Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Identity Theft hazard to YOU apparently caused by US Border Protection Department

Rights of free individuals placed at risk by US Government.

Using inexpensive off-the-shelf components, an information security expert has built a mobile platform that can clone large numbers of the unique electronic identifiers used in US passport cards and next generation drivers licenses. The $250 proof-of-concept device - which researcher Chris Paget built in his spare time - operates out of his vehicle and contains everything needed to sniff and then clone RFID, or radio frequency identification, tags. During a recent 20-minute drive in downtown San Francisco, it successfully copied the RFID tags of two passport cards without the knowledge of their owners. Paget's device consists of a Symbol XR400 RFID reader (now manufactured by Motorola), a Motorola AN400 patch antenna mounted to the side of his Volvo XC90, and a Dell 710m that's connected to the RFID reader by ethernet cable. The laptop runs a Windows application Paget developed that continuously prompts the RFID reader to look for tags and logs the serial number each time one is detected. He bought most of the gear via auctions listed on eBay.

Officials with the US Customs and Border Protection Department say they have no plans to overhaul the technology used in passport cards.

ACLU Northern California warn: "It can be used for tracking, stalking, identity theft, and counterfeiting. If the government continues to stick its head in the sand and ignore the very real privacy and security threats that researchers, civil liberties organizations, and even industry groups have repeatedly brought to its attention, the American people will pay a very high price."

IMO: Either the US Government will have to account for their own faulty security or jail honest individuals ('white hat hackers') who report such possibilities to the public. I, presumably like many others, was aware (in principle) of this passport cloning abuse possibility as soon as they thought of introducing it. It is not putting an unduly kind face on it to say that the US Government has systematically, at least over the period of the last Administration, tried to cover up for its inadequacies simply by jailing potential whistle blowers and causing legitimate fear to those who wish to exercise their rights as free individuals.

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