Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Disabling the RFID in the New U.S. Passports

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the very-high-tech dept.

Privacy 294

slashchuck writes "Along with the usual Jargonwatch and Wired/Tired articles, the January issue of Wired offers a drastic method for taking care of that RFID chip in your passport. They say it's legal ... if a bit blunt. From the article: 'The best approach? Hammer time. Hitting the chip with a blunt, hard object should disable it. A nonworking RFID doesn't invalidate the passport, so you can still use it.' "

cancel ×

294 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

FP!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17366774)

FIRST POST!

I'll use my half sheqel, please. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17366784)

Offically protected by God.

No Hurry (5, Insightful)

JusticeISaid (946884) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366786)

Great idea! Anything else I can do to slow down my passage through Immigration and Customs after a long flight? I'm always looking for ideas.

Re:No Hurry (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17366882)

here's one: broadcast your personal data, allowing others to clone your passport and using it to enter the U.S. while you are off on holiday. Customs will surely take notice that you are trying to enter the country a second time.

Re:No Hurry (4, Informative)

swillden (191260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367212)

here's one: broadcast your personal data, allowing others to clone your passport and using it to enter the U.S. while you are off on holiday. Customs will surely take notice that you are trying to enter the country a second time.

What technology would you suggest to use to do this broadcasting? The contactless smart card chip in the passport won't do the job very effectively because:

  • it requires execution of a cryptographic authentication protocol using an AES key derived from data printed inside the passport cover (called the MRZ)before it will divulge anything; and
  • the shielding in the passport cover hold the chip incommunicado unless the passport is open

Perhaps you could photocopy the information page and post flyers? Or just walk around holding your passport open so that any would-be passport cloner can see the MRZ data? If you *really* want to use the passport's contactless chip to distribute the data, I guess you could print your name, birthdate and passport number on a sign, hang it around your neck, and then stick your passport to it so it's held open. Given the name, birthdate and passport number, an attacker will be able to guess the MRZ fairly quickly. If you want to make them work for it a little, you could leave out the birthdate and passport number and let them guess those values. Be sure to give them your name, though, otherwise it'll take too long, because the chip just doesn't report the failed authentication attempts fast enough. There's also the small issue of the communication range of the contactless chip, but perhaps there's an area of the airport that is nicely EM-shielded so that the attacker's lab-grade transciever and signal processing equipment can talk to your passport at a reasonable range. Or perhaps you could just let the attacker give you a booster device that you could hold near your passport.

All in all, it seems like a rather ineffective way to broadcast your data. I'd go with the flyers.

Removing toungue from cheek, it's a pretty ineffective way for an attacker to try to get your data, too. There are many other approaches that are much, much easier.

Re:No Hurry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17367834)

The simplest solution to this problem is a protective case for the passport where it could only be scanned after taken out. You would only take it out upon reaching the customs agent.

Re:No Hurry (5, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367874)

the shielding in the passport cover hold the chip incommunicado unless the passport is open

That's true if your definition of "open" is anything not held tightly closed.

It has already been demonstrated that the faraday cage effect of the shielding is negated if the passport is only open a centimeter or so, as could easily happen with a passport carried in a handbag, or pretty much anywhere there is not much pressure to hold it closed.

So, while you may not be able to crack the data from the RFID, you can certainly talk to it under conditions that are reasonably common in the field.

it requires execution of a cryptographic authentication protocol using an AES key derived from data printed inside the passport cover (called the MRZ)before it will divulge anything; and

Doesn't this strike anyone as ironic? The RFID is of no value for official use without first having to read something printed on the inside. So much for any improvement in convenience or ease of use over the previous implementation. Seems like an RFID manufacturer (patent holder?) hired a really good lobbyist.

Re:No Hurry (1)

realisticradical (969181) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367958)

Perhaps I'm simply naive here but if the RFID tag requires information printed inside the passport be entered into a computer then why have RFID at all? There's no need to use a contactless method unless someone is picturing a scenario where customs will be something that you just walk through with your passport in your pocket or just have it tapped on a reader.

Freedom vs. Safety (3, Insightful)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366916)

Great idea! Anything else I can do to slow down my passage through Immigration and Customs after a long flight? I'm always looking for ideas.
Hey, actually, it is a great idea. If you're the kind of person who likes to protect his rights and privacy, this is an excellent way to go. Not only do you get to destroy the RFID, but you can still use the passports that are being released from here on out and are the only way to get in or out of the country. This means that we have an option to keep passports as they used to be, a little less like cattle ear tags.

For me, cue the Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture final movement. Cannons sounding in the background, I'll be smashing my RFID with a 12-pound copper mallet the next time that I have to renew.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17367334)

Very insightful, well thought out comment. I guess Ill be doing the same thing when I get my passport around March

Re:No Hurry (4, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367002)

Yeah, because stopping you, scanning your passport, then letting you on through was SO much faster than stopping you, sliding your passport through a stripe reader, and letting you through.

Re:No Hurry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17367300)

What do you mean, stripe reader? I thought the whole point of RFID instead of contact reading technology was that you just open it in "readable" position and pass through the RFID-reader gate.

Re:No Hurry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17367472)

From what I understand the magnetic stripe is still there for fallback in case the RFID doesn't work, or you're in some country that doesn't have an RFID reader yet.

Whether it is or it isn't, comparing the speed of people having to line up and go through an RFID reader one-by-one (they certainly aren't going to let a whole crowd go through at once, what if 50 people went through and only 49 passports registered?) and people having to line up and swipe their passport one-by-one like you do now is a valid comparison.

Re:No Hurry (2, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367804)

Yeah, because stopping you, scanning your passport, then letting you on through was SO much faster than stopping you, sliding your passport through a stripe reader, and letting you through.

Umm, you missed the point. The intent of the smart card chips isn't to speed up processing,it's to increase security without slowing processing down too much. However, once the smart chips are in place, the normal processing flow for a chip-bearing passport will involve reading the chip data. What happens when the chip fails to respond? Well, that will be an exceptional circumstance that will take the bearer of that passport out of the normal, expedited flow and into another process that scrutinizes the passport and its bearer more closely.

Once the system is well-established, such that the vast majority of passports have working chips, having a broken chip will slow you down.

Oh, and current and future US passports don't use a magstripe reader. The thing they swipe your passport through a scanner that reads the printed data. I think it's an optical scanner, though it might be magnetic if the information is printed with magnetic ink (much like the numbers on the bottoms of checks used to be -- though I think those aren't magnetic any more either).

Microwave... (1)

maedls.at (663045) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366802)

should do the job!!! has anyone tried this before?

Re:Microwave... (3, Informative)

bilbravo (763359) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366990)

The article (in the magazine, not sure about the online version) states that microwaving it could cause burn marks, which would invalidate the passport.

ObSneakers (5, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366822)

(Bishop is at a door with an electronic lock.)
Bishop: Anybody remember how to defeat an electronic keypad?
Mother: This might help. An old buddy of mine who was in Desert Storm sent it to me. 'Course, he was on the other side.
Bishop: Come on. There's got to be a way around these things.
(He listens intently to instructions via his earpiece.)
All right, all right... This might work... Yeah. Yeah... Right. Okay. I'll give it a shot.
(He kicks the door in.)

Re:ObSneakers (3, Funny)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367204)

And here I thought you were going for, "My RFID is my passport. Verify me."

Tinfoil Passport Cover? (2, Interesting)

ToteAdler (631239) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366824)

Is it possible to make a passport cover that will block the signal when it's in the cover but USC&I can still use thier RFID thing when you take it out?

Re:Tinfoil Passport Cover? (3, Informative)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366866)

Yes. [difrwear.com]

Re:Tinfoil Passport Cover? (3, Informative)

melstav (174456) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367044)

Sure.

And as long as you keep your passport in the RF shield, nobody can read it.
But the instant you pull it out, anyone can try accessing it.

What's worse: You *know* that Customs Officials won't have Faraday Cages around their reader stations. All someone'll have to do is set up a high-gain antenna somewhere in the area, and they can parasite the data as it's being read by the legitimate scanner.

Re:Tinfoil Passport Cover? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367164)

I think that I'll wait until I actually read about this kind of extreme measure actually occurring before I start bashing my passport with a hammer. I'll take my chances at being the first victim.

Anyway, I think the odds of me losing my entire passport are quite a bit higher than having it electronically cloned... especially considering that they will apparently accept a passport even if the RFID tag isn't working - why would a counterfeiter bother cloning it?

Re:Tinfoil Passport Cover? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367200)

I'm pretty sure that a common thief or pickpocket is not sophisticated enough to have a piece of equipment capable of detecting large amounts of currency, if that's even possible.

Re:Tinfoil Passport Cover? (1)

melstav (174456) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367652)

why would a counterfeiter bother cloning it?
The hype is that these RFID passports are supposed to be un-clonable.

And they're not.

If the customs official scans a passport and the RFID tag responds as expected, it saves the customs official from actually having to *look* at your passport. If the tag responds as expected, the passport, as a whole, is assumed to be genuine, and only given a cursory look.

THAT is why it is worth a counterfeiter's while to clone the RFID tag.

Re:Tinfoil Passport Cover? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367956)

But the instant that a cloned passport shows up (or a critical mass of cloned passports show up), customs will change their procedures...

Besides, they still need my physical passport to copy the cryto key printed on it, no?

Re:Tinfoil Passport Cover? (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367584)

All someone'll have to do is set up a high-gain antenna somewhere in the area,

No chance of that arousing suspicion, since people routinely carry high-gain antennas around airports, right?

-jcr

Re:Tinfoil Passport Cover? (1)

melstav (174456) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367790)

A high-gain antenna doesn't have to look like a high-gain antenna, as illustrated by this set of instructions for building a high-gain 802.11b WIFI antenna out of a Pringles can [oreillynet.com]

I'm not saying that this is necessarily the best kind of antenna for the job, but it's something that you could get through an x-ray partially disassembled, and nobody would question it.

PLUS You don't have to go waving the antenna around in the open for it to be useful. Radio frequencies will pass through the soft cloth sides of most carry-on luggage with absolutely zero loss in signal strength.

Great idea! (2, Insightful)

tulmad (25666) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366826)

That's great until they make it a requirement to have working RFID to go through customs.

Re:Great idea! (4, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367026)

Well, it remains to be seen just how reliable (or otherwise) these things are ... my feeling is that there's going to be a substantial failure rate. It's one thing to require RFID to speed the process of verifying an identity or to make it nominally more accurate. However, if you invalidate a passport because of a malfunctioning chip you're going to have BIG problems. People sit on things, they flex them, they drop things on them, they otherwise break them. It's what people do, whether they mean to or not.

Let's face it, you're gonna see a certain percentage of RFID passports that just don't work, for whatever reason. What do you do? Lock those people up? No, you just treat the passport like a traditional non-RFID-equipped passport. Well, if you're a properly-trained security person maybe you actually look at the traveler and make sure the picture matches. Maybe you do your job, because if the RFID isn't working you can't just doze through the interview and let the machine do the work. You should be on your toes anyway, because the one time you aren't is when the technology will let you down. And they (yes, they) know that.

And you can bet your boots that any (ahem!) undesirables will have properly-functioning RFIDs anyway. As always, it's us ordinary folk that will get busted for not dotting our I's and crossing our T's (not that most of us have any way to test the goddamn things anyway, except by trying to travel somewhere and seeing what happens.)

Personally, I think the Feds ought to focus more on people skills (i.e., well-trained, well-paid security forces with an effective organization to back them) and less on failure-prone, unproven technology.

Re:Great idea! (3, Insightful)

JFitzsimmons (764599) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367400)

The goal of adding RFID to a passport was to add another layer of security to the passport. This may sound a little strange at first, but there is some logic to it. The RFID chip contains the same information as the printed passport, including a digitized version of the picture, AND a cryptographic hash. The desired outcome is that it is difficult to forge BOTH parts of the passport simultaneously. Ideally, the person would only be able to pass if both portions of their passport matched and the hash was valid. Although it may be a result, being able to just wave people on through after scanning the RFID portion of the passport was not a goal.

Practically, since passports are still valid without RFID, this measure is almost useless, and opens up tons of privacy problems as already stated. I don't think that ranged communication should have been a major feature of a passport, which makes me wonder why the government chose RFID over any other tagging technology, such as smartcards. Smartcards could perform the same or perhaps even better task as the RFID tags currently are, except they would be more secure simply by the virtue that they require physical contact with the reader.

Re:Great idea! (2, Funny)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 7 years ago | (#17368002)

Personally, I think the Feds ought to focus more on people skills (i.e., well-trained, well-paid security forces with an effective organization to back them) and less on failure-prone, unproven technology.

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha... sorry... just had to laugh... you owe me a new keyboard...

Re:Great idea! (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367120)

Well the smartest move I made was to get my passport 18 odd months ago. that gives me 8 years to find a solution to this headache.

Re:Great idea! (4, Informative)

thebigbluecheez (1010821) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367312)

The only problem I see with making it a requirement to have working RFID is that my non-RFID-equipped passport is valid until 18 June 2016.

So unless they are going to recall all non-chipped passports, they'll have to wait quite a while to make it a requirement.

Also:

Alteration or mutilation of passport: This passport must not be altered or mutilated in any way. Alteration may make it INVALID, and, if willful, may subject you to prosecution. (Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1543)

What the Heck... (2, Informative)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366830)


Microwave the sucker and be done with it, I say.

Oh wait, that leaves a big smoking hole in the passport... Errr, never mind, carry on...

microwave it (0)

frakir (760204) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366834)

Just put your passport in the microwave and nuke it for 5-10 sec.
I do it with bigger ammount of cash, too, since new US banknotes can be detected from distance.
If I'm about to carry few hundreds of $ in my pocket, I don't want to advertise it.

Re:microwave it (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366950)

US money doesn't have RFID tags. Yet.

Re:microwave it (0)

frakir (760204) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367114)

http://www.prisonplanet.com/022904rfidtagsexplode. html [prisonplanet.com] or google for more

Re:microwave it (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367146)

Sure they explode, because they have foil inlays in them, and we all know what happens when you microwave foil. But they don't have RFIDs.

Re:microwave it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17367354)

this is correct--there are NO rfid tags in US bills. They cannot be detected from a difference.

Geez, people get so paranoid.

And speaking of paranoia, why bash the RFID chip in the passport? It contains very little personal information, and any info that is in it could be stolen even easier by an old-fashioned pickpocket. There is no *reason* that a data thief would want to steal the chip info, and no *damage* they could do to you if they did. Hammer away, if you wish--and let your paranoia buy you prison time or a longer wait at customs.

RFID in Euros by 2005 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17367786)

http://www.eetimes.com/story/OEG20011219S0016 [eetimes.com]

Before you think it's tin foil hat thinking, read the reputable eetimes article on this.

"A spokesman for the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, Germany confirmed the existence of a project, but was careful not to comment on its technologies. At least two European semiconductor makers contacted by EE Times, Philips Semiconductors and Infineon Technologies, acknowledged their awareness of the ECB project but said they are under strict nondisclosure agreements."

So the ECB doesn't confirm that the new technology will be RFID, but asking RFID companies confirms they are working on it under NDAs.

If you microwave a modern 50 Euro note it will burn a hole slightly off the centre within a few seconds, if you microwave one from 2002 it will burn the whole strip, but it takes much longer, 20 seconds or so. Try it for yourself. If Euros have it, then US$ may have it too.

So are microwaves the ultimate RFID detectors? (1)

sottitron (923868) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367982)

I think it would be more compelling to actually read something off a bill and then report back to the /. community.

Re:microwave it (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367412)

So apparently anything that can be heated by a microwave and detected with an EM field is now an RFID tag? Are my Hot Pockets(tm) safe?

The link you provided show no evidence whatever that there is any sort of remote tracking system -- just that you can unevenly heat cash in a microwave. Even if you assume there were some sort of RF identifier in currency there's no evidence that it's unique to the bill; a demonination-unique RF marking in currency could aid in automated handling, handling by the blind, etc., without any particular threat of privacy loss, as there is no way to track a particular bill.

If you want anyone to take you seriously you should find a better link. Or, you know, actually test bills for RF reactivity and to prove the presense of an RF device. Or even mechanically or chemically disassamble a bill and physically locate the supposed RF device. Until then I'm gonna file this one next to "Microwaved Water Kills Plants".

Re:microwave it (1)

pupdog311 (617396) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366978)

If you're going to go to that much trouble, you should fish out the little metal strip too, since when the Black Helicopter flies overhead it can scan for those ;)

Re:microwave it (1)

supabeast! (84658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367220)

I do it with bigger ammount of cash, too, since new US banknotes can be detected from distance.
If I'm about to carry few hundreds of $ in my pocket, I don't want to advertise it.
Anyone with the money, time, and ability to set up an electronic system to identify potential targets for a mugging probably has better things to do than mug people. Like just robbing you at an ATM.

US Passports (1)

PerlDudeXL (456021) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366842)

I wouldn't try this with a european passport when I travel the next time to the US - as I don't want to risk it being sent back on the next plane.

Re:US Passports (1)

rvw (755107) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367000)

I wouldn't try this with a european passport when I travel the next time to the US - as I don't want to risk it being sent back on the next plane.

"It" being sent back is not such a big problem. You being sent back along with it is maybe more unpleasant.

Re:US Passports (1)

56ker (566853) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367514)

Immigration usually confiscate the passport, then keep the person in custody (either at the airport or local prison) until the next plane back. At least that's the way I've seen it done before - even to the innocent. It kind of makes it difficult for a person to return to a country but there are plenty of passports issued under a false name for trips that aren't going to appear on the official "entry/exit" database (or are just asylum seekers - genuine or otherwise).

Re:US Passports (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367858)

I wouldn't try this with a european passport when I travel the next time to the US - as I don't want to risk it being sent back on the next plane.

"It" being sent back is not such a big problem. You being sent back along with it is maybe more unpleasant.

Actually, I'd be more worried of being improsoned without trial or access to a lawyer for being a suspicious person, and never again seeing home.

DMCA (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17366856)

They'll just say you are violating the DMCA somehow if you bust the RFID in there.

Re:DMCA (1)

jesboat (64736) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367726)

Might be less "Funny" than "insightful"...

(Though I'm too lazy to go sifting through Copyright Law and figure out whether or not it actually does apply.)

They do NOT say it's legal (4, Insightful)

torstenvl (769732) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366868)

FTFA: "But be careful - tampering with a passport is punishable by 25 years in prison."

Also, only TFA works. The other links are bogus.

Re:They do NOT say it's legal (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366910)

Sure, but how are they going to prove you hit it with a hammer instead of, say, had it at the bottom of your backpack and put heavy books on it?

Re:They do NOT say it's legal (3, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367252)

That's not the question. I don't think our Federal Government is as much concerned about "proving" things as it should be, not anymore. The real question is: what is the penalty for being accused of tampering with your passport.

I would think that "tampering" would be more along the lines of "falsification". Destroying the RFID is really more defacement than tampering. At worst that would make the tag useless, at best make it more secure, and only means the passport works the way passports have always worked, requiring visual identification. It doesn't give the holder a different ID or allow him to do anything he otherwise could not.

Re:They do NOT say it's legal (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17367702)

I would think that...

Never, ever, use that phrase when discussing the law, or legal issues. The law != common sense. Common sense != the law.

hammer time (1)

beanerspace (443710) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366874)

Heh, the solution gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'hammer time.'

Makes me wonder if this 'brute force' approach will be applied to other government introduced RFID technologies?

"duh, how do I know it didn't work ...?"

Ooops (4, Funny)

dj961 (660026) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366884)

I dropped a hammer on my passport.

It's like wearing a big name tag... (4, Insightful)

paladinwannabe2 (889776) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366890)

That broadcasts your information. This makes it so much easier to stalk people you've just met! Of course, if I was a criminal I'd just use this to make a list of people going on a nice long overseas flight... plenty of time to stop by their house and help myself to a few things.

Re:It's like wearing a big name tag... (1)

teslar (706653) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367156)

yeah, except that RFID chips don't broadcast anything anyway and US RFID passports, unlike their British counterparts have a layer of tinfoil in their covers, so unless it's actually open, you can't read the chip.

So, to answer the OPs questions.

How far will you go to protect or disable the RFID chip in your passport?
Wrap it in tinfoil

Do you think such a step is necessary?
For US passports: nope, it's already been done for you, courtesy of your government. Other non-foil-wrapped passports: Meh. But yeah, better safe than sorry, I guess. Actually destroying the chip is just plain stupid though, unless you're a fan of full cavity searches.

Re:It's like wearing a big name tag... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367284)

You don't have to worry about this unless you walk around with your passport open. When the passport is closed, metal fibers in the cover act as a shield that makes reading the RFID chip impossible.

At least, that is my recollection.

Scrolling Name Badges (2, Funny)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367658)

This makes it so much easier to stalk people you've just met!

A cookie for the first hacker who connects a portable RFID reader to one of those uber-geek scrolling LED name badges and writes out, "Hi, $FIRST_NAME $LAST_NAME, pleased to meet you!" whenever someone with a passport walks up to you.

Re:It's like wearing a big name tag... (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367684)

Of course, if I was a criminal I'd just use this to make a list of people going on a nice long overseas flight... plenty of time to stop by their house and help myself to a few things.

Yeah? How would you get the MRZ data that's printed inside the passport? You know you need that to authenticate to the chip before it will give you any data, right? Also, you're going to have to convince the people to open their passports, otherwise the RF shielding in the passport cover will prevent you from talking to the chip. Maybe you can scan them when they show their passports at the checkin counter. Of course, you still need that pesky MRZ data -- maybe a camera with a long lens? Hey, when you take a picture of the passport to get the MRZ data, you'll also get a photo of all of the data that's on the chip, so you can just skip the whole messing with antennas and crypto bit!

Re:It's like wearing a big name tag... (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367832)

First off, its encrypted. The key is written on the inside of the passport. Unless theyres some flaw with key generation then that AES will be difficult to crack.

Secondly, when the passport is closed the chip is enclosed in a layer of tin-foil making it pretty much impossible to read.

Its not perfect but its not the security nightmare some people make it out to be. Personally, I'd much prefer they use something that requires a physical contact.

biz8at3h (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17366980)

exacCtly what y0u've a previously

Tags: dontaskquestions (2, Funny)

75th Trombone (581309) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366986)

How far will you go to protect or disable the RFID chip in your passport? Do you think such a step is necessary? Does anyone have an argument in favor of the technology's implementation here?

Or how about in opposition of it? What do you think are the legal ramifications of such a move? Who is likely to be hurt by this scenario? Who am I? What am I doing posting on Slashdot? When is my question-mark key going to break under stress?

Taking bets... (5, Insightful)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 7 years ago | (#17366998)

How long until they make hammer possession a felony?

Re:Taking bets... (2, Funny)

Perseid (660451) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367108)

Who cares? Does anyone still have any of his CDs anyway?

Re:Taking bets... (2, Funny)

multiOSfreak (551711) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367580)

How long until they make hammer possession a felony?

Probably not long. And then only the criminals will have hammers. That's why we should all join the National Hammer Association.

They can have my hammer when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Re:Taking bets... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17367876)

Oddly, I wonder if it already would be a crime. For instance, walking around after X:XX PM with a crowbar (or any B&E device) is illegal in some states.

Re:Taking bets... (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 7 years ago | (#17368012)

Doesn't solve the problem, unless they're going to outlaw rocks as well.

Several observations (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367066)

Smashing the chip is obviously just a political statement (one that I agree with mind you). If the guy only wanted to prevent the chip broadcasting data everywhere, it's easy enough to make a tinfoil-lined wallet for the passport, or carry it in an old cigarette case.

The other thing: if a US passport with a defective rfid chip is legal and valid, it won't stay that way for long.

Re:Several observations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17367846)

Tinfoil wallets might be easy to make, but who *wants* to? I mean hey, I got beat up enough as a nerdy kid, I sure as hell don't want to go through _that_ again.

It's the hammer for me. As a political statement, does that make it also a free speech issue? It certainly would also be civil disobedience. I like it!

Lots of F.U.D. spread around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17367110)

Look at the information regarding the USA/Canada NEXUS Border crossing project http://www.rfident.org/rfidnexus.htm [rfident.org]

The NEXUS card has a small RFID chip installed, and IT CONTAINS A REFERENCE NUMBER TO A DATABASE where all your personal information is stored.

Do you really think that passports will contain all your personal information? Bullshit. The US Government maybe stupid (I'm a Canadian, so I can say that eh!), but I think they are only storing a unique reference number on the RFID chip installed in the passport.

Now, take off, eh!

Re:Lots of F.U.D. spread around (2, Interesting)

eglamkowski (631706) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367246)

Why do you have to be canadian to safely say the US government is stupid? I'm an US citizen and I'll say: my government is stupid. And insane. It hasn't given a damn about the constitution in what, 150 years at least? It's been all downhill since :-p

But not to worry, we're rapidly approaching the point where Our Robed Masters (i.e. the courts) will run the whole show anyways, so pretty soon it just won't matter who sits in Congress or the Oval Office. For some things they already do have the power, they just haven't been able to seize all the power for everything. Yet. But they're working on it!

Re:Lots of F.U.D. spread around (1)

MysticOne (142751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367554)

Not that I disagree with you about the stupidity of the US government, but, how have the courts been able to run the entire show? Not only can they not make laws, but they can't enforce them. All they can do is say whether or not the law is constitutional. On top of that, I don't think they can actually review the law until a lawsuit of some sort has been filed. There may be exceptions, but I think they're few. Could you elaborate on how the courts are going to undermine our entire system, and how this is any worse than the corruption we've already suffered from the executive and legislative branches?

Re:Lots of F.U.D. spread around (2, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367850)

... hasn't given a damn about the constitution ... For some things [the Courts] already do have the power...

You, ah, ARE aware that the Constitution sets up three branches of government, and explicitly grants the Courts a rough third of aggregate power, right?

And since they're the only branch that has no say in amending the Constitution, letting them be the ones that determine what the words mean sounds reasonably fair. (Where's the "States may outlaw abortion" amendment, anyway?)

FWIW, it is disturbing that our current administration seems reluctant to abide by Checks and Balances. But that's why we live in a democracy; when the administration no longer suits us, we can remove them from power without killing anybody.

I like microwaves myself (1)

a voice in the crowd (559942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367128)

10 seconds in the microwave oven fixed the RFID chip in my Airmiles card just fine, and no burnt aroma.

No thanks. (2, Insightful)

webdog314 (960286) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367172)

And who is more likely to get that random cavity search, the touring Swiss couple who don't give a damn about their privacy risk, or the scruffy looking nerd who's passport just happens to have a non-functional RFID chip?

Problem??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17367192)

Can anyone tell me why, when I go to the "Ask Slashdot [slashdot.org] " section, I can see this article?

State Department FAQ (5, Informative)

brewer13210 (821462) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367218)

From the US State Department FAQ on electronic passports

What will happen if my Electronic passport fails at a port-of-entry?

The chip in the passport is just one of the many security features of the new passport. If the chip fails, the passport remains a valid travel document until its expiration date. The bearer will continue to processed by the port-of-entry officer as if he/she had a passport without a chip.

Re:State Department FAQ (1)

pr0digy25 (915443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367560)

The bearer will continue to processed by the port-of-entry officer as if he/she had a passport without a chip.

"Processing" can include a secondary customs/immigration examination. As long as you play by the rules, the only thing you have to give up is your time.

Anybody got an RFID detector? (2, Interesting)

mmurphy000 (556983) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367270)

Does anyone make a handheld RFID detector? Not something to read the tags, but just to note their presence, kinda like the rudimentary keychain WiFi detectors? I'd love to have something that I can use at home to find these little buggers as they start invading everything, so I can choose which to keep, which to somehow enclose (e.g., passport), and which to hammer into oblivion.

For my purposes, a simple meter showing strength of reflected RFID signal would probably suffice, so one can slowly pan over an area to watch for needle jumps. An audible signal (think Geiger counter or metal detector) could work too, though a headset jack would be nice in that case.

Re:Anybody got an RFID detector? (1)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367378)

I don't know of a handheld RFID detector, but I've often thought about what I could do about the increasing use of RFID tags and the potential for misuse (particularly with respect to anyone tracking my actions, purchases, etc.). It seems that it will only be more and more difficult to try to defeat RFID tracking. Given that, I've thought that perhaps sowing disinformation is the better way to go. What about a handheld RFID transmitter, instead? One that simply continuously spews random information at maximum power, overwhelming any embedded RFID chip?

Re:Anybody got an RFID detector? (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367490)

Contrary to popular media, RFID is not something that enables tracking by satellites, black helicoptors or mysterious vans you see roaming your neighborhood streets.

It is a passive device that requires a RF signal strong enough to induce an electric current in an antenna so the chip can transmit a response.

No, you aren't going to be able to detect this without transmitting the proper frequency signal at a high enough power to trigger the chip to respond. It isn't going to respond unless "prompted" by a reader either. This prompting isn't any sort of encryption because RFID is not secure. But the only way to read TI RFID tags is with a TI reader. Oh, you want to read Motorola tags ... well, then you need a Motorola reader. Yes, it is likely this sort of thing with manufacturer incompatabilities.

Yes, there is a standard... or more correctly there are many standards. You just need to figure out what standard(s) you would like to be able to interact with and get the proper reader device. I'm sure a generic one is possible but very likely rather pricey.

Re:Anybody got an RFID detector? (1)

realisticradical (969181) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367906)

I don't think the major concern here is the government tracking people from outer space with RFID tags. If the government really wants to track me they have plenty of ways of doing that already. It seems more likely that identity and other thieves would be able to use RFID to steal with very little risk.


The RFID tag in a passport could be used to steal a social security number assuming that it's one of the things being broadcast. Or, as pointed out above, just to know who is going away for a while and where they live and then rob their houses.


There is an RFID tag in my ATM card and it's probably coming soon to my credit cards so someone with a powerful enough reader can steal my credit card information without me ever noticing.


New cars have RFID keys instead of regular keys. The chips are powerful enough that the cars unlock when the key is a few feet away. It wouldn't be too hard to steal cars by say waiting in a movie theater parking lot. A thief would be guaranteed two hours before the owner noticed the theft.


Even if the required reader is large a thief could simply walk around with a backpack. Sure a powerful RFID tag reader would be expensive but once the profit motive is big enough it will easily catch on as a way to steal without much risk.

Re:Anybody got an RFID detector? (1)

jaymzru (1005177) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367526)

Yes.

Re:Anybody got an RFID detector? (3, Informative)

Lurker187 (127055) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367558)

Well, if you're scanning objects in your home, you might as well use a stationary device connected to a computer, since there's little point in putting RFID tags in furniture or other normally non-mobile objects. Also, I would think a mobile power source and even basic processing would drive up the price.

I haven't tried them yet, but if you are interested in PC-based RFID readers, some friends recommended these:

http://www.hobbyengineering.com/H2177.html [hobbyengineering.com]

http://www.phidgets.com/index.php [phidgets.com]

Anyone who disables the tag, is a terrorist. (2, Interesting)

krygny (473134) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367298)

"Does anyone have an argument in favor of the technology's implementation here?"

Soundly thrash, arrest, incarcerate, try, convict and execute anyone with a malfunctioning passport tag. Problem solved.

Call me obvious, but... (1)

gillbates (106458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367304)

Why bother hitting it with a hammer or microwaving it when simply wrapping it in aluminum foil will do?

Very simple - it cannot stay in the wallet (1)

pilot-programmer (822406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367960)

I am not concerned with the possibility of having my data stolen when I am at immigration, because that is generally in a secure part of the terminal and I do not think the odds are very high of people setting up to steal data at that location.

But what about airport check-in? If you are traveling internationally, you will have to show that you have a passport at the check-in counter. That is not inside a secure area and anybody could carry a skimmer inside a backpack or briefcase and attempt to steal the data.

I know people who have made phone calls in airports using a calling card, who later discovered a lot of unauthorized calls to Mexico on their bill. Stealing data from passports would be even easier in an international terminal.

Bad Idea (2, Informative)

Vulturejoe (570401) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367324)

Don't do this. The government considers US passports to be its property not yours, and mutilating your passport can get you in trouble, especially if you did it on purpose. Plus, there will be a lot of paperwork to fill out if you ever want another passport.

So what's the point of this "Security device"? (2, Interesting)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367342)

If my passport is perfectly valid without it then why does it exist? It's certainly not preventing counterfeiting if they can just skip that step.

New Logo, and now worries for most people. (1)

slashkitty (21637) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367352)

Here is the new logo mentioned: http://travel.state.gov/images/e_ppt_logo.jpg [state.gov]

I was just issued my new passport, and while it feels different than the old one, it doesn't have the new logo. As long as I don't lose my passport, I should be good and electronic free until 2016. Hopefully by then, they would have worked through any of those nasty security problems.

Since passports have such a long expiration date, most people won't have to worry about this for many years.

Microwave Oven? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17367374)

Seems to me that putting your passport in a microwave oven for 2 to 5 seconds would be enough to destroy the RFID chip without damaging the passport.

--stj

Somebody doesn't grok RFID... (2, Informative)

pointbeing (701902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367384)

I do this stuff (among other things) for a living.

There are two types of RFID tags - active (carries its own power supply) and passive (powered by the magnetic field generated by an RFID reader). The best active tags can be read a couple hundred feet away - that's what you use to go speeding through toll booths and such.

Passive tags (like the one in the passport) can only be read a few inches away and someone with even a basic knowledge of physics knows that the power requirement to maintain an adequate magnetic field increases exponentially with distance.

Also, when using the FUD Technologies Nuclear Long Distance Handheld Omnidirectional RFID Reader® one has to remember that tags operating on the same frequency will tend to interfere with each other, reducing the chance of getting a good read.

My suggestion is to take the tinfoil off one's head, wrap their passport in it and go about their business ;-)

Re:Somebody doesn't grok RFID... (2, Informative)

swillden (191260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367884)

Passive tags (like the one in the passport) can only be read a few inches away and someone with even a basic knowledge of physics knows that the power requirement to maintain an adequate magnetic field increases exponentially with distance.

Good post. I just want to add that because the readers EM field powers the chip and the chip's transmitter that the effective power requirement increases with the *cube* of distance, rather than following the normal inverse-square law. That's not to say it's impossible to read chips from larger distances, but it's very tricky, and works best in an EM-shielded lab environment.

I think 5 seconds on High in a microwave.... (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 7 years ago | (#17367922)

... would be a better solution. I am pretty sure the electrical arch that will form on any/all electrically conductive material would be more then enough to fry the sensitive chips.

HAmmer Time (1)

wolff000 (447340) | more than 7 years ago | (#17368008)

My passport doesn't have one but when it is time to get a new one I will definately smash the chip. I already intended to anyway. I know the possibility of someone getting my info off it is slim but it is there. I have dealt with identity theft twice and I sure as hell am not going to take a chance with my passport. Yes I am wearing my tin foil hgat right now.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?