2007-08-31
RFID Blockers for new Electronic Passports
Last summer on our arrival in Dubai we had a little mishap, and Liz's passport went through the laundry (see Taken to the Cleaners).

Luckily the US Consulate in Dubai is fantastic, so we were able to get a temporary one year passport and not ruin our honeymoon (see Your Tax Dollars at Work ...).

Anyway this summer Liz got a new passport. The only problem? It's brand new - one of the new Electronic Passports.

USA Electronic Passport Photo


The little rectangle and circle glyph means that this is an Electronic Passport.

Electronic Passport logo


The Electronic Passports contain an RFID (Radio-frequency identification) chip on which data about the passport and passport bearer is stored. This will help facilitate border inspections, kind of like a barcode for the 21st century.

Yeah, a little Orwellian, eh?

And then I read this technical analysis - Flexilis RFID Passport Implementation Vulnerabilities.

I'll quote just a little bit. (BAC stands for Basic Access Control, which is an authentication program like a digital signature that prevents anyone reading or accessing the information on the chip without the owner's knowledge):

    Assuming that BAC is secure, the risk of explicit information disclosure (identity theft) is minimal due to the authentication required to access any personal information; however, what security expert Jon Callas has described as a one-bit attack remains. For an attacker to authoritatively know that someone is carrying a passport (and where he or she is carrying it) is a large security threat that may subject Americans to increased risk abroad. Additionally, various characteristics (unique singulation identifiers, power analysis, etc.) can be utilized to fingerprint the characteristics unique to each country's RFID deployment and allow attackers to ascertain the exact country a given passport belongs to. Taken to a logical extreme, this could enable what has been described as a RFID-equipped mine which only detonates in the presence of U.S. citizens.

Holy cow.

Yes, I know it says taken to a "logical extreme", but really all logic gets thrown out the window when you picture your wife being detonated by a mine.

Oh, and it's illegal to tamper with the chip, so no microwaving it.

The only other thing to do? Block the signal.

A quick search online found these products billing themselves as "RFID Blocking":


Of course, there's no Consumer Reports test for all of these yet. So we opted for the Paraben StrongHold Bag, I'm not really sure why.

It's actually a whole lot nicer than it looks in the photo, there's a little billfold for money and credit cards, it's pretty handy. Hopefully it'll work well at blocking the RFID, too ...
posted by Josh @ 10:50 AM  

Josh and Liz are two American kids who got married in August. Liz has lived in Dubai since 2003, Josh since August of 2006.

Follow along in the culture shock of being recently married and (for Josh, at least) recently transplanted to Dubai.


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