RFID, its implications and how to defeat

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Imagine a world in which each item you own is identified by a unique code that can be identified through the scanning of a device, in which the location of your vehicle is identified and signal emitting microchips which store your personal information are placed in your skin or inside your organs.

This could be the potential future for RFID, also known as radio frequencies (RFID) which is a technology that has thus only been used for supply chain management (enabling companies, for instance to track the amount of a certain product in inventory) however, it is being explored for tracking passports as well as other purposes. RFID is scheduled to be used to a variety of settings for consumers. The technology is being tested already in products that are as simple as lip balm, shampoo razor blades, clothes as well as cream cheese items that are RFID-enabled are being promoted by both marketing and retailers as the next step in the realm of convenience for customers. The consumer advocates claim that it is setting the stage for a dark future where privacy for consumers is a nostalgic nostalgia.

What is RFID? There are two kinds of RFID tag: passive and active. When people are talking about RFID it is about passive tags. In these, the radio frequency is transmitted from a transmitter onto an RFID chip or card. The chip does not have a power cell per itself, but instead uses the transmitted signal to charge it long enough to react to a coded identification. This identifier is numeric and contains only a unique code, but when it is compared to a database that is able to associate that number with other information, the RFID tag’s identification number can trigger any information that is associated with that number.

Active tags have their own power source inside it, and can be used to store and transmit more precise details.

This RFID value chain comprises three elements that comprise the tags, readers, and the application software that runs the systems. The data generated by the application software could connect to other systems by an enterprise or, if they acquire the data or gather the data themselves, it could be accessed by government agencies or other nefarious organizations.

The places where it is used today
Global corporations such as Gillette, Phillips, Procter & Gamble Wal-Mart, Phillips, Procter & Gamble and many others are seeing enormous savings to be made by using RFID. There are numerous pilot programs in progress that are showing the potential for savings in supply chains, as well as the potential to provide value for both the owner of the product or resellers of products as well as customers.

However, they are pilots generally. RFID is still a long way from being ubiquitous, to date. The tracking of pharmaceuticals has been regarded to be one of the leading application for RFID in the near term however, only a handful of medicines are likely to be tracked by RFID technology at a huge size across the U.S. during 2006, analysts forecast. Slow implementations are in stark contrast with the optimism that was evident last year in which evidence suggested that there could be a triple or even quadrupling the use of RFID-based tracking of consumer goods. Why? Uncertainty about legislation that is pending. There is a complicated mix of state and federal legislation (in specifically Florida as well as California) designed to fight counterfeiting and theft of drugs. These laws can have potential implications to RFID. The details are being determined.

In which case it is most likely to get used in the near future
Depending on which analysts you trust to be, according to which analysts you trust, the demand for RFID technology could be between 1.5 to 30 billion USD by the year 2010. Analyst firm IDTechEx who monitors RFID technology, has predicted that RFID industry, predicts that 585 million tags could be distributed in 2016. The largest growth sector, IDTechEx forsees the tagging of books, food or drugs, tires and tickets, as well as secured papers (passports as well as visas) and livestock, luggage and many more.

Metros and buses in certain areas of the globe are fitted with RFID-enabled readers that are ready to accept multi-application e-tickets. These will ease the burden of the commuter and also help reduce fraud associated with the current system of paper tickets. The biggest issue facing implementation of RFID for commercial micropayments is not technical, and involves the decision of what fees are paid by the clearing house and how the credit earned from lost or discarded tickets is to be distributed.

Tracking of passports
One of the most prominent applications of RFID is the tracking of passports. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks in 2001, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been urging the world to adopt the standard for passports that can be read by machines. Countries that are not required to have visas to travel to in the United States will have to issue passports that comply with the standard, or lose their visa status.

American as well as other passports are currently being created with RFID-based chips that enable the storage of huge amounts of data , such as fingerprints and digital photographs. For the U.S., these passports will be issued in October of this year. At the time of development of these passports, there were numerous security flaws that could be exploited, for instance the ability to be used by anyone, not just those at the passport control (the consequence of this was that those carrying RFID passports were publicly revealing their identities, making it possible for criminals to pick easily and covertly Americans or citizens from other countries participating in the crowd.)

The security flaws were first remedied by adding shielding made of metal inside the cover of the passport in order to make it less visible when closed, reducing the capabilities of the electronics and also adding a unique electronic protocol known as Basic Access Control (or BAC). The BAC scheme requires that the passport be opened and scanned prior to the data contained in it could be correctly read through the RFID receiver. However, in the month of February, Dutch security researchers were able to monitor conversations between a prototype of protected by BAC and broke the protocol. That means that the international agency in charge of establishing this new standard for passports might have go back at the beginning, as of this point, since criminals could be able to get in the way of passport control, and take the information on passports. The details of the Dutch hack can be found here.

Privacy seekers should be aware of the implications.
RFID is a clear signpost for those who are concerned about their privacy and security. Certain aspects are evident while others aren’t.

They can be read with or without your knowledge. Because the tags can be read by being swiped or clearly scannable (as happens with magnetic stripes or barcodes) Anyone who has an RFID tag reader is able to detect the tags on your clothing as well as other products of the consumer market without knowing. As an example, you may be scanned prior to entering the store to check what you’re carrying. You could then be greeted by a person who is aware of the contents of your bag or backpack and may recommend accessories or other things.
RFID tags can be read from greater distances when using an antenna that is high-gain. For many technological reasons RFID tag and reader systems have been designed to ensure that the separation between tags and reader is limited to a minimum. However, high-gain antennas can read tags far away, which can lead to privacy concerns. Governments and other authorities could poke through privacy protections and keep tabs on individuals.
It is difficult to get rid of RFID tags are difficult for people to take off Some are extremely tiny (less than a half-millimeter in size and nearly as small as a piece of paper) Some may be hidden within the product, where consumers are unable to detect the RFID tags. The latest technologies permit RFID tags to print directly on products, and they might not be removable in the least.
In the event of malicious jamming, RFID signals are jammed that could impede daily life in the event that RFID tags become indispensable. Consider a bus station or train station, perhaps even an airport, in which all passengers could not be identified or have access to their cash accounts. One hour of congestion during the morning rush across an area of large size could cost a city millions of dollars of delayed transportation and commerce. It’s more costly than a mass transit strike and it is easier to repeat.
It could be tied to the number on a credit card. Universal Product Code (UPC) that is implemented using barcodes permits each item sold in a retail shop to be identified with an unique number that can identify the item. The work is underway on the creation of a global system for product identification , which would permit each item to be given its own unique number. If the item is checked to purchase it and then purchased it, this RFID tag number of an item could be linked to that credit card that it was purchased using.
Possibility of fraud if the RFID tag is used to authenticate a person who has the ability to access an RFID reader is able to easily record and fake another’s unique numeric identifier which is, in essence their digital signature. If an RFID-tagged smartcard was utilized for shopping or other transactions, for example, anyone who catches and reverse-engineered your account number and then programmed another card using it, could be able to make charges to your account.
Criminals can be identified even after you have left a store the RFID tags that you purchase remain active. Someone could pass by you at the mall and be able to see exactly the items you’ve got in your bag, identifying you as a possible victim. They could also ring your home using an RFID scanner to collect information on the items you have in your home before taking it away. In the aftermath, there is a discussion of dead RFID tags that are able to expire when leaving the store but come back to life if the item is taken back to the retailer and later returned back to supply chains.
The marking of violence hardware and even clothes are now making use RFID tags to identify these items in supply chains. RFID is used for authorities in the U.S. military to track the materials used within Iraq as well as Afghanistan. Certain analysts are worried about certain items being linked with high-ranking officers, which could cause roadside bombs by RFID scans of cars. RFID scan of cars passing through. (Thankfully RFID tags kept near the body can seldom be read. For example UHF tags, those that are most commonly used, are almost impossible to read near the body due of their high water content.)
Some have claimed that mobile phones are an immediate threat for privacy and security as RFID. For mobile phones, data regarding your location and call patterns are regularly accessible the service providers you use, which is a central and tightly controlled source of data collection. Someone with special-purpose equipment could be able of monitoring your mobile phone however, it would require a lot of expertise and money. Check out our separate article “Cell phone dangers”.

What can make RFID an even greater security threat over mobile devices is RFID readers will be readily accessible and readily available. Also, RFID readers will soon become a part of our daily lives, whereas listening devices for mobile phones is not likely to become.

How can we stop RFID technology?
There are a variety of ways you can stop RFID tag detection … however, before you make any proactive moves be aware that the lack of an RFID tag its signal at the places it is anticipated could cause suspicion. For example, if you’re carrying what’s expected to be an RFID-tagged ID card and your tag isn’t functioning it could attract suspicions. Be cautious about the tags you select to interfere with.

The most straightforward, and lasting method to remove RFID tag is to eliminate the RFID tags. If you are able to detect they are there and want to eliminate them, simply remove them by smashing the tiny chip components using the Hammer. If you’re not sure if the product you have purchased has tags, you might want to put it in a microwave to eliminate the tag, provided that the object is safe to microwave. Be aware of certain types of materials. There have been reports of RFID material catching fire when exposed to microwaves.

If the removal of the tag is not feasible there are four basic ways to interfere with RFID tags’ detection.
– Blocking Build A conductive foil box (even the tin foil option is great) surrounding the tag. If you’re concerned about RFID emission from work badges or school IDs, the latest driver’s licenses of the next generation, credit cards and even cash in the near future with RFID tags, you can purchase or create an RFID-proof wallet. The details of RFID wallets can be found via the Internet.
Jamming As RFID systems operate using electromagnetic waves, similar to cellphones and wireless networks and cellphones, they are relatively easily jammed by using a radio signal that is strong that operates at the same frequency as the tag is operating at. Though this could be an inconvenience to customers at shops (longer waiting times at the cash register) however, it could prove dangerous in other places where RFID is more frequently employed, such as hospitals or in military conflict situations. These devices are, however, likely to typically violate government regulations regarding radio emission. A group of researchers in Amsterdam have theorized that a personal RFID jammer is possible (their paper is linked to from the version of this article that lives at our web site, www.powerprivacy.com) but the device seems only theoretical at this time.
– Repetitive interrogation RFID tags that utilize batteries to expand the reach of the system may be repeatedly questioned, causing wear to the battery, causing disruption to the system.
A extremely strong radiation pulse at the appropriate frequency could result in RFID tags to vibrate and break.

The best strategy to take depends on the RFID privacy risks you are trying to avoid and also your technical know-how.

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