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Passport Chip Could Attract High-Tech Muggers 348

Posted by Zonk
from the what,-no-trust? dept.
Orangez writes "Wired.com reports that 'business travel groups, security experts and privacy advocates are looking to derail a government plan to insert remotely readable chips in American passports, calling the chips homing devices for high-tech muggers, identity thieves and even terrorists.' and that 'The 64-KB chips will include the information from the photo page of the passport, including name, date of birth and a digitized form of the passport picture.'"
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Passport Chip Could Attract High-Tech Muggers

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  • by Clay Pigeon -TPF-VS- (624050) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:12PM (#12101278) Journal
    Someone is going to need a faraday cage.

    • I think I'm going to expand our line of geekwear from tinfoil hats to reselling designer jeans with wire mesh sewn into the pockets.

      Can you guess what country I'm from? ;)

    • by overunderunderdone (521462) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:49PM (#12101704)
      From the article:
      State Department contractors are looking to include some shielding, such as metal fibers in the passport cover, to keep the chips from being read when the passport is closed.
      They are also, supposedly "designed only to be readable from 8 centimeters (about 3 inches) away when the passport is open."

      My question at that point is: why not use another technology? The whole point of RFID is that it is readable from a distance without jumping through any hoops. If TFA is correct they are negating the whole point of RFID and fighting it's inherent nature to do so. It seems that some kind of optical technology would be perfectly suited to do exactly what they want to do with RFID.
      • One very simple reason... cost.

        RFID is and will be considerably cheaper than an equivalent optical solution or any other present technology.

        • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @02:12PM (#12101979) Journal
          How is RFID cheaper than a mag stripe? Large RFID tags (with more than a few bytes of storage) are more expensive than the ones Wal-Mart blows in for a penny apiece. A mag stripe is almost free. Mag card readers are also almost free. A mag stripe can't (reasonably) be read surreptitiously from a distance, so it's safer, too.

          I know, a mag stripe can have its data changed. But wait! So can an RFID tag! So you're going to end up doing public key crypto signing of the data anyway. Why not use technology that is proven to be cheap, safe, and reliable instead of something that is potentially expensive, dangerous, and has no real history of reliability that requires additional expensive hacks to prevent abuse?

      • by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @02:09PM (#12101947)
        They are also, supposedly "designed only to be readable from 8 centimeters (about 3 inches) away when the passport is open."

        My question at that point is: why not use another technology?


        Because they want to be able to read them from more then 8cm. They know perfectly well that, with the right equipment, these 8cm devices can be read up to 10m away and they intend to use that feature themselves - they even talk about the ease of tracking people in airports and such as part of the justification for this implementation.

        So, you have what basically amounts to spin control. Enough of the general public has latched onto the meme that RFID is a danger to their privacy. So instead of working to eliminate the entirely valid risks that RFID brings to this particular application, they are just trying to cover them up - literally and figuratively.

        Your tax dollar at work...
      • State Department contractors are looking to include some shielding

        My best friend's husband works for a French company called A.S.K. that makes smart cards, and induction cards, and RFID cards, and he was telling me about the process, and how they're bidding for the American Passport contract.

        When I mentioned about the tin foil, he said that none of the samples they've delivered to the U.S. have any shielding, and that there's been no talk at all of shielding of any kind.

        <Tinfoil Hat>I truly think

  • ...means just that?

    If they government can read it for legitimate purposes, other people can read it for illegitimate purposes.

  • by drunken dash (804404) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:13PM (#12101293) Homepage
    If they're not terrorists, and have nothing to hide, why are they so worried about being tracked? If anything, if your passport is stolen, wouldn't you rather have the chip in there to track it?
    • Because the government, private corporations, etc. have proven that they can't be trusted with your data. Look at universities who have lost data to theft. If a major university can have data stolen, it can be stolen from anywhere. Besides, most people who would try and get this information wouldn't need the passport itself, just the data on it. A name, date of birth, and photo can often be enough to gain more information, sometimes enough to commit fraud with.
    • Who is going to get mugged, robbed or held hostage in a foreign country, someone the bad guys can tell is carrying a US passport, or someone else?
    • by Kineticabstract (814395) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:19PM (#12101366)
      You've missed the point. The concern isn't that "big brother" is going to be watching our every move (after all, that's inevitable, and why worry about the inevitable?) the concern is that a terrorist could get your passport information simply by walking close to you with an RFID reader. It's a security nightmare to have your information freely available to anyone with the hardware to read it.
      • by cosmo7 (325616) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:43PM (#12101649) Homepage
        I had thought this was alarmist, that the information would be a set of MD5s or in the case of client-side data, public-key encrypted, but that turns out to not be the case [wired.com]. It's all naked data.
      • by 1u3hr (530656) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @02:18PM (#12102029)
        a terrorist could get your passport information simply by walking close to you

        Why would a terrorist want your passport information? They have perfectly reliable ways to get entirely legitimate papers of their own. If they want to kill you, they will, and pick up your passport from your body later as a souvenir, whether it has RFID or not. On the other hand, thieves, swindlers, identity thieves could very well take an interest in your vital statistics. Why do TERRORISTS!!!! have to be part of every security discussion?

        • If they want to kill you, they will, and pick up your passport from your body later as a souvenir, whether it has RFID or not.

          They only want to kill you if you are american.
          Your RFID passport is a dead giveaway (at a distance).

          With a remote readable passport, someone could design a smart motar shell which specifically homes in on american passports. The motar shell only needs to broadcast that it is a passport scanner and detect the replies from american passports.
          Sensing the existence of an RFID can be
    • by Ironsides (739422) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:19PM (#12101372) Homepage Journal
      If they're not terrorists, and have nothing to hide, why are they so worried about being tracked? If anything, if your passport is stolen, wouldn't you rather have the chip in there to track it?

      Because terrorists/kidnappers can set up a remote reader to look specifically for people carrying this type or passport. Kidnapers can use it to find people from specific other contries that they think are richer than they are and ransom them off for big bucks. Terrorists can use it to find people from specific nationalities. Bin Laden said to kill all americans everywhere, not just americans in the US. This gives them a leg up in finding people carrying around their passports when overseas.

      That said, if they go through with this, they definitely need to build in a faraday cage into the passport case.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:25PM (#12101458)
      Human beings are funny like that. We're members of the animal kingdom and animals, for whatever natural reason, just don't like being followed or tracked unless it's by their children and/or mate or they're traveling in a coordinated herd. Attempting to rationalize a violation of basic natural psychology by invoking security isn't going to invalidate primal instincts. If mother nature has instilled us with an instinct that dislikes being tracked or followed there's probably a very good reason for it. It's probably because, whatever the rationalization is, the truth is that animals track and follow prey. Very rarely is the stranger following you interested solely in your welfare for no selfish reason of their own.

      Stalking is illegal for a reason. Even if no physical contact is ever made it constitutes harassment. Harassment leads to a degradation of the quality of life, poor performance at work, and after extended periods of time can lead to a psychological breakdown. Creating a population of paranoid schizophrenics isn't all bad. Once they come apart at the seams we can lock them in a cell with a bicycle and use them to produce energy, thus breaking our dependence on oil and negating the need for nuclear fuel. It'll also solve the overpopulation problem if we keep the sexes separated. In the end it'll allow some members of the population, who aren't being harassed or seem to be immune to natural instincts (are they even human then?), to live a life of leisure using the energy of those we have harassed and then locked up.
    • dunno what you've been smoking, but I suppose its not too late to point out that RFID chips are useless to tarck a lost elephant, much less a lost or stolen passport.
    • I do have something to hide: my passport has my name, address, phone number, next of kin notification address/phone, passport number, and with these 64KB chips, I'm sure they'll pack everything they can think of on there like SSN, birthdate, and so on.

      All that, waiting for someone to just bump into me on a train or in a subway or getting off the airplane. Unlike a normal passport, I'd never know it was "stolen", since it'd still be in my pocket afterwards! By the time I get back to my country, I'd probab
  • security (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zerkon (838861) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:15PM (#12101314)
    the article states having a barcode or some other form of security that must actually be read, how about encrypting the data on the rfid and putting the key on the barcode?

    just a thought
    • This is more akin to a vulnerability to hostile traffic analysis than to flat-out identity theft.

      If you have anything on you that can be used remotely to identify you as a USian, your personal security has been compromised, even if the specific details aren't available. In that case, the mere presence of the chip provides a hostile party with information that can be used to make you a victim.

      Even if the information on the RFID chip is encrypted, it will respond to a query by returning the encrypted
      • Re:security (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 1u3hr (530656)
        You are Johnny Terrorist. You go to a crowded bar and scan the crowd. Ah! A lot of Yankee warmongering devils in there! Target-rich environment! Mayhem ensues.

        That sounds like an excellent idea. The Bali bombers thought they were blowing up a bunch of Yankee infidel in Kuta, actally most were Asustralians. Us non-American white people would really prefer not to be collateral damage in your War on Terror (though sadly our dickweed prime minister has dragged us into it and made us targets).

  • hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by catbertscousin (770186) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:15PM (#12101319)
    Now they don't even have to steal my passport before they can use all my info. That's an improvement. If I get a new passport, I think I'll carry it in an aluminum foil pouch.
    • Re:hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

      by cosmo7 (325616) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @02:00PM (#12101835) Homepage
      Here's the schema they're using:

      255 bytes: First name
      1 byte: Middle initial
      255 bytes: Surname
      1 bit: Boolean true if user checked the 'Member of Terrorist Group' checkbox
      7 bits: CIA National Boxcutter Purchase Monitoring flags
      16KB: ASCII-art depiction of tubgirl courtesy of frustrated intern
      16KB: Excerpts from Book of Revelation
      1 byte: Flags for previous visits to Iran / Cuba / North Korea / Syria / Lebanon / Pakistan / Libya / Yavin
      30KB: XML representation of above flags
    • Re:hmm... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Technician (215283)
      I think I'll carry it in an aluminum foil pouch.

      Stuff it in an old aluminized mylar potato chip bag, roll it up and stuff it in your pocket. If asked, say it was raining cats and doga at my last stop. I didn't want it to get wet. The added advantage is the tag is unreadable inside the folded up bag.
  • Aus Passe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:15PM (#12101326) Homepage Journal
    Opponents also argue that the lack of encryption, which Moss said would slow down the processing of passports, adds another vulnerability.

    I don't get it. I mean, they State Dept. could easily have a reader connected to a network which passes along some hash which is stored on the card, to a server which would verify what passport they should be looking at. Slow? Wtf kind of technology are they using where 64K of stuff would take any time?

    "Only contractors who sign up to our foreign policy will be allowed to bid -- We welcome your bid, Halliburton Vacuum Tube Company!"

    • the lack of encryption is mind blowing.

      Creating a device with a Public/Private key encryption system, creating a new key each year and supplying that key to thousands of passport readers isn't difficult.
      (new key each year would mean that if a key were broken it would invalidate passports issued in that year, but it would restrict the number of keys which would have to be added to the passport devices to 1 per year. obviously if the method of adding keys were simple enough it could be possible to add a new
      • "Authenticating the passport is far more important than encrypting all the data, but not encrypting the data is foolish."

        I would disagree. I tend to think that the security of my identity takes precidence over anyone being able to ascertain it. If passports cannot be secured it would be better to abolish them and leave travelers unidentified to leave an unsecured system in place.

        Am I the only one who sees freedom as being more important than stopping terrorism? If being free means there is a possibility o
      • Re:Aus Passe (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 1u3hr (530656)
        Creating a device with a Public/Private key encryption system, creating a new key each year and supplying that key to thousands of passport readers isn't difficult.

        They'd have to be supplied ot passport readers in every country in the world. So two days after this comes into effect, bootleg readers are on sale next to cable TV decoders, but unlike cable TV, passports stay valid for at least 5 years, so changing the encryption isn't an option, so why bother at all.

    • by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:29PM (#12101510)
      "Because 64K of memory should be enough for anybody"

      Thank you...I'm here all week! (mostly due to pesky bosses)



    • The passports must be easily readable by scanners in foreign countries, under local control.

      Given that the scanners will be widely distributed, it seems pointless to encrypt the data. All it will do is slow down processing while the hash is validated.

    • by feloneous cat (564318) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:43PM (#12101645)
      I don't get it. I mean, they State Dept. could easily have a reader connected to a network which passes along some hash which is stored on the card, to a server which would verify what passport they should be looking at. Slow? Wtf kind of technology are they using where 64K of stuff would take any time?

      Think "Windows ME".

      Remember, this is the U.S. Gov.
  • by metoc (224422) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:16PM (#12101329)
    When will these people learn that independent sober second opinions are valuable.

    Years from know they will probably say "We made the best decision with the information we had at the time".
  • Another problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nizo (81281) * on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:16PM (#12101331) Homepage Journal
    Burglar goes down to airport and watches family get on a plane to Europe. He grabs your name, and from that gets your home address. Then he can go rob your house while you and family are out of town. Certainly makes scoping out houses much easier; your house could be cleaned out before you even reach your destination.
    • by ackthpt (218170) *
      Burglar goes down to airport and watches family get on a plane to Europe. He grabs your name, and from that gets your home address. Then he can go rob your house while you and family are out of town. Certainly makes scoping out houses much easier; your house could be cleaned out before you even reach your destination.

      Seriously, you're pushing your cred here. What kind of burglar is going to be hanging out in airports looking for departing victims? An intelligent burglar would spend more time casing a ta

    • Re:Another problem (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Xzzy (111297) <sether AT tru7h DOT org> on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:32PM (#12101530) Homepage
      Except for the fact that, at least in the US, no one without a plane ticket is allowed to pass through the security gates.

      They could run their scanners in the ticketing area but they couldn't do it for long periods without looking suspicious. Guys standing around in bulky coats to hide the equipment will probably draw some notice.

      Since these passport chips are claimed to have a very short range (inches) to be read, guys in bulky coats dry humping tourists trying to get a scan would draw even more notice. ;)
      • buy the cheapest ticket you can... hide equipment in a backpack with a blue tooth set to a scanner that looks like a cell phone/pda/psp.. .or hell a scanner that is built into one of those devices.

        you know people traveling somewhere often have alot of bulk with them and it isn't suspicious at all.
      • by victim (30647) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:58PM (#12101801)
        The passport sniffer needn't hide the gear under a bulky coat. Any shoulder strap carry on type bag will do. They will blend in perfectly in the air port. They can then stand next to you in line, or perhaps brush past you walking in the hallways.

        In 60 minutes of sniffing they could easily collect a dozen or more candidate "known gone" families, then use that as a short list of houses to check.

        Maybe the regular readers will have a range in inches, and 802.11 has a range of 100ft. With the right antenna 802.11 can be extended by a factor of 50. I would not count on tags being unreadable from 24", a nice polite personal space distance.

        I'm not saying this will ever happen, but it certainly is a lot easier than your deliberately ridiculous example.

        What it really comes down to is...
        If the passport issuing officials want a system that keeps a secondary reference copy of your information in a difficult to forge format, that is only readable with a special reader and is encrypted to prevent unauthorized use, then there is no reason to use a remotely readable device. A high resolution two dimensional barcode of encrypted data will do a nice job of it without exposing people's data to risk additional risk.
  • by Uptown Joe (819388) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:17PM (#12101342)
    From the folks that brought us the hacked SideKicks of Fred Durst and Paris Hilton...

    Not that I have any naked pictures on my passport chip... yet.
  • by Mr2cents (323101) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:18PM (#12101355)
    How comes that everyone trying to make a point has to include terrorist threat? Am I the only one who thinks it's a bit cheap?
    • I guess you missed the whole election that was based off of fear. Americans need to grow a brain, my countrymen are worried about something that has little chance of harming them. Over the last 5 years you have a 400x more likely chance of dying driving to work than you do of being involved in a terrorist attack. they are bad, but they are not the threat they are made out to be to an individual. i agree terrorism is bad, but the government is doing nothing that will lessen my chance of being hurt by one.
    • The terrorists have already won.
      • by __int64 (811345)
        "The terrorists have already won"

        Exactly, because despite popular opinion they're goal is not to go out and kill every single American. Their goal is to go out and make every single American afraid of them, afraid to live their lives.

        And Mission Accomplished.

        They have successfully reduced my dad, into a withered old man afraid to ever leave the country, who does nothing but curse these damn 'rag-heads'. "We need more legislation and more intrusive government, cause those bastards are everywhere. They wan
    • YES! Because terrorist are everywhere! They are outside your house, they are in the mall, they are living next door to you, and their going to GET You. Unless you give your mind and soul to the only one who can help, Big Government. Big Government can help you; He'll save you from all these nasty nasty terrorists. You just have to unquestionably follow him, do as he says blindly, and never fall out of line, because then you'll be one.

      Because remember, they're everywhere. They're anyone, anyone who doesn't
    • You must be either a liberal commie or a right-wing nazi (sorry, had to add in those two predictable comments also).

      Hoi Polloi's Law: The time it takes before someone says that an act or an invention could be used by terrorists. Conversely, the time it takes before someone says it could be used to stop terrorists.
    • Because fear has become an excellent tool that can be used to control the populace. Just look at the PATRIOT act, Iraq war, New McCarthyism etc all supported by fear.

      While I'm not a big Michael Moore fan, one thing Bowling for Columbine drove home was the "media of fear" idea. He certainly beat it to death, but there's no denying the prevalence of vague fear in todays (U.S.) media and government.

    • Because the threats are out there.

      The issue of fear-mongering aside, why would the Terrorists(TM) just decide to give up? They've made their point and have decided to just move on? Forget about it.

      I'll agree that the idea is taken to extremes by some folks grandstanding or trying to sell something, but that doesn't make the actual threat any less real.

      Some folks, when addressing the irrational fear most Americans have of the Terrorists(Tm), point out that you are more likely to die in a car crash
  • That word (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chris_eineke (634570) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:19PM (#12101364) Homepage Journal
    homing devices for high-tech muggers, identity thieves and even terrorists.
    There is that word again. I'm getting tired of it. :(
    • Re:That word (Score:2, Insightful)

      There is that word again. I'm getting tired of it.
      Get used to it. This is the age of terrorism - every schmuck with a mental disorder (and yes, I place religious fanaticism firmly in that category) has the ability to kill innocents if they feel that it will draw attention to their "cause". Terrorism is the new diplomacy. It's going to get much worse before it gets better.
    • Terrorists are the new Communists. And black is the new black. Get over it already!
      • Terrorists are the new Communists. And black is the new black. Get over it already!

        "Get over it"?
        How about not letting them use their magic argument, instead of getting over it?

        You got mugged? Get over it! Your government is using boogeymen to slowly turn your country in a police state? Get over it!

        No thanks.
    • "There is that word again. I'm getting tired of it. :("

      Me too, that's why I've begun calling them Green Pigs, 'cause you can't make Green Eggs and Ham without them.
      • Me too, that's why I've begun calling them Green Pigs, 'cause you can't make Green Eggs and Ham without them.
        IIRC the eggs are green but the ham is normal.
        It's been a while since I looked, what with the kids being all grown up now...
  • Identity (Score:5, Funny)

    by netrage_is_bad (734782) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:19PM (#12101376)
    like someone would benefit from stealing my Identity. They would just inherit my debt.

    I guess that's one more reason to get a passport
  • by Mrs. Grundy (680212) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:20PM (#12101390) Homepage
    ...and look at this for a while. They understand that who you are and where you come from can make you a target. After all, the armed forces (whose upper ranks never lose a chance to make their soldiers dress up) tell their personnel not to wear their uniforms when traveling on civilian airlines, for the very reason that people don't want RDIF tags in their passport. And it's not just nationality. Airports all have wireless connections these days so you can get a name, do a quick Google search and stand a good chance of knowing enough about the person walking by to not only pick good targets but be able to imply uncanny knowledge about them. a corp. There must be a better solution that address both the governments concerns and the privacy concerns of our citizens. It seems that somebody has just made a decision and isn't willing to back off. We should isn't they try harder.
  • IAN a security expert, but I have seen enough reports of encryption being broken or circumvented in a matter of days (see DVD Jon as a recent example).

    Something as valuable as one's identity should not be left up to a series of 1's and 0's to determine.

    This leaves me looking to the Creator (that would be God to me) for an answer.

    We already have a biometric key - called our DNA - that uniquely identifies our physiology (except in the case of identical twins - and perhaps triples+ but I don't know because
    • Encryption is never unbreakable as you can always brute force the key. This is essentially the only way to do it nowadays as even the shorcuts and holes in PGP and the rest maybe speed up the time by 1% (if that). So what is left is to make sure that the information can not be bruteforced in a reasonable amount of time. We have that technology and capability.

      As for DNA. Yes, identical twins and triplets and so on have identical DNA. As for using it for any form of security? That is a very bad idea.
    • "Can DNA be spoofed?"

      Not sure how much you'd need to copy but there is a thing called PCR [rug.ac.be].

  • by syrinje (781614) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:28PM (#12101498)
    There's really no earthly reason for using RFID chips in passports. RFID has a number of legitimate uses - and the use of this technology in those applications makes life easier for many. Nearly all legitimate applications of RFID benefit from the automation of collecting small bits of data from large numbers of entities using non-human readers.
    However, all of the legitimate uses of the passport involve a human being handling the passport anyway - and using a non-RFID smart chip will suffice.

    Tinfoil hats aside, the primary response of the RFID proponents to the question of why RFID tags are needed is "Why not?". This is a preposterous approach to implementing a system that handles sensitive personal data that could cause severe distress to the owners of that data, if compromised. Sensitive data belonging to thousands or even millions of people! Assuming the government still considers an individual as the rightful owner of their own personal data.

    Some of the conspiracy theories regarding RFID in passports are a little over the top. But there is no denying the fact that the potential for abuse is definitely enhanced by using this technology in this way. Today the scope is for Americans to be targeted using this - either by their own government, or by criminals, or by other governments, or by terrorists. Tomorrow, when more countries follow suit, that scope expands, giving birth to a rich and varied mix of uses - all of which with the legitimate exception of border control are extra-legal or downright criminal. I hate to sound like a troll but the RFID chip in your little blue book could well become the new star of david sewn into your shirt.

  • disabling chip? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LM741N (258038) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:33PM (#12101540)
    What are the implications of disabling the chip? A huge dose of ESD would probably do the job without harming paper and ink. You could just claim ignorance.
    • Re:disabling chip? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by chrispl (189217)
      This would probably be considered "tampering with an official document" and be against the law, or at least make it more difficult to travel when they notice your suspiciously "defective" passport.

      I will just keep mine wrapped in a few layers of aluminium foil until I am standing in line at immigrations thank you.

      I can also see, after the media catches on about identity theft via RFID passports some enterprising company will begin selling lead lined passport covers or something similar. This also begs the
  • by Muad'Dave (255648) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:35PM (#12101560) Homepage

    Document 9303 at the ICAO [icao.int]. Note that it's the international Civil Aviation organization that defined the standard and is pushing it. Note that they intentionally do not encrypt the data so that it's simpler and easier for third world governments to read.

  • More importantly, how are they going to fit a decent image for counterfeiting in 64K? Sure, it might be viewable, but it damn sure won't be printable. Monitors have terribly low resolution compared to printers. Now... if the customs folks in all countries are willing to let someone through with a "passport photo" that looks like a character from Donkey Kong, I think we all have a bigger problem. :p
  • I'd be tempted to stick the thing in the microwave or otherwise nuke the tag, but for the fact that the bureaucracy that would then ensue would keep me stuck in some nasty little office for several hours whenever I tried to clear customs...
  • Sweden is going to introduce these state-of-the-art passports with microchips in them sometime in the autumn. i was planning on getting one first, but apparently a Visa will do just as fine should i ever want to visit the States, plus the microchip one is supposedly alot more expensive

    so, im getting a new "regular" passport tomorrow... my current expires in july, no rush, but this new one will last 10 years so why not have it done with
  • by northcat (827059)
    passport sized photos in just 64kb?
  • by lordholm (649770) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @01:51PM (#12101725) Homepage
    According to the ICAO standard states can chose to add an authentication scheme to the RFID-tag. This is what Sweden is dong, this is probably what the US is doing.

    The authentication is based on the MRZ (Machine Readable Zone) in the passport (this is text that is read through OCR and not visible unless you open the passports photo page). The MRZ-data is hashed by SHA-1 and the high 32 bits of the hash is taken (this reduce the risk of someone computing the MRZ-data backwards (actually guessing) which MIGHT be possible if you have the hash and the basic structure of the MRZ-data). The hash is sent as an authentication code to the RFID-chip in the passport, if the hash is wrong the RFID responds with a "no valid authentication" message and refuse to send any data.

    A state may decide to ignore such measures in their passports (but this is unlikely for the EU and the US). And such states have the option to include metallic jackets for the passport.

    The range of the RFID transmission will be around 10 cm. IIRC it weakens with the power of 6 to the distance.

    Further, it is not practical to have contact chips in a book-formed passport. It is more practical in ID-cards.

    While I dislike this in general and would prefer a passport free world, try to avoid spreading untrue FUD about the technology being used, the data is secure and no person is going to get within 10 cm from your passport, and try an average of 2^31 different hashes without you noticing it. Of course, if the person manage to "borrow" your passport, he will use the MRZ to obtain the key, but in that case, he can take the passport to a photocopier as well (and that is probably cheaper).
    • > The range of the RFID transmission will be around 10 cm. IIRC it weakens with the power of 6 to the distance.

      We can see the remains of the big bang and could detect the light of a firefly beyond pluto.

      Range means nothing to directional high-gain antennas. Sure no one is going to retarget Jordell Bank or the deep space network to snoop for pasport id's but that does not mean someone could not get 10m or more gain from an antenna hidden on the back of truck driven through the airport arrivals zone.
    • Secure? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by metamatic (202216)

      The authentication is based on the MRZ (Machine Readable Zone) in the passport (this is text that is read through OCR and not visible unless you open the passports photo page). The MRZ-data is hashed by SHA-1 and the high 32 bits of the hash is taken (this reduce the risk of someone computing the MRZ-data backwards (actually guessing) which MIGHT be possible if you have the hash and the basic structure of the MRZ-data). The hash is sent as an authentication code to the RFID-chip in the passport, if the hash

  • When one of these passports goes by a store window, a big screen in the store should show your picture and a greeting.

    With a tie-in to ChoicePoint, products you'd be interested in would be displayed. Just like Minority Report.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @02:28PM (#12102169) Homepage
    Wouldn't it make FAR more sense to just include a Number on the chip.

    Authorized custom agents could then pass a reader over that chip, which would take the number, connect to a US government's computer, input the number which would return photo, fingerprints, etc. etc.

    There seems NO need to put all the sensitive information on a chip, when all you need is a number. Keep the sensitive information on more secure computers, accesible only by valid custom agents.

  • by DM9290 (797337) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @03:16PM (#12102724) Journal
    In WWII, Nazi's required jews to wear armbands distinctly identifying themselves as jewish at a distance.

    This system worked very well. It insured that second class citizens could properly receive the proper treatment as such. i.e.: forced to walk in the gutter, rather than a side walk etc. Attend at labour and death camps etc.

    Now the american government wants americans to only travel abroad on the condition that they effectively wear electronic armbands identifying them as "AMERICAN" to anyone with a simple detector.

    America is at war, and the American government wants its citizens to be required to advertize their status to all possible enemies.

    At least the NAZI's were fairly transparent about their desire to oppress and harm jews.

    How is electronically broadcasting american citizenship for all to see, going to help americans be safer.

    Why not just make a law requiring all american citizens to wear armbands with the Star of David.

    Would that be obvious enough for the morons in the whitehouse to wake the fuck up!
  • by SynCrypt (587990) on Thursday March 31, 2005 @04:00PM (#12103219)
    There will be a session about RFID chipped passports at the 2005 Computers, Freedman, and Privacy conference on Wed. April 13th in Seattle, WA. Bruce Schneier, who has spoken frequently on this issue, and Bill Scannell, who is quoted in the article, will both be keynote speakers at the conference. Right after the panel, there will likely be a demo of RFID technology as it relates to passports.

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