Feeds

People-chipping tech cloned by hackers

Cyberfunk

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Hackers demonstrated how to clone a copy of an human-implanted RFID chip at a hacking conference this week. The demonstration goes against claims from people-chipping firm VeriChip that its technology, the subject of the experiment, can uniquely identify an individual.

By cloning a chip it would be possible to assume someone's identity, at least in situations where VeriChip devices are used as the sole means of identification.

The main difficulty against such an attack is that a VeriChip can only be read at a range of less than 30cm.

During a presentation at the HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference in New York, Jonathan Westhues demonstrated how it was possible to read the ID number of a VeriChip implanted into the arm of his colleague, Annalee Newitz, using a standard RFID reader, an antenna, and a laptop running signal-processing software.

Westhues first held the RFID reader against Newitz's arm. He then scanned the tiny device again using an antenna connected to his laptop in order to record the signal transmitted by the implanted device. Westhues then waved the RFID reader by the antenna, revealing Newitz’s until then "unique" ID. This information is enough to produce a cloned chip, the hackers claim.

"Their [VeriChip's] website claims that it cannot be counterfeited — that is something that Jonathan and I have shown to be untrue," Newitz said, adding that the tiny RFID chip used by VeriChip contains no built-in security (such as a challenge response mechanism) that prevents the attack.

A spokesman for VeriChip, a subsidiary of Applied Digital, said it hadn't had a chance to review the experiment so it wasn't able to comment on the hacker's cloning claim.

"We can't verify what they may or may not have done," a spokesman told Reuters. "We haven't seen any first-hand evidence other than what's been reported in the media.

"It's very difficult to steal a VeriChip… it's much more secure than anything you'd carry around in your wallet," he added.

"VeriChip" is described by its manufacturers as an implantable, passive radio frequency identification device (RFID) about the size of a grain of sand that can be used in a variety of applications such as assessing whether somebody has authority to enter a high-security area.

In medicine (the main market), the idea is that if a patient is unconscious, or otherwise unable to tell doctors about their medical condition, medics can still find out this information using the ID contained on the VeriChip. This number is cross-referenced with hospital databases to give a patient's medical records. ®

External links

Cloning a Verichip

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.