AusCERT: Beware the RFID mark of the beast

With the rapid rise of RFID, even your underwear isn’t safe from sensors

Technology is advancing so fast that consumers now live in a somewhat disturbing age where their underwear can track their movements and let others know what they are doing.

Talking about the social implications of RFID at AusCERT 2007, Klein Consulting principal, Daniel Klein, warned delegates to be very afraid in this data pervasive society where good, bad, and potentially incorrect information is being made available to everyone.

"Digital dirt is very real in the age of RFID, where sensor technology has the potential to track us without our knowledge, and secrets are harder to keep," Klein said.

"Once upon a time knowledge was power. Now, access to data is power. Do you know how many surveillance cameras you pass in a day? Information is being gathered on us that we don't even know about"

Pointing out that today's chips can be woven into clothing, allowing retailers to collect data on a customer's spending habits, Klein said consumers need to prevent misuse of information.

"How can we expunge flawed records? So much information is preserved because computers don't forget," he said, adding that the problem with RFID is that it is such an easy mechanism for collecting that data.

"The information kept on these chips can be read using a cheap receiver under $100. RFID has a reach of up to 23 metres away; not the three to 10 feet quoted by the providers.

Klein said consumers are being tracked all the time with ISPs, search engines and the use of loyalty cards.

He said RFID is being adopted across the globe following Wal Mart's mandate to its top 100 suppliers to implement the technology by 2006.

A similar mandate was introduced by the US Department of Defense to its suppliers, while the Australian Defence Force is using it to track supplies sent to the Middle East.

Klein said RFID technology certainly isn't secure and is vulnerable to buffer overflows, SQL injections, worms and viruses.

"Is it any wonder that RFID is often called the mark of the beast," Klein said.

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Sandra Rossi

Computerworld
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