I like the idea of RFID technology – being able to quickly pass an embedded item near a reader for immediate access or payment, but there are certain uses that make me nervous – like having an RFID embedded in my passport or other ID that contains most if not all of my personal documentation. These documents can then be easily read by anyone with the proper equipment.
I recently received information about a new product that will block RFID readers from being able to scan the new embedded passports and other documents.
Okay, so this picture doesn’t make the product look fashionable at all, but the function is truly what matters here.
The Passport StrongHold utilizes “the principals of a faraday cage” and is composed of a special metallic tri-weave material which “ensures that no signals can escape”.
The following press release is pretty interesting; I would love to hear your thoughts.
ABOUT PARABEN’S NEW STRONGHOLD BAG
Paraben Corporation will released a product designed to block RFID signals that have many people concerned for their privacy and safety with the new RFID passports. The State Department plans on issuing over 15 million electronic passports in 2007. These e-passports will use RFID chips to transmit your personal information to RFID readers. Paraben’s Passport StrongHold Bags utilize the principals of a faraday cage to completely and securely block these RFID. By completely enclosing the entire passport, the patent pending design of the Passport StrongHold Bag ensures that no signals can escape. Even if the passport partially opens within a wallet or purse, the signal is still contained within the bag. The special tri-weave material used in the Passport StrongHold Bag is made of a Nickel, Copper, Silver Plated Nylon plain woven fabric. This fabric is the key in preventing unwanted signals from escaping your RFID Passport. When you’re ready to use your passport at a legitimate RFID passport reader, simply take it out of the bag to be scanned.
Paraben Corporation was established in 1999. Paraben quickly became a leader in handheld forensics with the release of PDA Seizure. After releasing Cell Seizure, the first commercially available tool for cell phone forensics, Paraben combined the two tools to create Device Seizure, a comprehensive handheld forensic solution. Paraben also has many digital forensic software titles for forensic analysis of hard drives & media as well as specialized tools for enterprise level forensics, training classes, as well as forensic hardware.
QUESTIONS ABOUT NEW E-PASSPORTS
In many countries, including the United States, passports will soon be equipped with RFID chips. And you don’t want one of these chips in your passport. RFID stands for “radio-frequency identification.” Passports with RFID chips store an electronic copy of the passport information: your name, a digitized picture, etc. And in the future, the chip might store fingerprints or digital visas from various countries.
By itself, this is no problem. But RFID chips don’t have to be plugged in to a reader to operate. Like the chips used for automatic toll collection on roads or automatic fare collection on subways, these chips operate via proximity. The risk to you is the possibility of surreptitious access: Your passport information might be read without your knowledge or consent by a government trying to track your movements, a criminal trying to steal your identity or someone just curious about your citizenship. Travel abroad and you’ll notice how often you have to show your passport: at hotels, banks, Internet cafes. Anyone intent on harvesting passport data could set up a reader at one of those places. And although the State Department insists that the chip can be read only by a reader that is inches away, the chips have been read from many feet away.
The other security mechanisms are also vulnerable, and several security researchers have already discovered flaws. One found that he could identify individual chips via unique characteristics of the radio transmissions. Another successfully cloned a chip. The State Department called this a “meaningless stunt,” pointing out that the researcher could not read or change the data. But the researcher spent only two weeks trying; the security of your passport has to be strong enough to last 10 years. This is perhaps the greatest risk. The security mechanisms on your passport chip have to last the lifetime of your passport. It is as ridiculous to think that passport security will remain secure for that long as it would be to think that you won’t see another security update for Microsoft Windows in that time. Improvements in antenna technology will certainly increase the distance at which they can be read.
The Colorado passport office is already issuing RFID passports, and the State Department expects all U.S. passport offices to be doing so by the end of the year. Many other countries are in the process of changing over.