RFID Passports

published

I got my new passport today. I renewed my passport about a year ago, and promptly lost it. When moving to our new house, I thought that I’d find it, but had no such luck. So I reported my old one lost, and applied for a new one. It arrived today.

This new passport says “Contains Sensitive Electronics”. I assume this means that it contains an RFID chip. I am casually aware of some of the problems with RFID-equipped passports: Bruce Schneier on RFID passports and Bruce Schneier on RFID passport Security are good starting points. Delivery agents snarfing RFID passport contents was a new one for me. Hopefully no one in the post office is actively reading RFID-equipped passports before delivering them.

According to Wikipedia, RFID-equipped passports have a thin metal sheath, ostensibly to protect the data from being acquired from afar. Bruce Schneier suggests that a two factor authentication process will be used to decode the contents of the RFID data. Each of those is marginally reassuring, but as one commenter observed, DVDs are encrypted, too, and that hasn’t kept their contents safe.

There exist a number of passport wallets which claim to block the radio frequency used to access the data on them. Magellan’s, Identity Stronghold, and DIRFWEAR are just a few.

My question is: how can one easily test whether any of these products actually work to protect my passport? I don’t want to become a ham radio operator in order to know that my passport is protected. Are there easy means for a layperson to verifiably protect their RFID-equipped passport? Do any of the passport wallets linked above actually work?


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