The short answer is: No. But as usual, there’s more to it than that.
The latest front in the never-ending battle between you and the crooks out there is embedded in that shiny new passport of yours.
You already know that those old-fashioned magnetic stripes that store your personal information on your bank cards are utterly vulnerable to identity thieves.
You also know that new technology in the form of embedded microprocessor chips is already replacing those magnetic stripes in Europe and soon may do so in the United States.
And if you’ve gotten a new passport in the last few years, you know that one of those RFID chips — for Radio Frequency Identification — is already embedded in your passport.
What you may not know is that the bad guys can scan that RFID chip in your passport remotely — picture and all — while it’s still in your pocket or purse.
You won’t even know it’s happening.
How do you know if your passport has an RFID chip in it? Look at the passport in the pic above. See that little gold rectangle with the gold ball embedded on the cover? That means there’s an RFID chip in it.
When your old non-RFID passport expires, its replacement will have one, too. And before you even ask, the answer is: No, opting out is not an option.
The black market in stolen passports, especially American passports, is almost as lucrative as drugs. With your passport information, an identity thieve can get a copy of your birth certificate, your Social Security number, access to your bank account and credit cards. He can then go buck-wild shopping — with your money.
Then, there’s the whole terrorism thing. People looking to slip into this country to perpetrate evil are always looking for a passport they can use.
Computer expert Robin Harris at ZDNet takes a dim view of RFID security in general, and putting RFID chips in passports in particular. You can read his comments here.
Before you start hyperventilating over all this, a couple of points:
- it’s uncertain that identity thieves can actually use the information off your RFID chip, even if they can access it, and
- There are cheap and easy ways to physically block RFID raids by identity thieves, protective sleeves, wallets and cases that block identity thieves fro intercepting the RFID signal from your passport and cloning the information.
If you want to delve into this issue in (much) more detail, check out this threat analysis from the Association of Computing Machinery.
I recently bought a protective sleeve for my RFID passport that blocks cloning. It’s a simple little plastic sleeve about the size of the passport itself. Cost: $6. you’ll find them at any travel shop or you can order them online.
If you want to spend a bit more, you can get a wallet that protects not only your passport, but any RFID bank cards you have not, or may receive in the future.
Even these measures won’t provide absolute protection, however. At some point, you will have to take it out of that protective sleeve or wallet, and in that moment, it will be vulnerable.
The good news is that, so far, anyway, the costs and complexities involved in this kind of data theft are such that identity thieves looking for passports are better off going old-school and just trying to steal them outright.
And that’s a lot easier to defend against, just by keeping it safely hidden on your person at all times.
Bottom line: Don’t let the crooks stop you from traveling. Do safeguard anything that has your precious personal data on it.
Powered by Facebook Comments