Tuesday, December 26, 2006

12.26.06 - Disable the New RFID Infested US Passports with a Hammer?

Nice try, but this probably won't work out as intended

I saw this article at Wired.com and reposted at Slashdot.org saying that, in effect, the only surefire way at present to disable the RFID ensconced in passports is to give them a few hard whacks with a hammer. I believe that this will in fact work, in the sense that it'll destroy the functionality of the damn things. Well & good, as far as it goes. But consider the possible unintended consequences.

I don't know what the federal law is on this matter, but I know that in Michigan people who use marking pens to blot out their SSN or otherwise alter, deface, bend, fold, spindle or mutilate this government issued identity document are faced with criminal sanctions. And that's just the "official" response. Let's consider next how cops, TSA goons, federal agents, and other state agents and their "on the ground and in your face" enforcer's are likely going to react to this.

In Michigan they'll confiscate your license right on the spot and give you a summons to appear in court if it looks like you altered or mutilated your DL deliberately. They will do this as well if they think it happened accidentally too, but they won't give you a summons usually; they'll just take it, and tell you to go get a new one, pronto. Some time back a friend of mine got his Michigan license plate confiscated from right off his truck on the side of the road because a MSP trooper couldn't read it clearly at fifty feet because it was rusty and bent. (Michigan DOT and local road commission workers salt the hell out of the roads here come winter, and the state issued plates aren't coated, and whose fault is that? But I digress...)

I can only imagine what kind of trouble you'd get from the Border Patrol, ICE, DHS, TSA inspectors, who-the-hell-all-else if your passport is not working properly in their swipe slots or card readers, and especially so if it appears that you caused them all this extra grief (that is, made them work harder on a busy day), intentionally.

And if you think or are banking on the idea that Mr. Federal Agent is just gonna wave you through with a big smile and call the 800 number for contractor maintenance to come out and check his scanner or swiper, guess again folks. No, more likely he'll hold all of you back in some holding area or have you stay in line for however long it takes until the technician figures out what's the matter; the passport RFID or the reading devices. And guess what'll happen when they figure out its you? Nothing good, that's for damn sure.

“... [B]e careful – tampering with a passport is punishable by 25 years in prison," says the original Wired.com article," not to mention the 'special' customs search, with rubber gloves. Bon voyage!"

My point exactly. All you hackers out there, just keep on trying, eh? This "hammer time" approach just isn't gonna work out well for you.

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