Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Electronic Passports May Make Americans Targets

Filed under
Security

A State Department plan to introduce electronic passports this summer has raised concern among a number of observers that, in an attempt to help protect Americans at home, the government could put U.S. travelers abroad at risk from terrorists and thieves.

Some privacy advocates and travel groups charge that a remotely readable chip in the passports, which the State Department intends to begin issuing after a roll-out to government employees in August, could be scanned by criminals or terrorists out to target Americans.

Under current plans, the chip, called a radio-frequency ID or RFID chip, will contain the same identifying information as is printed in the passport--name, passport number, birthday, and place of birth. The data will be unencrypted, and will also include a digital picture for use with facial recognition technology.

The read-only, digitally signed chip is meant to prevent forged passports and improve U.S. border security. It would be examined by border officials using electronic readers tuned to the chip's radio frequency.

he RFID chip doesn't actively broadcast, but, with the right equipment, it can be read from a distance, although just how far is under dispute. The State Department and the technical specification for the chip say that the data can be read only within four inches, but critics contend the signal can be detected from as far away as 60 feet. Terrorists and criminals could take advantage of the electronic passports to target Americans.

To prevent the potential threat against American travelers, the State Department says it plans to include material in the passport cover that will block the signal from the RFID chip. The shielding cover would mean the chip could be read only when the passport is open. "Stitching a metal web into the cover creates a Faraday cage," says V.C. Kumar, manager for emerging markets at TI. "It kills the RFID signal."

Some Americans concerned about the potential risks of electronic passports are obtaining or renewing regular paper-and-ink passports before the new electronic ones are issued. The State Department does not plan to force people to switch to electronic passports before their old ones expire, but that American travelers might face electronic passport requirements from other countries before their low-tech passport becomes invalid.

Full Story.

More in Tux Machines

Sean Michael Kerner on OpenStack

Xubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet - Fabulous

I have to say, Xubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet shattered my expectations. Obliterated them. Overall, I was expecting a distro that would be about as good as its parent. Instead, I got this fine piece of digital machinery, which purrs and meows and growls like a turbo-charged tiger, if this silly metaphor makes any sense. Or is it an analogy? Now, one tiny software glitch, plus one big regression that affects the entire family. That's the sum of my complains. On the plus side, Xubuntu fully supports the hardware, including the tricky UEFI stuff, it's fast, robust, elegant, rich in software and features, simple and fun to use, and it works well with anything I've thrown at it. By far the best distro of this year. I don't give out 10/10 lightly, but I'm inclined to do that right now, even though the few tiny problems we've had prevent me from doing that. However, the whole package reminds me of Fuduntu, really. Pure and simple and just good. 9.99999/10. Try it, you won't be disappointed. We're done here. Read more

Akanda Pledges to Keep SDN Tech for OpenStack Open-Source

Rosendahl emphasized that Akanda was born as open-source software and will remain open-source. From a commercial perspective what Akanda provides to enterprises is support and professional services. Read more

A New Firefox OS phone

Last Monday, I bought the phone anyway. I must say that I am very pleased by its performance and very cheap price. One can swap the SIM card to use the phone with another carrier here, too. Read more