Feeds

State bill would turn RFID researchers into felons

If white hats are outlawed...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The sponsor of a controversial bill before the Nevada legislature has promised to introduce amendments after security experts and civil libertarians warned it would make felons of people studying privacy threats involving RFID, or radio frequency identification.

In its present form, Senate Bill 125 (PDF) would make it a felony for anyone to possess, read or capture the personally identifying RFID information of others without their consent. Without changes, the legislation would prevent the testing and demonstrating of RFID weaknesses in a state that hosts Defcon and Black Hat, the biggest hacker conference and one of the biggest security conferences respectively.

State Senator David Parks, the original sponsor of the bill, said he intends to amend the bill on Monday to exempt people carrying out "legitimate research." Security experts say that is important because the bill as it's now written would seriously impinge on their ability to test the security of RFID in real-world scenarios.

"The ability to be able to take this RFID technology into the real world and actually show it to people is pretty crucial because there is a lot of misunderstanding about the technology and people need practical demonstrations of things in order to understand the weaknesses in it," said Chris Paget, who last month demonstrated a low-cost mobile platform that can clone large numbers of unique RFID tags embedded in US passport cards and next generation drivers licenses. "It definitely needs an exception."

Paget's $250 RFID war-driving device managed to clone three passport card RFID tags during a 20-minute drive in downtown San Francisco. The exercise was legal because it was conducted in California, where an anti-skimming measure that became law last year expressly exempts skimming "in the course of an act of good faith security research, experimentation, or scientific inquiry."

The safe-harbor provision was added after the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California pushed for it. Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney for the EFF, said a similar exemption is needed in Nevada as well.

"Because the privacy risks of RFID include the likelihood that malevolent entities will 'skim' individuals' RFID-enabled devices in public places without their knowledge, it is important that security researchers be able to lawfully demonstrate that these vulnerabilities exist in real-world settings – not only in controlled conditions," he wrote in a letter sent to the Senator Terry Care, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the bill will be introduced Monday.

Nevada is one of a handful of states with a legislature that meets only once every two years. That means legislation often moves very quickly with little opportunity for changes.

"We have a politically realistic window of Monday morning at 9 am in Carson City to let the legislators know that there is a major problem with this bill," said Ira Victor, president of the Sierra Nevada chapter of InfraGard, which acts as a liaison between the FBI and private enterprise to protect cybersecurity and critical infrastructure.

That's 9am Nevada time. The hearing is expected to be viewable by webcast at this link. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.