E-Passport Makers Hail U.S. Retreat - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
News

E-Passport Makers Hail U.S. Retreat

Global electronic passports suppliers hailed a decision by the U.S. State Department to drop a requirement for additional security measures in next-generation U.S. passports.

PARIS — Global electronic passports suppliers hailed a decision by the U.S. State Department to add a requirement for additional security measures in next-generation U.S. passports. The specifications have yet to be finalized.

Neville Pattinson, director of technology development and government affairs for smart card provider Axalto Americas, said Friday (April 29) that adding security measures such as "Basic Access Control" and a metallic shield cover to U.S. passports could "completely make the information [stored in the e-passport] undetectable."

Pattison originally disclosed the results of a National Institute of Standards and Technology e-passport trial held last summer in which he said NIST testers were able to lift "an exact copy of digitally signed private data" from a contactless e-passport chip 30 feet away.

A State Department official earlier this week acknowledged for the first time that information stored inside an e-passport chip could be read at a distance beyond 10 centimeters.

The U.S. government, however, still has far to go to match European privacy concerns. Several nations, including Germany, have already mandated Basic Access Control in their e-passport spec. Many European governments have demanded barriers that prevent unauthorized "skimming" of passport data, including nationality, name and address.

Under the Basic Access Control scheme, an e-passport must first be physically opened, then scanned or swiped in a reader.

The scheme accomplishes two things, explained Pattinson. First, it offers authentication, and sets up an encrypted communication channel between a reader and a contactless chip embedded in the e-passport. The reader scans the machine-readable text stored in the machine-readable zone (MRZ) on a printed page in an e-passport to obtain "an access code to get into the chip," said Pattisson. "This will prevent skimming."

Second, by using information from the MRZ, the scheme creates a session key to set up an encrypted channel, protecting the information that flows between reader and chip from "eavesdropping," he added.

While some security experts welcomed the U.S. adoption of Basic Access Control, the privacy community remains cautious. Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology & Liberty Program at the American Civil Liberties Union, asked, "Why do we need to have a contactless circuit at all in an identity document?"

Pattinson noted that a e-passport chips provide a digital data payload, and the digital data is validated against the print page of a passport. Once basic information such as a digital photo is stored electronically, technologies like facial recognition can be used, he added. E-passports "can keep forgers out of the business," Pattinson said.

Bruce Schneier, a security technology expert, noted in his online blog, "The devil is in the details, but this [Basic Access Control] is a great idea. It means that only readers that know a secret data string can query the RFID chip inside the passport."

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
Slideshows
Strategies You Need to Make Digital Transformation Work
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  11/25/2019
Commentary
Enterprise Guide to Data Privacy
Cathleen Gagne, Managing Editor, InformationWeek,  11/22/2019
News
Watch Out: 7 Digital Disruptions for IT Leaders
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  11/18/2019
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Getting Started With Emerging Technologies
Looking to help your enterprise IT team ease the stress of putting new/emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning and IoT to work for their organizations? There are a few ways to get off on the right foot. In this report we share some expert advice on how to approach some of these seemingly daunting tech challenges.
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll