Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Enemy of the State RFID Style?

The Plot

Back in November of 1998 the movie Enemy of the State was released starring Will Smith as the harassed citizen that was tracked with every asset the government had including satellites. While I do not claim to have access to any details of what the theses satellites can do I can make a few statements safely.
  1. No one casually moves satellites between orbits. Simply put they have a limited amount of fuel and once it is used there are no satellite fuel stations that you can stop by for a refill.
  2. There would have to be a compelling reason to track on person with satellites. As I understand it they are constantly in use and the scheduled activities are not casually changed especially on a moments notice.
Now to look at current technology and trends could currently deployed and developing technology and how it could be abused. While I want to "set the stage" a little bit I will be directly discussing RFID and its ability to be used/abused.

Video Surveillance

Lets start with the most obvious.The UK with its attempt to monitor everything via camera. While I'm not a UK citizen I have been "watching" this from the sidelines. First as far as I can tell there are no laws covering the who can view/use the videos captured, how long they are retained, or how they are disposed of. While this may not seem to be a big deal with evolving technology, and apparent lack of controls.

Imagine, if you will, someone digitally changes a video to put you, or a now well known political, in compromising situation. With out proper defined controls this could ruin a political career. If I am correct that there are no laws controlling the videos captured this should be addressed.

Tagging History & Evolution

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is all the rage. It is being used everywhere and for many purposes. The first "killer application" was for inventory. Simply tag all the inventory and using simple equipment get a fast accurate inventory with minimal costs. Virtually 100% accurate virtually 100% of the time.
Anyone that works with inventory knows that there are always inconsistencies like who forgot to remove the RFID tag from the do nit inventory (DNI) items.

Once this became ubiquitous it was a "no-brainer" to use it for anti theft. Once an item is sold it is marked as "clear to pass" the anti-theft devices at the doors, of that store. then you go into the next store and their anti-theft goes off. The tag wasn't cleared in the next store's system. Apparently unknown tags alert in case items have not been inventoried yet. This creates many false positives, AKA "The Boy that Cried Wolf." In summary a shoplifter could make one "token" purchase at the mall then not worry about any anti-theft devices after that.

Tag You're it

Now if it works so wee for tracking things what about people? The US and UK government think it is great. You can embed encrypted information including a digital picture of the person in the passport and you have decreased the problems with fake passports. At what costs to the average citizen?

The University of Washington demonstrated using the Nike+iPod Sport Kit's RFID can be used to track people and that doesn't have any personal data on it. All RFID tags have unique information and no two match unless they are cloned the is, but more on that later.

If a simple RFID tag can be used to track you how simple would it be to track someone with an RFID passport?

Wait isn't there a limited range to read the ones in a passport?

Yes and no. While the RFID tags have limited power there are two other ways to increase the rang the tag can be read from.
  • Using a bigger antenna
  • Using a directional antenna
What about the encryption?

...but the information is encrypted. Yes and nothing prevents the encrypted data from being cloned. The first documented attempt took the hacker 2 weeks and and it only takes about $200 in equipment.

So what you say. Well if a standard RFID can be used to track you then the cloned RFID information can be used to track you, and know that it is you. Eventually the dark side will learn to break the encryption and be able to create their own fake passports.

RFID and CCTV

Tie RFID tracking in with surveillance cameras and you can be tracked and monitored easily...

4 comments:

tralfaz said...

So big brother is not just using cameras, but rfid tags too? Isn't there a cover you can put over your passport to protect from unlawful reading of the tag? And if so, then I think they should make the jacket of the passport out of that material. I'm going to sell a line of passport jackets that protect from rfid sniffing. Kind of like a sunblock for your rfid tag.

Leonard said...

Yes Tralfaz, but it goes beyond passports. Go shopping and you could be tracked by any RFID. Even one you missed on that piece of clothing you purchased last week.

I wonder if there is a market for faraday cage shopping bag...

Jules Bartow said...

Faraday Cages have to be grounded, so technically a "Boost Bag" for shoplifting isn't one. There is a criminal market for them and don't get caught with one because you're going to jail, like having a lock pick set or a Slim Jim.

EzPL8.com intentionally identifies people's faces to provide the Cheers Effect when you want cashiers and bartenders to recognize you by name and offer your "Usual". No batteries or app downloads makes it conveniently satisfying to be remembered like a regular customer should -anywhere in the world, as if you were a rock star or royalty.

Jules Bartow said...

Faraday Cages have to be grounded, so technically a "Boost Bag" for shoplifting isn't one. There is a criminal market for them and don't get caught with one because you're going to jail, like having a lock pick set or a Slim Jim.

EzPL8.com intentionally identifies people's faces to provide the Cheers Effect when you want cashiers and bartenders to recognize you by name and offer your "Usual". No batteries or app downloads makes it conveniently satisfying to be remembered like a regular customer should -anywhere in the world, as if you were a rock star or royalty.