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German gov pooh-poohs biometric ID card hack

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German hackers successfully used off-the-shelf kit to extract personal data from the federal government's supposedly secure ID cards, but the government has downplayed the significance of the attack.

The biometric ID cards store a scan of a user's fingerprints along with a six-digit PIN that can be used to digitally sign official forms. Hackers from the Chaos Computer Club, however, were able to use home scanners that work with the cards to extract personal information including a fingerprint scan and the six-digit PIN from RFID the chip embedded in the cards.

The hack was demonstrated on the Plusminus show on German TV channel ARD. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, interviewed on the show, said there was no reason to alter the technology or postpone a roll-out of the cards, which are due to be introduced nationally from November.

Security experts from the the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) were similarly sanguine about the hack. Jens Bender, a personal identification expert at the BSI, said the card and integrated PIN number offered "significant security improvement compared to today's standard process of user name and password", English language German news site The Local reports. ®

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