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10/23/2004 Archived Entry: ""
Bruce Schneier maintains a very nice blog dedicated to "covering security and security technology." A sample?
October 4th: "[T]he Bush administration is advocating radio frequency identification (RFID) chips for both U.S. and foreign passports, and that's a very bad thing. These chips are like smart cards, but they can be read from a distance. A receiving device can "talk" to the chip remotely, without any need for physical contact, and get whatever information is on it. Passport officials envision being able to download the information on the chip simply by bringing it within a few centimeters of an electronic reader. Unfortunately, RFID chips can be read by any reader, not just the ones at passport control. The upshot of this is that travelers carrying around RFID passports are broadcasting their identity."
Schneider writes elsewhere, "Security is always a trade-off. If the benefits of RFID outweighed the risks, then maybe it would be worth it. Certainly, there isn't a significant benefit when people present their passport to a customs official. If that customs official is going to take the passport and bring it near a reader, why can't he go those extra few centimeters that a contact chip — one the reader must actually touch — would require .... Unfortunately, there is only one possible reason: The administration wants surreptitious access themselves. It wants to be able to identify people in crowds. It wants to surreptitiously pick out the Americans, and pick out the foreigners."
The use of such chips -- in passports first but gradually in driver's licenses, etc. -- would also allow officials to identify everyone at a protest. The political uses to which RFIDs could be put are sweeping.
As Steve C comments, "I sense a business opportunity.. RFID shielded cases for passports.. You open it to scan it and then close it to prevent someone else from reading it.. Hmm, lets expand that RF shielded wallets.. prevents someone from tinkering(not sure of the possibilities here..) or blasting (definitely doable, did it to myself in an NMR building.. GRIN!) your Driver's license and credit cards.." Then Steve catches himself, "Of course, somebody will write a memo and make them illegal.. (not the way a law is supposed to be passed..)"