A security researcher demonstrated his homegrown RFID-reading equipment at both Black Hat USA and Defcon 18 to illustrate the lack of security in the Electronic Product Code (EPC) Class 1 Generation 2 RFID technology used in U.S. passport cards (not books), enhanced driver’s licenses, and in clothing and other items at Walmart for inventory purposes. He was able to find the RFID card from a balcony 30 stories up at the Riviera Hotel in a demo for reporters during Defcon. But his hardware blew after he attempted to boost the signal, so he was unable to show the full tag-reading step as a Defcon volunteer held up the tag from the road below. “I’ve read it from 217 feet,” he said, but his homemade RFID-reading system, which included two large antennas, ham radio equipment, software radio peripheral, and a slimmed down Linux-based laptop, is capable of reading the EPC Class 1 Gen2 RFID cards at much greater distances. The RFID technology is not encrypted, he notes, nor does it contain any access control features. Among the information that could be read from the tags, he said, is the person’s name and state of residence via a unique identification number used in the tags. The tag’s prefix identifies the user by his home state, information that could be used to scam tourists. And tag-reading could be used by bad guys for reconnaissance prior to robberies or other crimes in a neighborhood.

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