Hacked E-Passports and More From the RFID Files


Yet again, hackers have proven that they can mess with the Radio Frequency Identification chips that governments, our own included, have been so eager to embed in passports. The concern with such biometric or E-passports is that, among other things, they would allow terrorists to pick Americans and others out of crowds simply by using an RFID reader. According to workpermit.com:

This week a German computer security consultant has demonstrated how to “clone,” or duplicate, a specific RFID chip. Lukas Grunwald, a security consultant with DN-Systems in Germany and an RFID expert, says the data in the chips is easy to copy, and he demonstrated the technique at the Black Hat Security Conference in Las Vegas on 03 August. [Bet that’s a party.]

The hack was tested on a new European Union German passport, but the method would work on any country’s “e-passport,” since all of them will be adhering to the same ICAO standard. [International Civil Aviation Authority.] He obtained an RFID reader by ordering it from the maker – Walluf, Germany-based ACG Identification Technologies – but also explained that someone could easily make their own for about $200 just by adding an antenna to a standard RFID reader.

As I reported last year, our own State Department delayed plans to embed passports with RFID tags after privacy advocates publicly demonstrated the poorly encrypted chips could be read from 30 feet away.

On the lighter side of RFID:

Last July, former Wisconsin governor and secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson announced his plan to get an RFID implant.

In 2002, PR firm Fleischman Hillard suggested ways to “neutralize opposition” to RFID technology, including renaming the devices “green tags” and bringing key lawmakers into the “inner circle.”

Oh, and some evangelists consider RFID tags to be the biblical sign of the beast and a portent of the Rapture.

Fact:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.

Donate Now
  • Clara Jeffery

    Clara Jeffery is Editor-in-Chief of Mother Jones and recipient of a PEN America award for editing. You can follow her on Twitter.