October 19, 2006

Renew Your Passport, Now!

Filed under: General,Technology — Cory @ 12:31 am

Consider this a public service announcement. :)

The U.S. passport is about to change significantly, and will soon include a RFID chip. RFID chips are used in the same way that “smart tag” passes are used by toll roads, meaning that no physical contact is necessary for your information to be obtained. This doesn’t mean much when its just a toll pass, but it is a little different when the item has all of your personal identification information.

Bruce Schneier, an “internationally renowned security technologist and author” has written an article describing the situation, and lists why you should renew your passport now. Anyone with a passport, or anyone who plans to get a passport, should go read the article right now.

Before you think to yourself that I am being overly paranoid, consider this: you don’t have to be traveling to have your information stolen. It has already been proven that RFID chips can be read at a distance of 69 feet. Yes, that means that someone on a building floor 7 stories above you, or a neighbor down the street, can get everything they need to know in order to clone your passport. Yup, thats right, that has already been done as well.

Another group of security researchers has produced a video describing how terrorists could take advantage of the RFID chips in passports to target people from certain countries. If you weren’t alarmed by this point then you should go watch that 4.5 minute video.

Since your passport is good for 10 years, this is one last opportunity to secure an “old fashioned” passport that won’t allow bad guys to grab your information without you knowing. Of course, there is a website where you can get information to renew your passport. In case you have any questions, there is a FAQ to help you out.

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1 Comment »

  1. I think they’ve already started using RFID, actually. I ordered a new passport a week or two ago and was told that it would include the RFID chip.

    This really is kind of paranoid. For one, everything in the RFID chip is right on your passport anyway. 70 feet? If you open up your passpord, I *could* steal your data from 70 feet in the right circumstances with the right technology, or from hundreds of feet with a cheap camera. I’m pretty sure that my own Cybershot camera with a 12x optical zoom could capture your passport from far away. No RFID chip needed.

    Besides, just about everything on your passport is public information anyway. You could extract my name, photo, address, phone number, and employment history right from my webpage. The point is, what are you going to do with it?

    The only real concern for me would be tracking my movements. A hotel or taxi company could identify where I am, whereas I’d normally be anonymous. However, the book the passport is in is lined with metal, and you could put your passport in your backpack with some tin foil wrapped around it if you’re really paranoid.

    Comment by ken — October 19, 2006 @ 5:12 pm

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