Security Researcher Crashes e-Passport Readers

Aug 13, 2007 -- How Safe Are E-Passports?

The US Department of State began issuing electronic passports (e-passports) a year ago this month. E-passports are virtually the same as traditional passports, except for one very special feature: a small integrated circuit or "chip" embedded inthe back cover. This chip is meant to securely store the biographical information and digital image that are visually displayed on the passport, but a German security researcher has now twice demonstrated that it may not be very secure at all.

According to a recent article in tech magazine Wired, Lukas Grunwald, an e-passport consultant to the German parliament, last year found ways to pull information from the passports chips. This information could be transferred to a forged read-write chip that would appear valid to security officials when read.

Now Grunwald has found flaws that will allow someone to replicatevaluable information from these chips, such as fingerprints, as wellas ways to disrupt passport readers made by two different manufacturers. He says these two manufacturers readers are presently in use at some airport entry points. Grunwald believes this means people can manipulate the readers to approve defunct passports, as well as forged ones.

At this time the U.S. Department of State's Web site has no response to these new findings. Aug 10, 2007

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