[LINK] Researcher developing anti-RFID device

brd at iimetro.com.au brd at iimetro.com.au
Mon Jul 24 11:30:17 AEST 2006

Researcher developing anti-RFID device
By Laurie Sullivan
24 July 2006 10:27

Researchers in Amsterdam say they have completed a device that prevents radio
frequency identification tags from being read. The university professor
overseeing the project says the goal is to protect people from a technology
that is gaining wide acceptance but has the potential to compromise consumer

RFID chips, as small as a gain of sand, are being embedded in people, money,
passports, and clothing from T-shirts to shoes. They're being used to monitor
vehicle traffic, track inventory and livestock, identify missing pets, and help
pharmaceutical companies fight counterfeit drugs.

Vrije Universiteit Professor Andrew Tanenbaum said this week that the PDA-size
handheld device - dubbed RFID Guardian - beeps, warning a person when a RFID
scanner is near and trying to read a chip embedded in a piece of clothing the
person might be wearing, for example. advertisement

"Industry thinks nothing about invading your privacy," Tanenbaum said. "European
banks plan to put RFID in money, larger bills. That means a robber can walk down
the street with a scanner to find out how much money you have in your pocket and
determine who will make the best target."

The RFID Guardian runs on a 550-Mhz XScale 32-bit processor with 64 MB of Ram
that functions as the central nervous systems. XScales are often found in PDA
and mobile phones, said Tanenbaum. The protocol stack was written in C to run
on top of eCos, an open-source operating system.

Tanenbaum and a team of students are working on further developing the software,
looking into building multiple protocol stacks that can run on the device. Plans
also include fully debugging the device and securing the communication channel
between the device and readers. Tanenbaum envisions spending the next few
months debugging and preparing the device for commercial use.

Forrester Research principal analyst Christine Overby, who follows RFID in the
retail industry, said these types of devices points to a need for consumer
privacy, but "I don't think you'll see any mainstream adoption."

Some consumers view RFID technologies as a threat to civil liberties, said Liz
McIntyre, co-author of "Spychips," a book on RFID and privacy. The technology
industry would "love to shift the burden of protection onto consumers, who
should not have to worry about whether the things they wear and carry contain
tracking devices," she added.

Other companies are also developing products designed to protect consumers from
RFID. Gartner research vice president Jeff Woods said RSA Security, a company
that protects online identities and digital assets, created the RFID blocker
that works similar to the RFID Guardian Project. "The RSA blocker is a system
that 'confuses' an RFID reader and prevents it from reading personal or private
tags," he said. "The challenge for RSA was to define which tags were private and
who had access to them."


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Sydney Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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