Hacked E-Passports and More From the RFID Files

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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.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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