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Old 17 December 2007, 12:34 AM
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snopes snopes is offline
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 109,653
Blow Your Top How secure are U.S.' new 'smart' passports?

In a scary video on YouTube, an explosion in a trash can, which appears to be wirelessly triggered by a passport equipped with a computer chip, blows away a dummy.

Two caveats: That's not a real passport, and even Kevin Mahaffey, the L.A. security consultant who made the video, calls it "a far-out scenario."

It is unlikely that terrorists or others could steal your identity or attack you through the new computer chips in U.S. passports, many experts say. But that hasn't stopped the rumors from ricocheting around the Internet and elsewhere.

Sorting fact from fiction is tough when it comes to the "smart" chips, tiny integrated circuits that are now being embedded in U.S. passports. They're part of U.S. efforts to improve border security that, starting Jan. 31, will also tighten document requirements for traveling from Canada to the U.S.
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Old 17 December 2007, 01:20 AM
BluesScale BluesScale is offline
Join Date: 29 December 2005
Location: Woolhampton, Berkshire, UK
Posts: 1,355

Not all that way out. I could introduce you to a man who can clone a passport from 3 feet away.

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Old 17 December 2007, 06:13 PM
Troberg Troberg is offline
Join Date: 04 November 2005
Location: Borlänge, Sweden
Posts: 11,580

My company had its annual user conference a month or so ago, with about 600 guests. One of the speakers, Per Hellqvist, is a Swedish security specialist from Symantec, and one of the issues he mentioned were the risks of passports with RFID chips.

He pointed out, and I agree, that RFID chips can be read without the knowledge of the owner, and from a certain distance. It would for instance, be possible and quite easy to plant a car bomb which is triggered by the proximity of a person who carries a passport with a certain nationality code. It would be equally easy to simply copy the information off the RFID chip and put it on another passport. Remember, digital information that can be read can also be copied.

Most concerning, however, from the perspective of the average citizen, is that the movements of ordinary citizens can be tracked without their knowledge. Already, laws are in place (in Sweden) that allows this based on such weak suspicions such as "went to school with a suspected criminal" or "often shops in the same grocery store as a suspected criminal". That's scary.

If they start with RFID-equipped passports in Sweden, I will give mine a few seconds on full power in the microwave, just to make sure it's not going to get copied.
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