting are eliminated by security concerns." However, a German security company has already demonstrated that information on the new passports can be copied and transferred to another device.  The State Department claims there is an anti-skimming technology in place to prevent this type of exploit specifically, though exact details of the counter-measure have not been revealed yet.

The new passports are being manufactured by Infineon Technologies, but production has not started yet. Other countries deploying new passport technologies include Japan, France and Canada. The new RFID passports are already being used in French international passports and Canada plans to introduce biometric passports sometime in 2007.  Japan's all-biometic passports are already being rolled out in select regions. The UK is still in the planning phases for its passports.

The new passports will cost roughly $97 per passport and includes a $12 security surcharge. The US government expects the technology to be fully deployed within the year. Those with regular passports will still be able to use them until the expiration date is reached.


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RFID
By nerdboy on 8/14/2006 11:41:46 AM , Rating: 1
I wounder if the RFID in a passport will work like a warehouse RFID that can track packages anywhere in the world up to a 100 feet of where it is. Just a thought




RE: RFID
By Nightskyre on 8/14/2006 11:52:27 AM , Rating: 2
Having previously worked for a large shipping company, I find your statement extremely unlikely with regards to anything that costs only $97. Clearly you must not understand what an RFID is. They are fundamentally different from, say, a GPS, which costs a lot more. Anything that would provide worldwide tracking would likely require satellite intervention, and you aren't going to find that imbedded in a piece of paper, or that crazy canvas stuff they make passports out of.


RE: RFID
By gramboh on 8/14/2006 12:18:29 PM , Rating: 2
What he means is there is a potential to have a large network of passive RFID scanners which connect to a global database/network which updates/tracks your location as you move from place to place.

Big brother stuff, personally I disagree with it but it doesn't scare me as I live in Canada :)


RE: RFID
By Furen on 8/14/2006 12:21:58 PM , Rating: 2
And, more importantly, it would require power. Tracking requires the device being tracked to respond to the satellites doing the tracking. RFID needs to be powered by a relatively short-ranged reader.


RE: RFID
By masher2 (blog) on 8/14/2006 12:40:58 PM , Rating: 2
Satellite tracking isn't feasible, but terrestrial tracking certainly is. One thing I can see happening is installation of scanners at all domestic airport security checkpoints. So when a person enters the US with such a passport, not only are they scanned at port of entry, but their movements at every subsequent stop afterwards as well.


RE: RFID
By Nightskyre on 8/14/2006 1:10:23 PM , Rating: 2
So, not to sound like I'm in favor of impinging our personal freedoms, but, really, so what?

If the government wanted to track our movement, they could just get the passenger list from the airline. Besides - Keep in mind, you don't need your passport to travel domestically. And, since the format isn't standardized globally, the best the government could do is track your leaving and entering the states - Something they already do with a much more archaic system.


RE: RFID
By Dustin25 on 8/14/2006 1:10:58 PM , Rating: 2
It's all about thinking ahead. Many big name corporations are geared up to jump on the rfid bandwagon. They want rfid scanners in their entryways, their store shelves, and anywhere else they can be crammed. They want this for many reasons like theft prevention and inventory, but mostly they want it for the almighty power of information. Rfid will become the new tool in advertising. Credit cards and drivers licences will all have rfid and there's even talk of rfid in U.S. currency. There are already rfid refrigerators for your home. Think ten years ahead. Anytime you walk into a building the system will know what cards you are carrying and the name and address on those cards and will know how much cash you're carrying. They will even be able to know where you just came from based on the rfid databases that are being setup by corporations such as Wal-mart. With the advent of more and more products equipped with rfid readers for your home, they will be able to tell what room you are in in your own home. All of the above can and will be used to target advertisements at you and tech savvy criminals can use this info. Of course the government will want these corporate rfid databases linked to government computers. In a country with rfid scanners around every corner, you will have no privacy.

There is even a company that wants to set up rfid billboards. The board will scan drivers as they pass or at a red light and show targeted advertisements to them.


RE: RFID
By Nightskyre on 8/14/2006 1:37:05 PM , Rating: 2
So, in other words, you're telling me that global companies that may or may not have their central offices in the States are held under the same set of restrictions (or freedoms) that the government is? I disagree with that.

Further, if there are RFid tags in money, now the companies have to pay the government money to access whatever encryption may be used on the money. More government income from business.

"Anytime you walk into a building the system will know what cards you are carrying and the name and address on those cards and will know how much cash you're carrying."

No, not really. When you swipe your credit card through a machine in a store, it doesn't transmit any address information, it transmits an account number. The same information the store would get from you using the card is the information they would/could get when you entered the store. The credit card companies would be in serious trouble if they started distributing customer's private information through a medium like an RFid on a credit card. Once again, this is an example of a paranoia over a new technology that is irrelevant because the information that is being transferred is already being transferred through another more archaic medium.

"With the advent of more and more products equipped with rfid readers for your home, they will be able to tell what room you are in in your own home."

This is, of course, assuming you carry your wallet when you take a shower, walk the dog, go to sleep, etc. It is also assuming your house is linked up to a central database somewhere, which is a HUGE assumption you are making that probably isn't true. Putting an RFid in a credit card is very different from saying "Hey, mister consumer, can I stick this box in your closet and plug it into your internet connection?"

"Of course the government will want these corporate rfid databases linked to government computers."

Aren't these the same types databases that the government can't obtain without a warrant or other such legal documentation that gives the government a reason to GET this information?

"There is even a company that wants to set up rfid billboards. The board will scan drivers as they pass or at a red light and show targeted advertisements to them."

You mean the billboard will show something I care about instead of local themepark X or three month-past festival show Y? Wow, that's tragic.

Finally, if there are any RFid tags anywhere, you could always just line your wallet with tin foil or find a more effective way to generate the Faraday effect.

And by the way. Who is this "They" that you always refer to? Aliens?


RE: RFID
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 8/14/2006 1:39:53 PM , Rating: 2
Not to be patronizing, but do you really have any idea how screwed up our government is? Nobody trusts anyone, they all assume everyone else doesn't know how to do their jobs. Even if the NSA swore up and down you were ay XYZ Wednesday Night, and could call up RFID to show it. Whoever in the Justice Department that was working the investigation wouldnt be allowed to see that information because the two agencies dont trust each other, or dont talk to each other.

You are partially correct though, the only people that would care would be the advertising and corporate sector, the FBI would likely plug into the database and use it for surveilance on fujitives, criminals, terrorists and whatnot. No real harm there because the only time the FBI would query the system is when they know who they are looking for, its simply a matter of tracking them. Nothing wrong with that.


RE: RFID
By Nightskyre on 8/14/2006 2:02:14 PM , Rating: 2
Once again, I refer to the Faraday effect. Additionally, unless your clothing is lined with RFid tags, you have no requirement to carry anything that is going to have an RFid tag in it. Until I see laws that mandate the carrying of an RFid equipped device, I still don't see the issue. I also don't care who talks to who in the government. Until we as citizens get to the point where we cannot restrict our personal use of RFid equipped devices, it is a moot point. Many if not most Americans are willing to sacrifice privacy for convenience. This is just another example of that.

The obvious dispute to this would be RFids in cash. If cash has RFids in it, how can we avoid them? In this case, I submit to you exhibit A - The nameless transaction. The whole point of cash is that it is a universal medium that does not contain personal information by which the second party of a transaction can identify the first. I can go into any store at any time with any number of bills of any denomination and purchase anything. Granted, large purchases could cause the raising pf an eyebrow or two, but the point stands.


RE: RFID
By masher2 (blog) on 8/14/2006 4:55:30 PM , Rating: 2
> "unless your clothing is lined with RFid tags, you have no requirement to carry anything that is going to have an RFid tag in it. "

You mean, except for the RFID in your new passport, I assume.

> "I can go into any store at any time with any number of bills of any denomination and purchase anything. Granted, large purchases could cause the raising of an eyebrow or two"

It'll do more than "raise eyebrows". If you purchase anything with more than $10,00 in cash, it'll result in a form 8300 filed immediately to the IRS...and, depending on the circumstances, federal agents at your door asking questions.


RE: RFID
By Burning Bridges on 8/14/2006 4:30:19 PM , Rating: 2
Minority report, anyone?


RE: RFID
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 8/14/2006 1:25:24 PM , Rating: 2
Yea pretty much. This just makes it that much easier. In the long run this is cheaper than maintaining the archaic system we have now. Risk is minimal if its either checking against a database and has no real data on the tag, or they are using a 128-Bit AES or higher encryption, which would be just as easy to implement. And this helps to eliminate human error during the visual checking phase. It's bound to rub some the wrong way but I would have to say these people dont have security clearances. If they think a little RFID tag is "big brother", try going for a security clearance, your entire life is basically an open book, but you go through with it, because thats whats required. RFID tags are no less secure than receiving your bills in the mail with all of your personal and billing information on them.


RE: RFID
By Dustin25 on 8/14/2006 2:32:08 PM , Rating: 2
Nightskyre is sitting in his car at a red light. The billboard in front of him has found that he is a frequent purchaser of Viagra and genital wart cream. The Walgreen's up the road is a paid sponsor of the billboard and has a special on just those products. So as Nightskyre is sitting there, the billboard begins to flash the words "Nightskyre, come get a great deal on Viagra and Jim's genital wart cure-all for everyday low low prices just five miles down the road on the right." This of course is just a joke and an exaggeration, but anyone who is cool with targeted advertisement needs to get their head examined. It's not about the advertisement, it's about how companies collect info for that advertisement that irritates me.


RE: RFID
By Nightskyre on 8/14/2006 2:51:42 PM , Rating: 2
Is that so? Stop using your credit cards, don't use e-mail, and, oh goodness, please make sure you never ever use G-Mail, or anything Google related, for that matter.

Once again you're assuming a lot of things.

1. That billboard is emitting some serious radio waves if it can pick up my credit card's RFid tag in my wallet. Let's ignore for now the illegality of Walgreens collecting credit card information and pretend I have a "Frequent Savers" card instead. Oh, wait. Why do these (pre-existing) cards exist at virtually every store in the country? Because people are willing to give up privacy for convenience. I save 5% off my purchase and the company tracks what I buy. This is common now. They can, in turn, target me with ads. Hell, even now supermarkets print coupons that are based on what you just bought. Connecting this to my Stop'n'Shop card is just as easy.

So, we've now established that "frequent saver" cards must NOT be something Dustin25 has in his wallet, because he's afraid of companies gathering information about him.

2. Credit cards will have RFid's in them? If that billboard could pick up the RFid at LEAST 40-50 feet away, I'd be pretty impressed. By the time the billboard read my id and started to display the new sign (after accessing its non-local database) I'd be long gone, or gone very soon.

This is, as I mentioned, assuming we ignore the fact that retail companies cannot store my credit card information without my permission, AND that the credit card company has already provided its decryption software to the billboard company (the encryption can be done via hardware and wired into the card reader at the store, thereby retaining the credit card company's right to private encryption information)

And, since it seems to be ignored in, I dunno, every post I've made so far, holy Faraday effect, Batman.


RE: RFID
By Knish on 8/14/2006 6:31:55 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Is that so? Stop using your credit cards, don't use e-mail, and, oh goodness, please make sure you never ever use G-Mail, or anything Google related, for that matter.

Don't forget AOL either. Actually especially AOL :)


RE: RFID
By masher2 (blog) on 8/14/2006 3:23:29 PM , Rating: 2
> "Keep in mind, you don't need your passport to travel domestically."

The point is, if you travel internationally, you're going to have your passport with you, even on the domestic portion of your travels.

> "since the format isn't standardized globally..."

US and Germany are already using the same basic system. How long until the rest of the world follows suit?


RE: RFID
By nerdboy on 8/14/2006 3:19:57 PM , Rating: 1
There are diffenrt types of RFID tags, like Active Tags
Active Tags possess a battery thus powering a Tag with greater energy and signal strength and achieving greater distances. Tag costs are higher, $20 to $70, primarily due to the additional discrete electronic components necessary and the low quantity of Tags demanded by applications
Tags battery life last up to 5 years typical. I still do work for a very large shipping company and support RFID. oh and also Microsoft's working on software for an RFID-based system that would allow senders, receivers and shippers to automatically track a package's location through all stages of the shipping cycle.


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