RFID INSECURITY REDUX

30. June 2009, 17:30 | by WD Milner | Full Article |

When RFID was starting to become popular a few years ago, those who suggested that there were security problems that were not being addressed (such as reading tags from a distance) were considered, if not part of the tinfoil hat crowd, then perhaps just that wee bit too paranoid. Proponents of RFID laughed at the idea that tags could be read more than a few inches away and that surrepticiously stealing data wasn't possible.

While researchers had shown the tags could be read within 20 to 25 metres, these results were considered to expensive and complex to implement to be much of a threat. Well, within the last year those researchers have been able to crack the security and clone tags that granted access to buildings and public transit payment systems. Mythbusters television program was apparently ready to air an episode on the subject when the credit card company's legal departments basically intimidated them into not airing it. It would have shown just how vulnerable these cards can be.

Security researcher Chris Pager recently drove through San Francisco with a small wireless device (cost about $250 US) and in less than half an hour had captured all the information from two RFID enabled passports. This level of cost, technology and skills required are well within the capabilities of your average malicious cyber-criminal.

For the risks involved, the benefits seem slight, a few extra seconds or a minute at most that a more conventional ID or scanning system might take. And the attack vectors will only become more well developed. Unfortunately most RFID vendors are more interested in keeping the drapes drawn on the risks than making their devices more secure. Nothing is likely to change until there is a major security incident and then the excuse will be “unforeseeable circumstances”.

Just remember; a large number of us will now be able to safely say “we told you so!”.

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Categories: ,
Keywords: RFID,insecure,clone,cracked,wireless,security

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