Wednesday, December 27, 2006

RFID Chips in Passports

OK. I found this article from WIRED on Digg and it gave me pause.

I'd heard rumblings awhile ago about RFID tags mostly used for tracking purposes for long-haul and retail businesses al la Wal-Mart and the possibility of using them in passports for security purposes. Naturally there was grumbling about a lack of privacy if RFID chips were included in passports, as well as guarding against hackers who enjoy a challenge.

So it was interesting to read this brief article in WIRED about how to disable the RFID tag. Or rather, a way that will most likely disable the RFID tag.

I'm curious as to how they tested this, or even if they tested it. There are quite a number of variations on RFID tags, or RFID chips, so it strikes me as odd that there would be a universal way to disable them. And if the RFID tag is disabled, wouldn't the government know about it? Wouldn't there be an indication of a disabled RFID tag, which very well might ignite a frenzy that another terrorist attack was in progress?

Course, that would mean that the government would actually have to have a means by which to track the activity of RFID tags, and an alert system that showed when on had been disabled.

It sounds like an imperfect system to me. Who is to say the owner disabled it? Or that it didn't happen when the person fell or landed hard on the pocket that contained the passport? Maybe the chip was faulty to begin with and disabled itself after being lightly bumped in transit.

If it is really that simple to disable an RFID tag in passports, as the WIRED article seems to imply, then what is the point of using them in passports?

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