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August 7, 2006

meanwhile, at the hacker convention

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Except when it is a room full of hackers learning how to breech Radio Frequency Identification Technology used in new super-secure passports.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (AFP) - High-tech passports touted as advances in national security can be spied on remotely and their identifying radio signals cloned, computers hackers were shown at a conference.

Radio frequency identification technology, referred to as RFID, used in cash cards and passports, can be copied, blocked or imitated, said Melanie Rieback, a privacy researcher at Vrije University in the Netherlands.

Rieback demonstrated a device she and colleagues at Vrije built to hijack the RFID signals that manufacturers have touted as unreadable by anything other than proprietary scanners.

"I spend most of my time making the RFID industry's life miserable," the doctorate student told AFP. "I am not anti-RFID. It has the potential to make people's lives easier, but it needs to be used responsibly."

Rieback and university compatriots expected to have a reliable portable version of their device, RFID Guardian, finished in six months and "had no plans to immediately mass-produce these things."

A cheer rose from the legion of hackers in the conference room when Rieback announced that the schematics and the computer codes for the device would be made public.

"The industry and government needs to not be scared of us," Rieback said. "They need to talk with us and to work with us. Hopefully, together we can come up with some kind of reasonable compromise."

Sounds like fightin' words! The article continues,

Smart chips have been crafted into German passports and are being put into US passports. Stores have experimented with using the tags not only to track inventory, but to bill shoppers for purchases invisibly as they leave.


"If you are using RFID on cows, who cares?" Rieback asked rhetorically. "But, with a passport, it only takes one breach at the wrong time and it could wreck it for the RFID industry."

The potential exists for unauthorized reading of cards, cloning, and tracking people who carry them, Rieback said. (full article)

My personal theory is that the more "secure" we become -- as individuals or as a nation -- the more vulnerable we become.

You see, when we depend on technology, barriers or locks we become less and less dependent on our neighbors. Because we don't need them to help watch out for us, we don't develop relationships with them. Because we don't develop relationships with them, we don't trust them. Because we don't trust them, we protect ourselves from them.

In the midst of the immigration debate and Senate approval for more fences on the Southern Border it is interesting to see this piece about hackers. No wall, no high-tech passport, no militia will make this country safe. Comprehensive reform is necessary because only by caring for our neighbors and restoring mutual trust will our true security increase -- the security of a neighbor who has got our back.

Posted by almamia at August 7, 2006 9:10 AM


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