Feeds

Passport RFIDs cloned wholesale by $250 eBay auction spree

Video demo shows you how

Top three mobile application threats

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.

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Next page: Caught on Video

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Heartbleed exploit, inoculation, both released
File under 'this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me'
Canadian taxman says hundreds pierced by Heartbleed SSL skewer
900 social insurance numbers nicked, says revenue watchman
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
Burnt out on patches this month? Oracle's got 104 MORE fixes for you
Mass patch for issues across its software catalog
Reddit users discover iOS malware threat
'Unflod Baby Panda' looks to snatch Apple IDs
Oracle working on at least 13 Heartbleed fixes
Big Red's cloud is safe and Oracle Linux 6 has been patched, but Java has some issues
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.