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    Grappling with RFID

    May 11, 2006

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    Let's face it; nearly every technology is followed by some disapproval, especially from alarmists. Usually, several forces (commerce, security, privacy, just plain decency...) tend to balance things out. There's one emerging technology, however, that is really getting under the skin of security advocates, more so than Internet, and yes, even wiretapping.

    RFID (radio frequency identification) is being regarded as everything from the holy grail of commerce, especially in manufacturing and distribution, to the "mark of the beast."

    Why such a strong reaction? Security watchers feel that RFID chips can lead to the complete collapse of privacy. If just about every product in the near future is "chipped", a startlingly comprehensive profile on a person's possessions, spending habits, and even day-to-day movements can be compiled. That's the theory at least.

    For now, most chips are too low powered to be detected and read more than a few inches away and cross-checking databases for those aforementioned behaviors may be possible, just not at that scale presently.

    Consumer acceptance notwithstanding, businesses ought to weigh the risks and benefits of RFID. Remember SpeedPass? recently ran a story about just how hackable RFID chips can be. Reading them turned out to be easy enough, but the real kicker is that many weren't locked down and could be rewritten. That's where the fun begins.

    Pranksters can decide that a library book can use some creative and not altogether wholesome changes to its profile. Snoops can clone key cards. For a store, though, it can mean real money lost.

    Retailers are turning to the chips to manage inventory, and in a few cases, speed checkout. Undoubtedly, some will try to shave a buck or two off the price, but the danger comes when something is marked down significantly. Not only are the businesses being ripped off, but inventory and ordering can also be thrown out of whack, sending harmful ripples throughout an entire operation.

    What security challenges does the increased presence of RFID bring?

    Note: Any opinions expressed below are solely those of the individual posters on the AntiOnline forums.

    Spotlight Thread:
    RFID Hacking Underground

    MsMittens alerts the crowd to a revealing article. Let's just say, the technology is not without its vulnerabilities. phishphreek80 thinks it may be time for consumers to protect themselves with wallets that block radio signals.

    I suppose its time someone capitalized on making RFID "leak proof" wallets and purses? If they are putting them in credit cards, gascards and IDs already.

    Or, make your own!

    rmlj63 advises store owners to keep an eye out...

    Well, in the same way you block signals from your radiating items, couldn't you block signals from store merchandise? (Yikes!) What does the future hold for shopping? Doesn't this possibly negate the effectiveness of those detectors at the front of almost every store you go into now?

    This should be something storeowners should keep an eye on. Don't throw out the surveillance cameras just yet.

    What's your take on RFID?

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