Iain Thomson

A British hacker has shown how easy it is to clone US passport cards that use RFID by conducting a drive-by test on the streets of San Francisco.

Chris Paget, director of research and development at Seattle-based IOActive, used a US$250 Motorola RFID reader and an antenna mounted in a car’s side window and drove for 20 minutes around San Francisco, with a colleague videoing the demonstration.

During the demonstration he picked up the details of two US passport cards, which are fitted with RFID chips and can be used instead of traditional passports for travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

“I personally believe that RFID is very unsuitable for tagging people,” he said.

“I don’t believe we should have any kind of identity document with RFID tags in them. My ultimate goal here would be, my dream for this research, would be to see the entire Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative be scrapped.”

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