X-ray of the RFID and coil inside a US passport


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/03/10/hidden-features.html



That was then, this is now.


Tangential: Found out, yesterday, that an RFID shielded wallet will set off a metal detector.

Flying again today, so wallet goes in carry on for the scan.


So, how does closing the cover act as a Faraday cage, as they claim?


The region of the image identified as “chip” actually has that a bit more. Its job is to harvest inbound electromagnetic energy (induction) via the antenna, from the reader device, momentarily store that electrical potential in a capacitor, and then use that stored energy to squeak a response back through the antenna. In addition to the request for a read, the chip may also store sent information - I’m not sure in the case of a passport, but it would make sense to be able to store digital breadcrumbs and biometric templates for offline retrieval in the event of a networking issue.


The cover is lined with foil. But being open on the three edges it’s not a very good cage, should still use a proper foil envelope.


You haven’t been emptying your pockets before going through the scan? That’s been standard for years.


I got surprised with TSA pre heck. Shoes on, don’t have to empty pockets except for metals.


What kind of RFID spec do they use? Obviously nothing consumer grade like NFC (just tried, just in case).

ETA: https://randomoracle.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/reading-the-us-passport-using-an-android-phone-overview


This is one of my favorite things for showing RFID stuff.


From tha intarwebs, “Starting in early 2006, the U.S. Department of State will begin issuing passports with 64-kilobyte RFID (radio frequency identification) chips that will contain the name, nationality, gender, date of birth, and place of birth of the passport holder, as well as a digitized photograph of that person.


Strangely, if you wrap your passport in a handtowel and hit it with a brick a few times, your chip “must have been broken somehow, I dunno…”


I used to do two seconds in a microwave until one day I got a bank card that was made of softer plastic, now I use other methods.

“If I had a hammer…
Oh, wait, I do!”



I’m holding that identical item right this moment. This particular see-through card is for demonstration purposes, a functional prop for sales and demonstrations. It’s a dual-technology card. The 125kHz Prox (with the more substantial inner antenna) is the classsic Prox, while the 13.56MHz (sparser outer antenna) is the more secure iClass.

This kind of card is used for physical access control. Each antenna has its own “chip” and the chips are set up to have the same encoded id and facility code. Why have two credential technologies in one card? Because as companies or campuses grow, instead of removing and replacing the older (less secure) Prox reader heads, organizations instead opt to just add iClass readers as they grow. Prox readers get moved to less security sensitive doors.

Neither Prox nor iClass are NFC tags, but many multi-technology readers can read Prox, iClass and NFC tags


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