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DHS Abandons RFIDs for US-Visit Program

This cannot be good news for the RFID industry, and while it does not mean that the RFID identity tracking program is being entirely abandoned, it does raise another question about the efficacy of this technology for this use.

Based on a recent Government Accounting Office study that confirmed that the RFID technology had not proven successful during tests at various land border crossings, the DHS has decided to abandon a facet of the US-VISIT program under which foreigners leaving the country would be tracked during their exit with an RFID tag embedded in an I-94 document.

"The RFID test proved, as GAO indicated, unsuccessful," Chertoff told the committee. "I mean, this is the real world," Chertoff said. "I think, yes, we're abandoning it. That's not going to be a solution. So in the real world, when something fails, we drop it and we move to the next thing," he added.

As described in RFID Border Tracking Plagued By Low Read Rates:

"...over the course of a week a mere 14 percent of 166 tags were correctly identified. The goal was 70 percent. "While RFID technology required few facility and infrastructure changes," reads the report, "US-VISIT's testing and analysis at five land POEs [ports of entry] at the northern and southern borders identified numerous performance and reliability problems, such as the failure of RFID readers to detect a majority of travelers' tags during testing."

While this is far from the death knell for RFIDs, it raises still another question about how broadly the RFID technology will eventually prove useful. Despite any of the questions including cost (I attended a recent meeting in which "experts" said that the cost of an RFID for supply chain and inventory tracking wouldn't get to 5 cents per item until at least 2011), accuracy, vulnerability to cyberviruses, and cloning, adherents like Wal-Mart are undeterred.

There is little doubt of the eventual value of RFIDs to inventory tracking and supply chain management, nothwithstanding some of the security issues that have been raised (e.g., cloning). Using RFIDs to maintain control of inventory in hospitals is a clearly viable application. How, or if, the technology will actually play an important role in identity, especially at our borders or ports of entry remains a question.

In an additional and related situation, the most recent Blackhat Hackers Conference in Washington DC, there was controversy over presentation of papers that detailed how the security of certain RFIDs could be compromised. These can be seen at:

Lawmakers Working to Limit RFID Door Cards
RFID door cards raise security concerns, legislation in the works.

Black Hat 'RFID' Compromise Is A Win For Security - The deal between HID and IOActive shows how delicate a line security researchers walk when they seek to present their work to the public.

What's next? Time will tell as the industry and the government attempt to align the current state of the technology with the desired applications.


1 Comment

Well... there ya go. Being in software, computers I know the pitfalls.

Any good hacker will tell you how easy it is to manipulate technology. Backdoors or bad design. Either way, the two are always there.

This is why I stand against National ID cards for future reasons as well. People can be misidentified on purpose leading to all sorts of problems.