US passport and RFID

Once more, the use of RFID with ID cards raises many concerns. This time it is for the new US passport cards. These cards are only valid for sea and land travel. It seems that the design was only driven by cost consideration. There are two main characteristics

  • It uses off the shelf standard EPC chips (i.e., low cost tags as used for inventory tracking)
  •   The reading distance is 50 meters!

Being a standard EPC, the card just delivers a unique ID. This unique ID can be eavesdropped and reprogrammed in a blank EPC. Of course, the security relies on the guard who should check that the corresponding record points to the right owner. But we all know that vigilance decreases with time.
The long range of reading is an obvious privacy issue. With such a distance, it is easy to trace somebody. The solution proposed by the Administration is a privacy sleeve! This would never work with me. I would sooner or later forget it or loose it.
But the nicest is the “Kill” command. For privacy issue, EPC have a kill command that mutes definitively the chip. EPC are used for inventory tracking. Once the item sold, it must be possible to desactivate the chip. This command is legitimate for its initial use but not for this one. In a March post, I described a Denial Of Service attack to pass a border. With this type of card, it is extremely easy to mount it.
As usually, Administration downgrades the risks. According to them, the risks are improbable! When security design is driven by money, the result is often a catastrophe.

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