Mythbusters RFID episode axed after 'pressure' from credit card firms
Update: Since we published this story MythBusters host Adam Savage has backtracked on claims that Discovery Channel caved into commercial pressure in canceling a planned show on RFID technology. See new story here.
Discovery Channel prevented the exploration of RFID security by Mythbusters, the popular science television show, after allegedly coming under pressure from credit card companies.
Mythbusters co-host Adam Savage said a planned segment of the program was going to look at how hackable, reliable and trackable RFID technology might be. A researcher for the show called up Texas Instruments to arrange a conference call to talk about the technology.
But when the call took place, Texas Instruments brought along big legal guns from the credit card industry.
"Texas Instruments comes on along with chief legal counsel for American Express, Visa, Discover, and everybody else," Savage told delegates at the recent HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference.
"They [MythBusters production team] were way, way outgunned and they [lawyers] made it really clear to Discovery that they were not going to air this episode talking about how hackable this stuff was. Discovery backed down being a large corporation that depends upon the revenue of the advertisers. Now it's on Discovery's radar and they won't let us go near it."
Texas Instruments has responded to these accusations by saying that only one lawyer took part in the conference call, and that technical questions were explored. It said that it wasn't involved in putting pressure on Mythbusters or Discovery to drop the segment, suggesting it got credit card firms involved because they were more familiar with contactless payment technologies.
"Technical questions were asked and answered and we were to wait for MythBusters to let us know when they were planning on showing the segment. A few weeks later, Texas Instruments was told by MythBusters that the storyline had changed and they were pursuing a different angle which did not require our help," TI told CNET in a statement.
Savage's completely different take on this conversation can be found in a clip posted on YouTube:
The use of RFID technology in passports and credit cards has increased the profile of the technology. Security researchers have demonstrated a variety of techniques for snooping on data held on RFID chips, created cloned chips and other exploits.
Advertisers, credit card companies may have been able to apply commercial pressure to make sure Mythbusters was prevented from exploring the issue, but the wider debate will go on regardless. ®
Reduced Profts = Slander
"The First Amendment to the US Constitution which guarantees Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press, simply says that the government cannot a priori stop you from saying/printing an article/opinion/whatever about something. It does not mean that once spoken/printed, you cannot be sued by other citizens for slander, libel, etc. With Freedom comes Responsibility." - Burns
And if through speech you reduce the profitability of an AmeriKKKan corporation then you have been irresponsible and will have your ass sued. And those with the deepest pockets will win.
Its the AmeriKKKan way
Reminds me of an episode of Judge Milan. They had a lady that had stolen hundreds of dollars of clothes from several malls, on a daily basis for months. They knew she was doing it but it did not set off the door sensors so they let her keep on doing it for a while.
When they had enough camera evidence, they arrested her. In court they sentenced her, and were about to haul her off. About that time, a representative from the RFID Tag Co. (sensormatic, I think) asked the judge if they could question her. She agreed. (This was actually on the segment that was broadcast) They said that they still could not figure out how she was evading the sensors at the door.
The judge asked if she would answer, and she just opened up her jacket, and it was lined with strips of electrical tape, that she would just wrap around the RFID Tags, and Voila!...
The tag was isolated from the RF that the door sensors use to RING the tags... and she would just walk out of the store...no alarms...no security...just profit.
The judge asked how she figured that out, and she said her boyfriend was in electronics class, and said it was a characteristic of the electrical tape. It was made to block radio type radiation.
This does not cover the reading of tags, but if you do not want to be read, it may still work.
Mine's the one with the roll of electrical tape in the pocket.
You've got it completely right!!!!!!!!!