Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Electronic Passports May Make Americans Targets

Filed under
Security

A State Department plan to introduce electronic passports this summer has raised concern among a number of observers that, in an attempt to help protect Americans at home, the government could put U.S. travelers abroad at risk from terrorists and thieves.

Some privacy advocates and travel groups charge that a remotely readable chip in the passports, which the State Department intends to begin issuing after a roll-out to government employees in August, could be scanned by criminals or terrorists out to target Americans.

Under current plans, the chip, called a radio-frequency ID or RFID chip, will contain the same identifying information as is printed in the passport--name, passport number, birthday, and place of birth. The data will be unencrypted, and will also include a digital picture for use with facial recognition technology.

The read-only, digitally signed chip is meant to prevent forged passports and improve U.S. border security. It would be examined by border officials using electronic readers tuned to the chip's radio frequency.

he RFID chip doesn't actively broadcast, but, with the right equipment, it can be read from a distance, although just how far is under dispute. The State Department and the technical specification for the chip say that the data can be read only within four inches, but critics contend the signal can be detected from as far away as 60 feet. Terrorists and criminals could take advantage of the electronic passports to target Americans.

To prevent the potential threat against American travelers, the State Department says it plans to include material in the passport cover that will block the signal from the RFID chip. The shielding cover would mean the chip could be read only when the passport is open. "Stitching a metal web into the cover creates a Faraday cage," says V.C. Kumar, manager for emerging markets at TI. "It kills the RFID signal."

Some Americans concerned about the potential risks of electronic passports are obtaining or renewing regular paper-and-ink passports before the new electronic ones are issued. The State Department does not plan to force people to switch to electronic passports before their old ones expire, but that American travelers might face electronic passport requirements from other countries before their low-tech passport becomes invalid.

Full Story.

More in Tux Machines

Ubuntu BQ Aquaris M10 Review – Part 1: Hardware

The mobile market today has practically been what former Microsoft-then-Nokia-then-Microsoft-again exec Stephen Elop loved to refer to as a two-horse race. Android and iOS have been butting heads quarter after quarter, year after year. Despite their popularity and ubiquity, neither is truly perfect and neither can really meet everyone's needs and preferences. Which leaves a little wiggle room for other platforms (that includes Windows 10) to try and fill in the gaps. This time around we are going to take a closer look at one the newer challengers, Ubuntu Touch, as it is embodied in the recent bq Aquaris M10 tablet. How does it fare against the bevy of Android, iOS, and even Windows tablets scattered throughout the market? And does it have what it takes to not only stand tall and proud but also to survive? Read on to find our verdict. Read more

Open source is in our DNA

The same thing that compels us to make Linux (and many other projects) free and open source is present in many of humanity's greatest achievements Read more

Debian Is Dropping Support for VLC Media Player, Mediawiki for Wheezy LTS

The Debian Long Term Support (LTS) developers have announced that they are dropping support for certain packages as part of the extended life cycle for the Debian GNU/Linux 7 "Wheezy" operating system. Read more

Hands on: What's new and noteworthy with Android N

With Google's I/O developers' conference behind us, it's time to start looking forward to what's next in the world of Android. The most prominent thing is Google's rapidly approaching Android release, currently known only as Android "N." (The company has yet to reveal the full name or version number.) While the software itself isn't expected to arrive until sometime this summer, we're getting an increasingly clear picture of the fresh features and improvements it'll provide. Read more