If you renew your US passport in the next few months, it will come with something more than just your picture and printed information. You’ll also get a chip that will broadcast all of that and more.
By itself, this is no problem. But RFID chips don’t have to be plugged in to a reader to operate. Like the chips used for automatic toll collection on roads or automatic fare collection on subways, these chips operate via proximity. The risk to you is the possibility of surreptitious access: Your passport information might be read without your knowledge or consent by a government trying to track your movements, a criminal trying to steal your identity or someone just curious about your citizenship.
While the State Department says that the safety features they’ve built in will protect the information, several security experts have already demonstrated that they don’t work.
One of them was even able to clone the chip. Federal officials called that a “meaningless stunt” since he was unable to change the information or create one with new information.
But keep in mind that it took him about two weeks to make that happen. Passports are issued for ten years.
Does anyone who knows anything about technology want to bet that the current security measures will be effective for that length of time?
The whole idea of creating an electronic passport is a good one. If done correctly, it would improve security while also allow for faster processing when traveling.
When done poorly, as seems to be the case here, it opens the system up to even more abuse and puts anyone carrying a passport at risk of giving away their identity.
There, don’t you feel safer?