RFID defect spotted in e-passports

Computer scientists at Birmingham University have uncovered a fault in e-passports that makes it possible for anyone with a tag reader to identify individual passengers.

The fault lies with the radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag embedded in the documents that carry personal information such as date of birth, photograph and passport number.

The RFID tag responds to any radio signal sent to it and allows the detection of the passport of an individual at a distance ranging from 50cm to a few metres.

Dr Tom Chothia of Birmingham University said: ‘Our discovery has shown that there is a flaw that makes it possible to identify the movements of a particular passport without breaking the passport’s cryptographic key.

‘In a worst-case scenario, this flaw in the system would make it possible to build a bomb that would explode on detection of a particular passport, killing the bearer.’