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RFID Passports Raise Safety Concerns

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the what's-this-all-aboot-ay dept.


CurtMonash writes " features a skeptical article about the US State Department's plans to soon issue RFID passports (currently being tested on State Department employees). One fear is that they can be hacked for information about you. And even if they can't, carrying around a little transmitter saying 'I'm an American! I'm an American!' isn't a fun and safe thing to do in all parts of the world." From the article: "Basically, you've given everybody a little radio-frequency doodad that silently declares 'Hey, I'm a foreigner,' says author and futurist Bruce Sterling, who lectures on the future of RFID technology. 'If nobody bothers to listen, great. If people figure out they can listen to passport IDs, there will be a lot of strange and inventive ways to exploit that for criminal purposes.'"

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yeah (5, Funny)

dolson (634094) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718828)

Yeah, that is important because I know when Americans visit say, China or India, they can blend right in with everyone else if they don't have that transmitter.

Re:yeah (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15718852)

Americans aren't the only caucasians out there. RFID nicely allows somebody to identify the hated Americans from the nice Canadians (and most Europeans).

Re:yeah (5, Funny)

MrShaggy (683273) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718893)

And being said Canadian, I am all for making it much easier to spot the difference. GO BUSH GO!

Re:yeah (1)

Valthan (977851) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718975)

Agreed whole heartedly.

The way the world percieves Americans is so bad, that a couple I know from there who are great people were pertending they were Canadian when we were travelling just because Americans are frowned upon so much. (We were on a Caribean (sp?) Cruise)

Re:yeah (2, Interesting)

xtracto (837672) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719136)

Yah, I would welcome this, I remember a lot of times when I was in Mexico that, it was just after me and some friends knew that the people were from Canada or Europe that we wanted to be real friends.

Of course, this was not difficult were I lived as, usually people from USA get stuck in Cancun or Los Cabos were they find all their beloved touristic heaven. It is only European (and sometimes Canadian) tourism the one we (in Mexico) call "tourism with culture" that gets a bit away from Cancun to see the Mayan ruins [] or Campeche [] fortresses/history and all the incredible historical and natural wonders that are the real marvels of Mexico.

Of course the Estadounidenses dont know that because they are happy drinking Tequila and dancing until they fall in their expensive (not a lot for them of course) hotels and "Planet Hollywod" and "Hard Rock Cafe" (I have always wondered *why* do they bother to travel to Cancun if they are going to get into the same places they have in the USA).

And, as I lived in Campeche, the blonds that arrived there were usually Europeans or Canadians (although CAnadians were more often found in La Paz which is close to Los Cabos, but without all the "touristic" commercialization)

Re:yeah (1)

LainTouko (926420) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718994)

Especially in India, since Indians are Caucasians.

Re:yeah (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719018)

We since we Europeans were having trouble identifying US tourists, this will be most welcome. Now we can finally have a coke with foie gras without being treated like foreigners. ;)

Re:yeah (2, Informative)

Goth Biker Babe (311502) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719027)

No it doesn't. Passports issued to Brits in the last few weeks have RFID chips. The excuse being given is that the US demanded it!

Re:yeah (1)

Twiceblessedman (590621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719083)

Thank god, hopefully americans won't get passports that signal they are canadian though. They are the most boastful people on the planet about their country, yet when they travel abroad they lie and say they're from another.

Re:yeah (2, Interesting)

Shaper_pmp (825142) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719087)

And while I hate to be a bring-down, how long until we start seeing discrete RFID readers attached to personnel-sized IEDs in Iraq/Afghanistan/wherever the US invades/liberates next?

You can have a thousand native citizens walk down a busy street, and the bomb doesn't go off until an American (or possibly, even a native with US embassy employee-ID) walks right past it.

I know it's an essential part of the whole "keep 'em fat, stupid, scared and easily-trackable" agenda the US/UK governments have going, but I find it hard to believe the USA (especially!) is actually making it easier to identify its tourists and overseas personnel.

Re:yeah (5, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719143)

As cherished as this notion is among Canadians in particular (after all traveling the world with an enormous maple leaf on your pack and every article of clothing is just the epitome of class and good taste), I've been to four continents in the last year and a half, and have never encountered a shred of anti-Americanism. This whole issue is nonsense driven by 1) idiot Americans who have never left the country, 2) idiot Americans projecting their own disdain for their neighbors onto foreigners and 3) Canadians. Anyway, even if you're concerned about this stuff, why not travel, make a good impression and improve the US's image.

Meanwhile I see some guy here (you'll never guess from what country!) spinning a story of Americans pretending to be Canadian ON A CARIBBEAN FREAKING CRUISE! I'm sorry, if you're that stupid, don't leave home.

Re:yeah (2, Interesting)

kickedfortrolling (952486) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718883)

I suppose the worrying side of that is that weapons such as mines or explosives or even rockets could be RFID seeking, not just americans in general, but specific people/groups

Re:yeah (2, Insightful)

Potor (658520) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718889)

What about Chinese Americans visiting their homeland?

Re:yeah (1)

DarkDragonVKQ (881472) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718989)

They can tell the difference. Unless you learned Chinese the traditional way. At home and attended Chinese school for the first couple years of your life. Then your Chinese shouldn't be that off. Though even things like your body language would be slightly different. A detection that something is slightly off.

Re:yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15718890)

So, what, you're assuming that American = White Caucasion? I'm Japanese American. I can blend in pretty well in China and Japan, maybe even Korea. If I go to India, people don't assume I'm American. Unless, of course, my handy RFID passport lets everyone know...

Re:yeah (1)

Burlap (615181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718904)

cause there arnt any Chinese or Indian Americans?

Re:yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15718909)

Haha. It was modded 'Funny' because all Americans are white.

Re:yeah (2, Insightful)

slashdot-jake (986859) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718939)

So what happens to the RFID when it goes through a dozen X-Ray scans? How about just sitting in my pocket at 35k ft? Have these chips been tested to show that they will continue to work after normal wear of a passport? My passport certainly takes a beating everytime I travel: x-rays, increased radiation due to high elevation, bending, humidity, etc. I doubt all these things have been tested for.

I really don't want to have to wait and hour and miss my flight as the prove that I am who my passport says I am just because some stupid chip failed.

Re:yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15718976)

You do realize that people in the US come in various shades, shapes, and sizes? My favorite is grande decaf mocha.

Re:yeah (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719014)

I guess you use India as an example because you think Americans blend right in with the locals in, say, London. He he he...

Re:yeah (2, Funny)

SCHecklerX (229973) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719036)

ok, how about an unattended claymore that is configured to go off when it sees the RFID? Didn't think of that, did ya!

Save tinfoil hat for passport (5, Funny)

f0dder (570496) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718830)

So if I wrap my RFID laden passport in tinfoil I am safe right? right?

Re:Save tinfoil hat for passport (1)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718871)

yes, as far as I know, tinfoil does block the signals of RFID... so does a sheet of metal from my personal experience, which is why I keep on in my wallet with my RFID card.

Re:Save tinfoil hat for passport (4, Informative)

alanxyzzy (666696) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718895)

Bruce Schneier thinks that it will be OK []


The new design also includes a thin radio shield in the cover, protecting the chip when the passport is closed. More good security.

Assuming that the RFID passport works as advertised (a big "if," I grant you), then I am no longer opposed to the idea.


Re:Save tinfoil hat for passport (1)

rnelsonee (98732) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719057)

Wrapping metal around it certainly won't make it easier to read, but it is limited in it's ability to block signals because it's not grounded. Electric fields will still be free to pass through the mesh. Perhaps we should all just get grounding shoe straps....

Re:Save tinfoil hat for passport (1)

jeeves1914 (689028) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719026)

I wonder if my snazzy duct tape wallet [] would protect me?

somewhat a good idea (1)

Kunta Kinte (323399) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719152)

So if I wrap my RFID laden passport in tinfoil I am safe right? right?

When I bought my pre-paid toll transmitter [] , one of the things it came with was a very small plastic bag that you can put the transmitter in. This is in case you were at a toll but wanted to pay cash for some reason. The bag looks like a small ziplock bag with a silver tint.

I can see someone selling those at passport sizes on the internet as 'passport holders'.

Even if it can be hacked? (5, Insightful)

blindbug (979761) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718840)

One fear is that they can be hacked for information about you. And even if they can't...
It can... and it will be... period.

Re:Even if it can be hacked? (0, Offtopic)

Shaper_pmp (825142) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719130)

The only way to make any compter system perfectly hack-proof is to disconnect it from any external network, switch it off, lock it in a very secure room and then destroy the only key. And even then it's susceptible to lock-pickers and social engineering.

And you're right - if they can be hacked they will be. And then what're the government going to do - upgrade the security and re-issue every citizen's passport all at once? Pffft...

Confused? (1)

GI Jones (21552) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718843)

Aren't RFID tags a passive technology? It doesn't hang around "broadcasting" anything, but it can be queried. Am I wrong here?

Re:Confused? (1)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718925)

There are 2 types of RFID tags from what I understand

Re:Confused? (4, Informative)

Mayhem178 (920970) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718927)

As I understand it, RFID cards don't do anything until they're exposed to an electromagnetic field, which gives them just enough juice to fire off a message, usually an identity code. Unless I've been completely misinformed, you'd have to generate quite the field to even have a chance of reading one of these things at a distance. I know that my RFID card doesn't work until it's within a coupla inches of the appropriate reader.

The whole "it's broadcasting all of your personal information!!!!" hype is a bunch of FUD. The only way it could really be a security risk is if the card itself was stolen, and then it's really no different than having your S.S. card or driver's license stolen.

Re:Confused? (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718982)

Right, because no one could walk around an airport or through a train with a suitecase containing an RFID reader.

Re:Confused? (2, Insightful)

Mayhem178 (920970) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719145)

As I understand it, in order to read an RFID chip, you have to be close. We're talking a matter of inches. So, not only would the guy with the reader have to know exactly where your card is on your person, but he'd have to shove the reader practically right up against you. I think you'd probably notice if he started rubbing you with his suitcase.

I'm not saying it's impossible, but I'm not losing any sleep at night over my RFID card.

Re:Confused? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15719005)

So, you are saying those portable handheld readers don't exist? So nobody could just walk by you and get your information without you knowing about it until you get metaphorically fucked up the ass? Or nobody could set up a hidden reader any-fucking-where they want? They must not actually work. Huh, amazing. And I thought I was an EE that knew how this stuff worked because I fucking worked on it. But no, I'll take your word for it, this stuff is completely safe. No possible problems here! No-siree.

Just... go fuck off. Really.

Re:Confused? (1)

cmeans (81143) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719049)

I have no technical knowledge about RFIDs, but would it be possible to not allow the RFID to respond to the "scan" request unless the user/holder OK's it. Say by integrating a fingerprint reader into the passport as well. This would also seem like another general security measure. Where the user/holder must place the finger on the passport to "activate" it.

I don't know whether fingerprint readers are getting tiny enough to be embedded in something that small, but it seems like a good idea. I would be more comfortable with having an RFID passport if I could control when it was being accessed.

Re:Confused? (1)

SCHecklerX (229973) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719065)

I'm sure that if there is a bomb that is nearby configured to go off when the proper RFID signal is detected, said bomb can certainly send out the RF needed to light up the RFID tag.

Re:Confused? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15719109)

In a November 2005 article, noted security expert Bruce Schneier states that the maximum distance at which an RFID chip had been read so far was 69 feet.

See "The Security of RFID Passports" in Crypto-Gram #0511 [] .

The article also has links to Schneier's other writing upon the subject.

Re:Confused? (1)

MrSquirrel (976630) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718963)

There are passive and active RFID transmitters. The ones they're referring to be used in the passports would be passive. Passive transmitters can have batteries, but these ones would not, meaning the reader would have to be very close to read them... or VERY powerful (car-sized). Furthermore, RFID chips have security protocols and they are fairly safe (nothing is unhackable). The only safety concern is the possibility that someone with either a very large and powerful reader could read you at range or someone with a smaller human-held reader could get up close to you (they would have to be RIGHT next to you... maybe even put their hand on your heiny) and read your data... they would have to break heavy encryption to read any actual information about you. They could not alter your information (depending on the type of RFID chips used, there are RW [Read-write, multiple times] and WO [write-once] flavors of RFID).

Re:Confused? (1)

Akaihiryuu (786040) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719162)

The place I work uses passive RFID badges to let us into the building (and to get through doors in the building)...the readers do not work until you get the badge to within an inch of it. If the technology is like this, it would be impossible to read "at a distance"

Hows about.. (0, Troll)

kickedfortrolling (952486) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718845)

What if they just transmit the pasport number, a unique but largely useless reference? that way legit people can use it to check against records, and illigit people are buggered. I personally would prefer a chip in my arm so i dont need to bother carrying a passport/driving licence etc, and i'd certainly have all criminals tagged.. wait.. i mean branded.. Think of it as a VFID

Re:Hows about.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15718955)

For even more convenience and increased security, the ID number could be the same as your Social Security number.

Re:Hows about.. (1)

Elros (735454) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719127)

That would require changing a few laws. There's a very limited set of people that can use a SSN. If I remember correctly, it's something like employers, lenders, and the IRS. There may be others, but I'm sure that you can't use a SSN as a generic ID number.

Re:Hows about.. (2, Interesting)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718964)

legit people can use it to check against records, and illigit people are buggered
For someone sitting around with the gear to query RFIDs for illicit puurposes, getting any response at all is a good thing. Even if it's a useless string, the fact that it's there paints you as an American national with your passport on you. There are very many ways to exploit that information.

Re:Hows about.. (1)

LanMan04 (790429) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718979)

The problem is, what if someone managed to get their fake passport to respond with *your* passport ID?

Now they can impersonate you, and when that person's crimes come back to you, the cops will say "We know it was you, those passport chips are unhackable!" It makes no sense, an optical (2D barcode or something similar) system would make MUCH more sense.

Re:Hows about.. (1)

kickedfortrolling (952486) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719043)

Im sure people could fake my passport without it ever leaving my room, are passports a secure enough concept regardless of media?

I read that the UK DVLA no longer needs to see your passport to verfiy id, and to get your photo and signiture, so thats all stored somewhere just waiting to be hacked

Re:Hows about.. (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718983)

What if they just transmit the pasport number, a unique but largely useless reference?

I suspect that the length of a passport number or the structure might identify the passport holder as an American...


Re:Hows about.. (1)

kickedfortrolling (952486) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719080)

Thats a flaw in the present system. Doesnt have to be a problem with a new system

Re:Hows about.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15719113)

Yeah, the "unique but largely useless reference" will probably be USA-0123456789 for Americans.

Re:Hows about.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15719154)

Yeah man, double-plus good...

RFID security (4, Interesting)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718846)

I know that having your personal data stolen isn't any fun, it'll be worse if they put biometric data in there as well (I don't know what data the US passports currently have, in the UK we'll be having that put in soon). but for me a bigger concern is that they can be infected with a virus, which could quite easily be used to cause havok with the computers at airports and possibly bring the whole system down... the register reported on the proof of concept here: infected_by_virus/ []

Re:RFID security (1)

IAmTheDave (746256) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719035)

Yes, but this and other arguments don't matter, because the RFID lobby paid more than you did.

Just one more justification... (3, Funny)

ralf1 (718128) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718849)

For my new lead lined briefcase. Who cares if it weighs 125 pounds.

good business opportunity (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15718855)

Time to start my business for "ePassport Sleeves" Put in a gaussian shield, and nothing to worrk about.

Re:good business opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15719000)

Dear US Patent office..

What's the range? (2, Informative)

gasmonso (929871) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718864)

How far are you broadcasting in the first place? If its like 10 feet who cares? Now in good practice, whenever I travel I leave my passport in the safe at the hotel. Not really a good idea to walk around with it ;) []

Re:What's the range? (1)

LimDesWein (680623) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718901)

I'm pretty sure you are supposed to have your passport on you at all times when traveling abroad.

Re:What's the range? (1)

gasmonso (929871) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718958)

No way, if you lose it or it gets stolen, then you have some problems. I've been all over Europe and China and that's what worked the best. No problems :)

Re:What's the range? (1)

blindbug (979761) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719108)

A problem with this statement is that it is *theoretically* possible to read short-range RFID tags at longer distances. There are already companies (and hackers) creating tools to read at distances of around 25 feet [] for active RFIDs and 10ft. for passive. RFID Readers can also emit signals out to 100 feet [] to activate the card, although they cannot read it. Since short-range readers are relatively small, you could work as a team, 1 person pushing out an activation signal at ranges of 100+ feet away, and another person waiting in line or walking next to you to read the information.

A high-tech game of pick-pocket.

Passports & Immigration (1)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718881)

"Basically, you've given everybody a little radio-frequency doodad that silently declares 'Hey, I'm a foreigner,'"

Whenever I have questions about Passports or Immigrations, I always say WWFD (What Would Fez [] Do?)

I am a free man (5, Insightful)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718882)

Barring the bloody obvious target painted on you, they say in the article:

They'll have radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and are meant to cut down on human error of immigration officials, speed the processing of visitors and safeguard against counterfeit passports.

Human error will still occur in whichever system a human is involved in.

Couldn't they get all the same benefits with a simple barcode?
Does the RFID hold just your ID number for lookup on the database or is the RFID part now full identification?

I hope this doesn't go ahead (like the UK now isn't going ahead with its ID scheme) because whilst RFID might make tracking warehouse stock easy, its not great for humans.
Just because the technology exists doesn't mean we should use it for everything.

Re:I am a free man (1)

Coopjust (872796) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718929)

If it's made by humans, it isn't perfect. Most RFID tags are just a unique identifier which is a lookep for a database. You could put such information on a 3D barcode- look at the back of your drivers lic. It holds all the info on the front and is easily scanned, yet it isn't vulnerable from a distance.

Re:I am a free man (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718960)

They'll have radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and are meant to cut down on human error of immigration officials, speed the processing of visitors and safeguard against counterfeit passports.

Sounds to me like it's an additional way to verify the identity, not a replacement. Assuming they use encryption/etc, it should be a lot harder to fake a passport.

Nothing will stop a determined counterfeiter, I'm sure, but the newbies won't be able to handle this.

Re:I am a free man (1)

Atzanteol (99067) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719050)

Couldn't they get all the same benefits with a simple barcode?

That's a damned good question. The government has given absolutely zero reason why the chip on the passport needs to be accessed remotely. I'm sure there are plenty of solutions that would give the same information but require physical access to the passport. This is a stupid government "we're going to jump on a new technology because it is cool" trick.

The whole *point* of RFID was to replace barcodes because on assembly line like systems the barcodes must be aligned properly with a laser that reads them. RFIDs don't have this issue.

Re:I am a free man (1)

blackcoot (124938) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719122)

take a look inside your passport some time, i expect you'll see a bunch of barcodes (mine does, although it's a south african passport that's about to expire. not sure what the newer passports look like these days).

Re:I am a free man (1)

nincehelser (935936) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719139)

>Couldn't they get all the same benefits with a simple barcode?

No. Barcodes are trivial to forge.

RFID forging would take much more effort.

Is This Madness? (4, Insightful)

blueZhift (652272) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718894)

Surely they cannot be unaware of how this could be exploited by those wishing to do harm to Americans, therefore I can only reach the conclusion that rfid passports are being pushed as a way for the government to ultimately track people in general. It would begin with being able to track foreigners and later as rfid makes its way into things like driver's licenses and auto plates, it could be used to track citizens. This is probably a goal of governments everywhere these days. First they'll tell you it's to stop terrorists, but with a flick of the switch, tracking citizens will be a breeze. I know the effective range is pretty short, but I can imagine that it would not be too hard for the government to build out an effective network, certainly in the most densely populated cities. It might even be able to piggy back on cell phone tower locations, so ordinary people wouldn't even know it was there. Ironically, true terrorists will be able to easily defeat this kind of tracking.

Any part of the world? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15718906)

carrying around a little transmitter saying 'I'm an American! I'm an American!' isn't a fun and safe thing to do in all parts of the world

hmm. I'm torn between:

Dude, you so don't need a little transmitter for that. Didn't you know that when an American enters a foreign country, they are covered in an invisible (to Americans) dye. Everyone else in the world can see it thought. Obviously thats why Americans stand out a mile anywhere else in the world.

and correcting:

carrying around a little transmitter saying 'I'm an American! I'm an American!' isn't a fun and safe thing to do in many parts of the world

Good Business Opportunity (4, Funny)

Dr_LHA (30754) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718912)

This gives me a great idea for a new business opportunity! Sell RFID tags to American tourists that broadcast to the world "I AM A CANADIAN".

Re:Good Business Opportunity (1)

scaryjohn (120394) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719041)

But if Canada doesn't also start horse-tagging its people, you'll still need a bottle of Molson to say "I AM CANADIAN! [] "

The chips may as well say, "I voted for Kerry."

What happens if the RFID doesnt work (4, Interesting)

ConsumerOfMany (942944) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718914)

Lets say you burn out the RFID using something like This []

Will you still be allowed to travel with just the written portion of the passport. Hell, just go around burning up other peoples passports and the riots will soon begin in the security line....

Re:What happens if the RFID doesnt work (3, Informative)

jcupitt65 (68879) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719146)

The UK's ID card regulations include a £1,000 fine if you know your card to be defective but do not report it :-(

You will be required to attend an enrolment centre with some form of identifying material - bank statements, credit cards, driving licence or birth certificate, who knows what. Then you will be fingerprinted, photographed and the iris in your eye will be measured. You will give the authorities 49 pieces of information about yourself. If you don't, you may be fined up to £2,500. Additional fines of up to £2,500 may be levied every time you fail to comply.

If you fail to inform the police or Home Office when you lose your card, or if it becomes defective, you face a fine of up to £1,000. If you find someone else's card and do not immediately hand it in, you may have committed a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment for up to two years, or a fine, or both. And you will be fined £1,000 if you fail to inform the NIR of any change of address. You will also be expected to tell the authorities your previous addresses. Truly the government will be able to say with all the menace of the underworld enforcer: "We know where you live."

If you don't inform the register of significant changes to your personal life, or any errors they have made, you will face a fine of up to £1,000. Astonishingly, you may also face a fine if you fail to submit to being reinterviewed, rephotographed, refingerprinted and rescanned.,,1817436,00.h tml []

Easy Way To Stop Skimming (2, Interesting)

Valthan (977851) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718918)

Why not just have the case lined with tin-foil or a thin metal sheet of some kind. Then when it is needed to be checked you have to open the case and/or take it out. These cases can be distributed with the Passports. In my experience with RFID wrapping it in tin-foil alone stops it from working (My work makes me use one to get into the office, yes I have tested this)

Re:Easy Way To Stop Skimming (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718957)

Why not just have the case lined with tin-foil or a thin metal sheet of some kind.

I'm assuming that the "anti-skimming material" mentioned in the article is a thin sheet of foil embedded in the cover. I could see how a damaged cover or one that's not closed completely would allow RF leakage. Perhaps the best solution would be something like an old metal cigarette case that snaps shut around the passport and won't open unless you want it to. Hmmm ... marketable idea...


Lined with tinfoil (1)

krell (896769) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719095)

"Why not just have the case lined with tin-foil or a thin metal sheet of some kind"

I just tuck the passport under my tinfoil beany. No need to craft an extra shield.

With every technology advance (2, Insightful)

DarkDragonVKQ (881472) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718928)

With every technology advance in security, there will be those who break it. And then another technology advance comes, that will be broken. We've been playing this cat and mouse game for nearly 5000 years. Nothing is going change.

The transmitter is useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15718931)

>carrying around a little transmitter saying 'I'm an American! I'm an American!'

No transmitter needed for an American to be recognized everywhere in the world...

Get yours now! (4, Insightful)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718933)

US passports are good for 10 years from the date of issue. Get or renew yours now, before RFID becomes required.

I don't think it would be that much of a problem.. (1)

Vokkyt (739289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718941)

Don't they already do this at Animal Rescue Shelters for dogs and cats? If these chips work the same way, then I think you need to get pretty damn close to the chip before it can be read. Now I realize that other countries do have different definitions of personal space, but even then, guessing where the chip was put in is still a crap shoot. It's not like these things are broadcasting nation-wide. I honestly don't think it will be that much of a problem.

They don't care (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718949)

If anything it'll just make it so that fewer Americans travel abroad outside of areas that the feds want them to. In case anyone's not noticed it, but we have a very perverse open borders policy. We'll allow immigrants to flood our borders, but damned if we'll allow Americans to come and go freely without having to report almost every dime of property they're taking out and where they're going.

The Department... (0, Troll)

Valthan (977851) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718952)

Zonk, you are a retard. 1) That is a stupid reference that people try to use to make fun of the way SOME Canadians speak (started as far as I know by South Park) 2) This article has nothing to do with Canada at all.

So, if I am mistaken and you are not a complete and utter moron, what were you referencing with the "... dept" line?

Bruce Sterling would say that (1, Flamebait)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#15718971)

But he's a paranoid idiot.

People can spot Americans abroad from a mile away. Their tendency towards hanging around in tourist areas, acting like tourists and speaking to each other in English with an American accent is probably a much better way of telling if someone's an American than getting an expensive RFID reader. If you want to know whether they have their passport, hold a knife to their throat and ask for it.

Re:Bruce Sterling would say that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15719088)


Americans stand out all on their own. Given the range read limitations of RFID transmitters, anyone looking for an American is going to see them with their own two eyes a lot sooner than picking them up with an RFID reader. Not that most of the countries that hate Americans can afford to install readers within 3 feet of however many locations they want to scan people anyway.

And besides, if the RFID chips are ISO-18000 compliant, then they will be "lockable", require encryption to read, and won't even signal their presence unless scanned by a reader sending the correct wake-up algorithm. That's all IF the state department implements and uses these features. if so, then no problem, if not...

All I can say is that there is a lot of misinformation and misperception out there about what RFID can and can't do. It's too bad that many "alarmist" journalists don't do their research. Like that stupid Wired magazine article about RFID's threat to privacy. I've never seen so much alarmist hogwash about such a promising new technology.

New uses for microwave ovens ... (1)

Tux2000 (523259) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719013)

Just drop your RFID-contaminated passport into a microwave oven and turn the oven on for a few seconds. Tadaa!, toasted RFID chip with no visible sign of manipulation.


Interesting (1)

supersky (988899) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719020)

Yeah they have been doing this for years, except they where attached to ears, and pushed through different paths until they met there ultimate demise, welcome cattle.

Could you... (1)

OctoberSky (888619) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719030)

Could you or I get one of these new Passports and get it home... and proceed to slam it with a hammer? I mean, the passport is still just paper, but with this little thing inside. What would happen? It would break, but you could never tell if it stopped working. So the next time you go to fly/leave the country, you could just say "I didn't know it stopped working?" which is pretty true, unless you had a RFID reciever in your home.
This would be the simple answer to all those who fear the wrath of the RFID technology.

Re:Could you... (1)

gol (635335) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719140)

I recently had to renew my passport, and much to my annoyance, received one of the UKs new passports with a chip containing biometric information about the shape of my face inserted into the back. There is a great big solid lump of plastic where the details page used to be, it's probably about 1mm thick, and makes the passport less comfortable to carry and flick through.
That aside, one mine the chip is quite clearly visible on the other side of the details page (the plastic is transparent on that side), and looks rather tough. I reckon it would take more than a whack with a hammer, I'm quite keen on using a microwave or similar to disable it.
My only concern with this is that they will say "your passport has stopped working, please pay for a new one". I'm currently a PhD student, and I don't have £51 (about 95$ US) to waste on a new passport.

Passport holder activation switch (1)

DodgeRules (854165) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719033)

Why doesn't the government just make the passport such that the holder must activate the passport RFID by pressing a momentary flat switch so that it can only be read when the holder allows it to be read. A cardboard slide protector can be integrated into the passport to prevent accidentially pressing the switch when in a pocket by separating the 2 halves of the switch. (hmmm, DodgeRules applies for a patent based on this.)

Re:Passport holder activation switch (1)

SCHecklerX (229973) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719159)

or... Use barcodes or mag strips instead. RFID has no good use in these, other than to compromise your security and even endanger your life.

Some thoughts (1)

CodeMasterPhilzar (978639) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719038)

What's the range? From what I've read of standard RFID type systems, anywhere from a few inches to a few feet. Some "high power" systems for say, reading tags on the cargo of a truck going through a toll booth are a few yards... Now, of course higher power transmitters and sensitive directional antennas can significantly increase that range...

What's the data load? As far as I know (here again, from what I've read of other RFID systems) it is a single large integer. Something like 128 bits. Therefore, it would not contain your bio data, bank accounds, SSN, etc. It would merely be an index into a database. So all a stray reader would get is a number. Without access to say the US Embassy DB, they wouldn't have anything other than you had an RFID tag on you. Heck, some of the products, clothing, etc. you have on may already have RFID tags. So just having a tag doesn't necessarily mark you as an American anyway.

Yes, they are passive systems. Like old crystal radios, they are powered by the elecromagnetic energy in the signal sent from an outside system. So you don't broadcast, you merely respond if someone else does. IMHO, broadcasting, looking for RFID tags is a much riskier business. It basically says "Hey, I'm scanning for tags..." And that can be detected completely passively... (Here we go again with Spy vs. Spy...)

RFID tags can be jammed. You can (depending on legalities in your area???) carry a specific RFID tag with you that effectively jams the system and makes any other RFID tags on your person unreadable. When a reader querries for tags, if say two respond then the reader has to go into arbitration. It basically re-broadcasts the query with "only if your number starts with 1" (think 128 bit binary here). If it still gets a collision on the response, it'll try "only if your number starts with 11" and so on, until it finds a differentiating point (bit). Then it will query each tag separately with subsequent signals. The jammer tags are set to always respond, period. So they in effect mask every possible number from any other tag. So if it were me, I'd carry a jammer tag in a small envelop tucked in my passport. (same location as passport tag) effectively blocking it from snooping. Then I'd merely hand over the passport, sans envelop, when dealing with a legitimate inquiry.

Take all this with a grain of salt. I'm no RFID expert, and it has been months since I read anything on it. Neat technology though...

Enterprising RFID Entrepeneur (2, Informative)

dbc001 (541033) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719039)

My guess is that some enterprising RFID Entrepeneur got into the Old Boys Network and landed some massive contract. Here in Missouri we have s imilar situation - Within just a few months of the state mandating increased ethanol in all gasoline, the governor's brother was found to have invested a substantial amount of money in ethanol (Matt Blunt is governor if your curious, see here for info on the ethanol scandal [] ). Their orwellian response was simply to state that "there is no conflict of interest here."

It would be nice to know who got the contract, what city they live in and what relationships they have with government.

The obvious application (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719044)

Connect a bomb with an RFID reader and wait for the "right" signal...

Too expensive? Oh c'moooon, those babies are BUILT where they would potentially be used that way, you save big time on shipping costs!

Yeah well. Not good. (2, Interesting)

botzi (673768) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719045)

And even if they can't, carrying around a little transmitter saying 'I'm an American! I'm an American!' isn't a fun and safe thing to do in all parts of the world."

So, the issue, you consider is that the transmitter is giving away your nationality and NOT that it's a....I dunno. a BLOODY TRANSMITTER?( worst case scenaria, and I'm really going off the top of my head here, how about professional passport thieves:"Hey, there is a city building with 24 passports in there, let's see which suits are empty at the moment, and do some damage."(I'd think anybody smart enough to detect the signal would be smart enough to block it afterwards)). I'd be appalled if other countries follow suit, I fear that they will. Let's just hope that there is enough damage done the moment they try to use RFID's so the launch fails.

Can you imagine the terrorism weapons? (2)

KDN (3283) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719059)

A bomb in a cafe that only goes off when there are over a certain number of americans in range. Or, if you can tell, when a certain number of american military are within range. Or a diplomat.

The most workable solution? (1, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719061)

There are devices that shield RFID signals right? How about the state department design the passport in such a way that it prevents reading of the passport unless it's open. The cover should be shielded. If not, they should recommend keeping the passport in a shielded bag at all times unless it is being presented.

Either way, people can protect themselves whether it is in the design or not.

The UK's already got them... (1)

Goth Biker Babe (311502) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719069)

In the last couple of months our passports have been upgraded to include RFID chips. In fact I renewed mine early to try and get one without one but they were rather quick of the mark upgrading. At least I got in before the interviews and biometrics. Like others here I have been thinking along the lines of a tin foil cover. You can get passport wallets which protect a passport from damage. May be one can be modified to protect it from snooping too...

Why RFID and not smart cards? (3, Interesting)

BeBoxer (14448) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719091)

I just do not understand the insistance/fascination with RFID in this case. Think about the situation when these RFID's are supposed to be used. You are entering a country via immigration, and you hand your passport to the immigration agent. There is no need and no benefit to involving a radio. The agent could just as easily slip your passport into a reader which uses actual metal contacts as wave it over the RFID scanner. It would probably cost less, and would have none of the security concerns (valid or not) that the RFID chips have.

I can only think of two possibilities. One is just good old fashioned corruption. It's no secret that the GOP has pretty much put a 'For Sale' sign out front of the Capital, so it may just be a way to send a bunch of money to a valuable 'doner'. Or they have some requirement which needs RFID, but is being kept secret.

I suppose they could almost completely automate letting US citizens back into the country. Will I be able to use my RFID passport to scan in to the country just like I do with my work badge to get into the machine room or co-lo? I can see benefits for having an express lane at immigration for citizens with RFID passports so we don't have to wait behind all the riff-raff :-) Just walk up to the gate, wave your passport at it, and 'beep', you're back in the country.

How to tell if a foreigner is American... (1, Offtopic)

T_ConX (783573) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719103)

-Trys WAY too hard to look Canadian.

They almost like to pretend that Canadaians are as nuts about displaying the flag as an American Super Patriot... when most Canadian travellers just have a small flag stitched on their backback. Subtle, but commands respect.

-Wonders out loud why no-one here speaks English.

I love playing with tourists who pull me aside and ask me if I speak English. I normally reply in Japanese or French... Japanese is more likely to throw them off.

-They get first class treatment... NO QUESTION!

Goes straight to the front of the line, gets speedy service at a restraunt... they deserve it! Odds are their country liberated, or bombed the crap out off, or supplied arms to, or supplied arms to the enemy of, this nation, so they should be treated like the President of the United States. If they want to meet the mayor of this town... they will!

-Completely unfamiliar with local laws and customs.

If a cow stands in the middle of the road in India, the locals will just wait, patiently, for it to pass. Americans sometimes fail to get this...

Change T-shirts (1)

slowbad (714725) | more than 8 years ago | (#15719111)

When I travel, mine say:

God Bless AFRICA
God Bless ASIA

I did run into penguin-haters on my last trip to Europe.

easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15719161)

1. Buy a 1000W microwave
2. Place RFID Passport in said mircowave
3. ??????
4. Profit!
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