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Code highlights e-passport eavesdropping risk

What RFIDIOt chipped my passport?

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Researchers have released proof-of-concept code that creates a means to read personal details from next-generation passports outfitted with RFID chips.

In a posting on security mailing list BugTraq, Adam Laurie of secure hosting facility the bunker explains how the latest version RFIDIOt, an open-source python library for RFID exploration, contains code that implements the standard for machine readable travel documents in the shape of a test program called mrpkey.py.

The software exchanges crypto keys with a passport to read and display its contents, including the facial image and the personal data printed in the passport.

The approach still requires knowing a secret key, derived from data printed inside a passport, which is designed to protect against eavesdropping. However, Laurie reckons this information (the passport number, date of birth of the holder, and passport expiry date) is obtainable by means other than physical access to a passport such as poorly secured airline websites.

It might also be possible to obtain the keys by trying a targeted subset of possible combinations.

The attack is the latest in a catalogue of assaults that raise serious security questions about the implementation of RFID technology by banks and governments. As well as earlier attacks involving the cloning of RFID tags on e-passports, security researchers recently highlighted security weaknesses of so-called contactless credit cards issued by some US banks. ®

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