Feeds

Passport RFIDs cloned wholesale by $250 eBay auction spree

Video demo shows you how

Seven Steps to Software Security

Using inexpensive off-the-shelf components, an information security expert has built a mobile platform that can clone large numbers of the unique electronic identifiers used in US passport cards and next generation drivers licenses.

The $250 proof-of-concept device - which researcher Chris Paget built in his spare time - operates out of his vehicle and contains everything needed to sniff and then clone RFID, or radio frequency identification, tags. During a recent 20-minute drive in downtown San Francisco, it successfully copied the RFID tags of two passport cards without the knowledge of their owners.

Paget's contraption builds off the work of researchers at RSA and the University of Washington, which last year found weaknesses in US passport cards and so-called EDLs, or enhanced drivers' licenses. So far, about 750,000 people have applied for the passport cards, which are credit card-sized alternatives to passports for travel between the US and Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. EDLs are currently offered by Washington and New York states.

"It's one thing to say that something can be done, it's another thing completely to actually do it," Paget said in explaining why he built the device. "It's mainly to defeat the argument that you can't do it in the real world, that there's no real-world attack here, that it's all theoretical."

Use of the cards is expected to rise as US officials continue to encourage their adoption. Civil liberties groups have criticized the cards and a travel industry association has called on the federal government to suspend their use until the risks can be better understood.

The cards make use of the RFID equivalent of optical barcodes known as electronic product code tags, which are widely used to track cattle and merchandise as it's shipped and then stored in warehouses. Because the technology employs no encryption and can be read from distances of more than a mile, the tags are highly susceptible (PDF) to cloning and tracking, researchers have concluded.

Paget's device consists of a Symbol XR400 RFID reader (now manufactured by Motorola), a Motorola AN400 patch antenna mounted to the side of his Volvo XC90, and a Dell 710m that's connected to the RFID reader by ethernet cable. The laptop runs a Windows application Paget developed that continuously prompts the RFID reader to look for tags and logs the serial number each time one is detected. He bought most of the gear via auctions listed on eBay.

And if you read on, we'll show you video proof that the thing actually works.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

Next page: Caught on Video

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.