Feeds

RFID chips snooped from 66 metres

US military could maybe read the thing at 80 miles. By gum!

Boost IT visibility and business value

RFID tags can be read at a surprising range, a researcher has found.

When he's not listening in to GSM phone calls, Chris Paget has been busy seeing at what distance an RFID tag can be read, managing a respectable 217 feet.

Paget also reckons the US military could read an EPC Gen2 tag from 80 miles off, though the connection would likely time out before any data was retrieved. Which is a shame as his calculations put the theoretical maximum read range at 317 miles, if you've got a big enough dish.

Arecibo Dish

The Arecibo Dish, which Mr Paget reckons could read a tag at 317 miles if you could get it pointed the right way

Generation 2 tags aren't what we use in credit cards, or NFC-equipped phones, at least not yet. EPC Gen2 tags don't rely on magnetic induction for power and can thus be read at a much greater distance making them ideal for packaging and product labels, and the US Passport Card, among other things.

As Paget explains in his report (pdf) Gen2 readers are more akin to radar in that they send out a radio signal (around 900MHz) and listen to the reflection which comes encoded with the tag's identification code, which is created using the power of the radio signal. So increase the power of the signal and you can increase the read range, though signals that don't make it back within 100 microseconds get discarded: providing a theoretical cap of about 10 miles.

Paget was working within the limits of a radio ham licence so couldn't up the power hugely, but still managed a respectable distance and suggests that such a capability could be exploited by criminals in a variety of ways – especially if said criminals are less respectful of ham licensing restrictions.

A residential block, for example, could be swept for tags attached to high-value items worth stealing, or a crowd could be scanned for non-local passports belonging to tourists (who might make better mugging targets), not to mention the joy of tracking on individual from miles away.

The report also suggests that mall customers could be tracked by logging them as they enter the mall, but as some malls are already tracking us through the radio transmitters we're already carrying (our phones), that seems redundant.

Whatever the risks, the real joy is in seeing what can be achieved and pushing the technology to its limits, for no reason beyond seeing if it can be done. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Déjà vu: Virgin Media jacks up broadband prices
Screw copper phone lines, we're UNIQUE, bleats telco
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
EE: STILL Blighty's best mobe network, says 'Frappucino' Moore
Fresh round of network stats fisticuffs possibly on the cards here
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
What's the nature of your emergency, Vodafone?
Oh, you've dialled the wrong number for ad fibs, rules ASA
EE network whacked by 'PDP authentication failure' blunder
Carrier is 'aware' of cockup, working on a fix NOW
ROAD TRIP! An FCC road trip – Leahy demands net neutrality debate across US
You crashed watchdog's site, now time to crash its ears
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?