4.30.2007

How an Oopsie Can Protect Your Data While Travelling

Did you know all new US Passports being issued have an always-on RFID chip embedded in them? Do you know what that means?

It means you are, effectively, walking around broadcasting your full name, address, social security number and all of the countries you've recently visited.

Why is this a problem? Because that info is, essentially, floating around you in a cloud of personally revealing and dangerous info. And a thief can, very easily, scan that info, save it and then use it or sell it to identity thieves.

But there's a solution. From Wired Magazine:
All passports issued by the US State Department after January 1 will have always-on radio frequency identification chips, making it easy for officials – and hackers – to grab your personal stats. Getting paranoid about strangers slurping up your identity? Here’s what you can do about it. But be careful – tampering with a passport is punishable by 25 years in prison. Not to mention the “special” customs search, with rubber gloves. Bon voyage!

1) RFID-tagged passports have a distinctive logo on the front cover; the chip is embedded in the back.

2) Sorry, “accidentally” leaving your passport in the jeans you just put in the washer won’t work. You’re more likely to ruin the passport itself than the chip.

3) Forget about nuking it in the microwave – the chip could burst into flames, leaving telltale scorch marks. Besides, have you ever smelled burnt passport?

4) The best approach? Hammer time. Hitting the chip with a blunt, hard object should disable it. A nonworking RFID doesn’t invalidate the passport, so you can still use it.
That's right, folks, it is Hammer-Time!

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