Wardriving for Passports

Hacker copies passport data with off-the-shelf gear

In an astonishing display of the vulnerability of modern identification technology, Chris Paget, an “ethical hacker,” assembled $250 worth of electronic equipment that allowed him to scan and copy the information stored on radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips embedded in new passport cards (but not the traditional passport books), as well as in some enhanced drivers’ licenses, while he drove around San Francisco. According to Paget, whose 20-minute experiment was captured on video by The Register, it would be “trivial to program” blank tags with the skimmed identification numbers — a key part of the process of creating counterfeit cards.

Paget was able to scan passport cards from a moving car since the embedded RFID chips broadcast their information. This is a feature the State Department advertises as a convenience, saying, “With RFID technology, Customs and Border Protection inspectors will be able to access photographs and other biographical information stored in secure government databases before the traveler reaches the inspection station.”

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Wardriving

/the law of unintended consequences strikes again

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