German passport to sport Infineon chips

The German government is to use chips developed by Munich-based semiconductor vendor Infineon Technologies in an effort to make counterfeiting and unauthorised use virtually impossible in future electronic passports. The new passports will be issued by the German Passport Office from November 2005.

Infineon will also be supplying a special chip package developed for identity cards and passports as well as an inlay containing the antenna and its connection to the chip.

In the new electronic passport, the printed information about the bearer’s identity – such as the bearer’s name, date of birth, and photo, and the passport’s validity period and number – will also be stored encrypted on a chip. And, starting no later than March 2007, fingerprints of each of the bearer’s index fingers will also be stored in encrypted form. Current plans call for the chip to be invisibly integrated into the front cover of the passport.

The German company “Bundesdruckerei” will be producing the passports as well as the devices that read the information from the Infineon chip.

The data stored on the chip will be accessed when the passport is opened and transmitted contactlessly to the reader. Among other security features, the chips will use the RSA computing algorithm to provide security.