11/17/2006
01:45 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
Commentary

Secure U.K. Passport Cracked

Two British security experts were able to read encrypted data off a supposedly highly secure U.K. RFID-equipped passport using equipment priced under £250, according to the Guardian.. But is that an impressive hack? The UK government thinks not:



Two British security experts were able to read encrypted data off a supposedly highly secure U.K. RFID-equipped passport using equipment priced under £250, according to the Guardian..

But is that an impressive hack? The UK government thinks not:

"It correctly points out that the information sucked out of the chip is only the same as that which appears on the page, readable with the human eye. And to obtain the key in the first place, you would need to have access to the passport to read (with the naked eye) its number, expiry date and the date of birth of its holder.

"This doesn't matter," says a Home Office spokesman. "By the time you have accessed the information on the chip, you have already seen it on the passport. What use would my biometric image be to you? And even if you had the information, you would still have to counterfeit the new passport - and it has lots of new security features. If you were a criminal, you might as well just steal a passport."

However, some computer experts believe the Home Office is being dangerously naive. Several months ago, Lukas Grunwald, founder of DN-Systems Enterprise Solutions in Germany, conducted a similar attack to ours on a German biometric passport and succeeded in cloning its RFID chip. He believes unscrupulous criminals or terrorists would find this technology very useful.

"If you can read the chip, then you can clone it," he says. "You could use this to clone a passport that would exploit the system to illegally enter another country." ...

Grunwald adds: "The problems could get worse when they put fingerprint biometrics on to the passports. There are established ways of making forged fingerprints. In the future, the authorities would like to have automated border controls, and such forged fingerprints [stuck on to fingers] would probably fool them."

The article goes on to talk about some of the other security measures on the passport -- photo ID, fingerprints, and how they might be thwarted.

(Via Boing Boing)

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