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E-Passport System Test This Week 89

An anonymous reader writes "ZDNet has a story covering another Homeland Security test of the E-Passport system, a biometric program designed to stop counterfeit identification." From the article: "The passports contain biometric information such as a digital photo, as well as biographic information. The technology being tested promises to read and verify the electronic data when those carrying the e-passports attempt entry into the countries via participating airports. U.S. diplomats, Australian and New Zealand citizens and Singapore Airlines officials are among those who have been issued the e-passports. These people will also undergo normal screening procedures at the international airports."
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E-Passport System Test This Week

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  • I've had encounters with similar systems to this E-Passport just recently on my honeymoon cruise. My wife and I were each issued a "Sea Pass" card, which didn't have our picture on it, but had our names printed on it, and a magnetic swipe. Whenever we wanted to buy anything on the ship, we would swipe our card and it would identify us and no cash was needed throughout the entire cruise. For shore excursions, we swiped our cards as we left, and it noted that we no longer were on the boat, keeping track of everyone out on shore excursions and what not. On our return, we swiped our cards, it pulled up for the security guard our information as well as a picture, which he was able to verify our identity with, and let us back on the boat. I'm glad for this, as it stops people from trying to steal those cards, as they are useless if your not the same person, and since the data is stored in a central registry, can't be easily falsified, like a current passport could be. I like the idea of an E-Passport, as it can guarantee a person's identity a lot more easily then a traditional passport, which can be forged easily enough these days with all the technology out there, as well as making travel safer in foreign countries, as well as for our own country. I can't wait though for them to implement something such as an RFID tag inside of these, so we can just walk through customs, having it tally up all our items purchased, collecting duties as we walk, and have the whole ordeal be a lot less painless, instead of having to wait in long lines while you get questioned over and over... would be nice to just have the RFID tag identify you as you go through a turnstile, and have that be the end of customs... Either way, this is going to make travel a lot easier and safer...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yep, and once someone works their way into the database, they'll know who you are and what you've been upto.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Exactly the reason why I would NOT want this!
    • by Anonymous Coward [] describes one guy's attempts to get someone (anyone) to actually look at his credit card signature. So when I hear about the "picture and information" that the security guard is supposed to be looking at, I have my reservations, especially when he probaly has to process at least 3/4 of the ship in that day. Did he actually check your picture to see that you were the real owner, or did he just waive you through?
    • 1) System is not simular.

      2) You described a credit card that the ship owners want you to think it is an ID.

      3) Lastly it can tell if you are on or off the ship. Knock you, take your card, toss you overboard, then walk off the ship as you, person walks back on ship with his card and bitches about the readers not working.
    • by tuxette ( 731067 ) *
      as well as making travel safer in foreign countries

      Since when was it unsafe? Unless of course you're one of those dumbasses who wears bright white sneakers and a fanny (!!) pack when travelling to foreign countries...

    • "I can't wait though for them to implement something such as an RFID tag inside of these"

      In the New Zealand passports, they already have. At the same time, they doubled the cost and halved the duration of the passport to five years. There was no period for public comment, it was presented as a fait accomplit, as they were concerned that there would be a rush on the non-rfid, cheaper, long duration passports. Well, duh.

      The NZ passport data is not encrypted in any way, although they claim the passports

    • "He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666." - Revelation 13:16-18
      • Of course, the number is actually 616 (as determined by later-recovered copies of earlier instances of the text).
        • Of course, the number is actually 616 (as determined by later-recovered copies of earlier instances of the text).

          Well the people of Michigan cities Holland, Grand Haven, Greenville, Grand Rapids, and Ionia have been living with 616 as their area code for quite some time. (Kalamazoo, Saugatuck, Hastings, Battle Creek, and Sturgis to Lake Michigan to a lesser degree, splitting out to become 269.)

          BTW: == IP address of the Beast
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "since the data is stored in a central registry, can't be easily falsified, like a current passport could be."

      This statement is contrary to reality. If data is stored in a central registry, it can be easily (and untraceably) falsified by anyone with access to the central registry.

      It can also be easily stolen by anyone with access to the central registry. The bigger the system, the more people have access to the central registry. With something like a national passport, a huge number of people get one con
    • Please, go away and read some Bruce Schneier. He's the one of the authors of the AES crypto suite, the one developed by/for the USG, amongst many other things, and he has some very interesting things to say about post-911 security. Go read some issues of Crypto-Gram - the Jan 2006 issue just came out - and realise how wrong you are. Never mind, well done, now you get it....
    • If it's such a great idea, then why are passport holders *forced* into having one?

      Oddly enough, I could see a congressman introducing a bill here in the US making the RFID enabled passport optional.

      • bottom line - why passports in the first place? a fundamental discussion of this would help the specific discussion about RFID tags in passports/ biometric data etc. Probably we'd find the same general arguments coming out? - true identity, state monitoring of individuals, notification of individuals convicted of criminal activity passing state borders? might be worth tunnelling down to the basic discussion about the concept and purposes of passports...
        • There does finally seem to be a bit of groping around on this question. California has decided to issue "non-resident" driver licenses, that would be accepted for driving, but not by the feds to get on a plane. The feds forced the issue, by announcing their intended refusal to accept Calif licences at airport security because illegal aliens oculd get them. But Calif doesn't want to certify immigration status for drivers licenses (or all those aliens will be driving around with no license at all, probably
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 15, 2006 @03:45PM (#14476829)
    Yeesh, as a holder of an Australian Passport, it looks like I arrived in the US just in time to avoid being used as a guinea pig in the test, being falsely identified as a terrorist suspect when it malfunctions and being locked away for an undetermined number of years without trial ;P
  • oooh (Score:4, Funny)

    by tuxette ( 731067 ) * <> on Sunday January 15, 2006 @03:49PM (#14476858) Homepage Journal
    Remind me to buy lots of Gummi Bears at the Tax-Free Shop ;-)
    • Re:oooh (Score:2, Funny)

      by Dachannien ( 617929 )
      The passports contain biometric information such as a digital photo,

      I don't think they make Gummi Bears the size of your face.

  • Problem is... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tavor ( 845700 ) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @03:51PM (#14476868)
    The biometric chip may be ultra-hard to forge, but the human element attached to it isn't. Remember the T-Mobile hacking incident with celeberties? It wasn't the hardware at fault, but the hardware's human masters. There will be a human making these passports, typing in the name, and writing the info to the chip. If the human is given bad information (Drivers License, Birth Cert, etc,) the information written to the chip will be bad, and voila - system failed: forged info on the chip. Even if the fingerprints and iris scans are correct, the name will be wrong and terror watch lists consist mosty of names and pictures - we all know how reliable that can be.
    • Re:Problem is... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tuxette ( 731067 ) *
      It's not just that. All it takes is for someone with a sick sense of humor or otherwise disgruntled employee to fuck with the data. You know, switch thing here and there... and we're all screwed...
    • Re:Problem is... (Score:2, Informative)

      by BrokenHalo ( 565198 )
      It doesn't even take any particular malice to fuck up the database. Three months ago, my wife applied for, and duly received her Australian passport. Last week, her sister attempted to do the same, and was foiled by the fact that some dyslexic moron had in that short interval managed to scramble the letters of her mother's maiden name on the database and consequently she was regarded as some sort of unperson.

      Needless to say, it took a pile of statutory declarations and other depositions to sort the mess out

  • by bobthemuse ( 574400 ) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @03:53PM (#14476879)
    ...a biometric program designed to stop counterfeit identification...

    Yeah, we wouldn't want to stop counterfeits, or identify them. As long as we stop counterfeit identification, we can proudly announce to the nation that there are no counterfeit passports.
  • by Zarxos ( 648322 ) on Sunday January 15, 2006 @04:08PM (#14476990)
    ...a biometric program designed to stop counterfeit identification... I guess we're doing too good of a job identifying those counterfeits right now...
  • Mag stipes now, RFIDs later. They'll be merged with driver's licences. You'll have to show them to vote ( to preent voter fraud of course ). It's a slippery slope.
    I'd like to welcome our new masters, but I'm not sure who they will be. They will surely know who I am though...
    • I still have my voting card from Miami. It looks like something I could have printed out at home except that it would take effort to make it appear so amateurish. Besides, real live voters seem to be outnumbered by dead ones here.

  • I can't wait for the Ambassador to Iraq being detained as a terrorist suspect on arriving in Washington...

    Any day now we'll hear the news.

    That will make it clear how good the system is (insert sarcasm tag here)
  • From the Ars Technica article on the same thing - .html []

    "The Department will also implement Basic Access Control (BAC) to mitigate further any potential threat of skimming or eavesdropping. [...] BAC utilizes a form of Personal Identification Number (PIN) that must be physically read in order to unlock the data on the chip. In this case, the PIN will be derived from the printed characters from the second line of data on the Machine-Readable Zone that is vi

    • After the NZ govt announced the new E-passports I had an email exchange with one of the people involved with this process, he indicated:
      • data IS encrypted using a printed machine readable key on the passport page
      • it wont have an embedded woven shirld in the cover like the US ones do
      • the polycarbonate page the chip is embedded in will make the passport much less flexible (I carry mine everywhere and depend on it sitting comfortably in a jacket pocket or occasionally seat pocket of my jeans) - I still worry
      • Interesting; I had an email conversation with someone at the DIA as well. They said they had to refer it to a specialist who would answer my question. The specialist then said that no, they would not have encryption but that they would have shielding in the jacket. Sounds like they've got their stories crossed...

        I have 4 point something left on mine, unfortunately...

      • The exact quote from my exchange

        Me: is the transmitted information encrypted en route or is it sent in the clear?

        DIA: When information is transmitted between the passport and the reader the information is transferred in the clear although physical shielding is employed to minimise the risk of eavesdropping.

        • I think the contents are encrypted and can't be accessed unless you present the printed key (can't be accessed directly by the trash-can bomb as you walk down the street - so it can't tell what your nationality is, maybe just that you have an e-passport [and maybe as a result that you are a westerner]). But once unlocked the data is transfered in the clear.

          So we probably asked slightly different things (as I understand there is a possibility of snooping at the reading station which is supposed to be shiel

  • What biometric? (Score:2, Informative)

    by im_dan ( 887241 )
    As an Australian citizen I just got one of these a month ago. I don't know what they are talking about biometric data being stored, I did not submit a thumbprint or undergo an Iris scan. It was just a regular passport application with only my name etc, so unless the government already has this information on file which I'm sure they don't. This e-passport is just a normal passport with my information on the chip.
    • Re:What biometric? (Score:2, Informative)

      by TheDugong ( 701481 )
      You are correct - if you read the documentation that comes with it (RTFM 8O) ), or at least did come with mine. Just mirrors your details incl photo. However, if you have dead chip or the chip contains incorrect data (which you cannot validate yourself) you are going to have to prove that you are not a forger and probably have your trip/holiday f&*ked.
    • Your photograph is a biometric. (To nit-pick, we have had biometric passports for decades because they've always contained this particular biometric).
  • The security of biometrics has been discussed before here. Biometrics are not as safe or as authentic as they sound. There are two easy ways to fool biometric systems:

    1. Create a reasonable facsimile of the biometrics that the target reader will accept. There is James Bond movie where he used a glass eye with the correct retina pattern in it.

    2. Capture the digital stream of ones and zeroes that corresponds to a particular biometric and find where to plug that into the authentication process to have the i

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