The first wave of U.S. passports with chips, however, comes despite lingering privacy and security concerns. Earlier this month, a German security expert at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas demonstrated how e-passports—equipped with a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip containing biometric data—could be copied using a laptop computer, an RFID reader and smart card reader software.
Infineon RFID Chip
The chip contained in each new U.S. passport issued starting in October will contain personal data, such as the bearer’s name, date of birth, validity period and a digital photo of the individual.
The e-passport, according to Infineon, is designed with multiple security levels, including the basic access control. This security feature requires the border control inspector to pass the document over a scanner that reads coded information and then authorizes the electronic reader to access the data stored on the chip. Data transmission occurs over a distance of only about 4 inches, or 10 centimeters.
More than 50 individual security mechanisms are inside the Infineon chip, including sophisticated computing methods for encrypting data. Protective shields on the surface of the chip and sensors also help prevent unauthorized people from being able to read the contents of the chip.
Infineon, located in Munich, is supplying chips for e-passport to several other countries, including Germany, Norway and Sweden.