What’s read and goes at 30 miles an hour?

An RFID-chipped passport, it seems…

Chris Paget, a security researcher in California, successfully read the data off US electronic passports from a range of 20 feet while driving past at 30 mph in a San Francisco street.

The bickering about how close to an RFID passport chip one has to be in order to read it has been going on for years… In 2006, when the implementers were saying that the chip and reader had to be no more than 2 cms apart, Dutch researchers had scanned chips at a range of 30 cms. Even back in 2004, Bruce Schneier reported RFID chips being read from 20 metres (about 70 feet), though from this article it’s not clear whether they were ISO 14443 e-passport chips – and different chips use different radio frequencies.

Given that even Visa Waiver candidates (such as UK citizens travelling to the US) now have to stand at the DHS officer’s counter for long enough to provide all 10 fingerprint biometrics and a facial photograph, what exactly is the legitimate requirement for contactless access to the passport chip?

For what it’s worth, I am still using the Faraday wallet I bought back in 2006…


2 thoughts on “What’s read and goes at 30 miles an hour?

  1. CarolynC says:

    Hmm. I’ve never pictured you with a tin foil hat. Nope. Doesn’t fit. I take it you never got nicked for your Faraday wallet. :-)P.S. Happy Beyond Groundhog Day! ;-)cc

  2. Note that the “hack” only works on those new e-passport cards and not on the “regular” passport book. The latter has encryption and authentication and so is a bit more secure.Still, ordering one of those faraday wallet ;)Hubert

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