RFID “e-Passports”

This is what passports containing RFID chips will look like:

Note the little rectangular logo at the bottom. According to Ed Hasbrouck, that’s the ICAO standard logo indicating that this is an RFID passport, and therefore:

identity thieves, terrorists, direct marketers, data aggregators, malicious governments, or anyone else with a radio receiver within 10 meters (30+ feet) or more whenever your passport is read at a border crossing, airport, etc. can secretly and remotely track you, log your movements through the unique “collision avoidance” ID number sent by the chip, and intercept and decrypt all the data (including your digital photo and, in some countries, your digitized fingerprints) needed to “clone” a perfect copy of your passport, forge other identity credentials, or impersonate you.

Of relevance are the comments over at Bruce Schneier’s weblog entry regarding the Riscure research into the Dutch Biometric Passport’s lousy security.

Interestingly, as one commenter there notes, breaking the crypto may be overkill; the knowledge that a person is carrying a passport from a certain country, or set of countries, may be enough for certain attackers.

I asked the Irish Passport Office about their RFID plans last April:

I’m an Irish citizen and passport-holder. I have been following recent discussions in the US regarding the addition of RFID computer chips to US passports, and I note that the US Department of State is now indicating that this measure was made necessary due to recent International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards — namely ICAO Doc 9303.

As a result, since Ireland is a signatory to ICAO regulations, this raises the question as to whether Irish passports shall shortly include similar RFID or “contactless chip” technology.

Can you tell me:

  • if this is planned?

  • is there a mechanism for public comment on this process?

  • who could I further email to ask about this, if you do not know?

Disappointingly, I never received a reply. :( Someday I should really chase this up.

Update, Oct 17 2006: Well, they never bothered replying. They did, however, introduce RFID chips to Irish passports:

The chip technology allows the information stored in an Electronic Passport to be read by special chip readers at a close distance. The chip incorporates digital signature technology to verify the authenticity of the data stored on the chip.

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  1. nishad
    Posted February 6, 2006 at 22:02 | Permalink

    “Disappointingly,” you never received a reply!?!? Dude, all I can say is that if you even expected one, you Irish enjoy an unheard-of level of helpfulness from your bureaucracy. As an Indian (and now as a U.S. dweller), the idea of writing to the gubmint for information is breathtaking.

    I was on hold for SIX HOURS with the Indian Consulate once. I worked all day with the phone cradled in my ear. At 2:00 pm, someone picked up the phone at their end and said “How can I help you?”

    “Disappointingly,” the Irish Passport Office never wrote back to you. Jesus wept.

  2. Posted February 6, 2006 at 22:50 | Permalink

    Nishad, having dealt with an Indian consulate, I feel your pain, believe me.

    When we were in Australia, and planning a trip to India, we had to get a Visa from the Sydney consulate. Despite their 3-hours-per-week opening hours, they did eventually deign to get in touch — at which point they asked us to sign and notarize a statement that we would not visit Tibetan monasteries in Jaisalmer before they’d give us tourist visas.

    The only thing is, the Tibetan exile monasteries are in the nice, temperate hill station of Dharamsala; there are no Tibetans within 100 miles of the baking-hot desert city of Jaisalmer.

    anyway, we duly signed, and got it notarized by an aussie cop in the backwaters of rural Victoria, which was good for a laugh for all concerned. And when we visited sweltering 40-degrees-Celsius-in-the-shade Rajasthan, we didn’t visit any Tibetan monasteries ;)

    you Irish enjoy an unheard-of level of helpfulness from your bureaucracy

    we really do. We’re quite luck in that respect, although most Irish people wouldn’t believe it…