RFID Passport Security

Posted on Tuesday 31 January 2006

Well, RFID Passports are now a reality thanks to GWB’s administration insisting on them. Once again, this is a case where some idiot has thought putting technology into a process would make it more secure. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Adam, over at Emergent Chaos, has pointed out some flaws identified in the RFID passport implementation. Although his article specifically mentions Dutch passports, since these passports are supposed to be standardized between countries, these flaws will probably be found in all the passports using the same technological standards.

My favorite quote, and probably the most important statement in his article is:

The radio has no function, and introduces a plethora of security holes. It should be removed now, before the State Department needs to replace millions of passports.

I’ve mentioned this issue almost a year ago, which you can read here. As far as I can tell, none of the questions I’ve asked have been answered with any degree of satisfaction. My theory—that the new passports may allow terrorists to create “smart bombs” which can target specific nationalities is not unrealistic. Again, this is probably a result of someone doing something because it might help with security, while having no fundamental idea of what real security actually is, or how to achieve it.

Technology, being used for technology’s sake, rarely is effective, unless it is done with a thorough understanding of the underlying issues and requirements. That is not the case here. RFID technology is not a technological panacea that will make national security or identifying the bad guys easier, unless it is properly used. In fact, it is more likely to make national security, especially for our citizens abroad, far lower, and make them more easily identifiable by the bad guys.

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