Monday, May 16, 2005

RFID Passport security proposal: defeating the purpose?

Schneier on Security: RFID Passport Security

"The solution would require an RFID reader to provide a key or password before it could read data embedded on an RFID passport's chip. It would also encrypt data as it's transmitted from the chip to a reader so that no one could read the data if they intercepted it in transit."

The devil is in the details, but this is a great idea.

I have to agree with some of the posters to Bruce Schneier's blog that this is certainly not a "great idea".

  1. This seems to entirely defeat the purpose of "contactless" passport data reading. If you have to scan the passport physically, it would be more secure to forego RFID entirely and put all of the data in a contact-based reader. This would offer greater privacy protection. Of course, it doesn't have the RFID "bling" so would be entirely rejected by technophiles.

  2. Again, the devil is in the details, but once someone has read your key, they can now access and decrypt your passport data remotely anytime they want. What keeps those keys secure after they have been accessed? Are there going to be passport "skimming" attacks as with magstripe credit cards?

  3. Attackers abroad can still use RFID "presence" to detect which tourists are Americans, even if they could not read the data on the passport. Thus RFID would seem to still increase risk to Americans rather than make us safer. Funny how that works with these newfangled "security" measures being imposed by the government.

Here is a related article on the government caving to privacy advocates. Feds Rethinking RFID Passport

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