Credit cards and passports are filled with microchips brimming with your personal information — and give off radio waves to any nearby sleazebag that wants to steal your identity. A new generation of those chips stands to stop hackers in their tracks.
MIT and Texas instruments teamed up to develop new RFID chips that block identity theft. MIT just announced that the new chip is "virtually impossible to hack," a bold claim and possibly a challenge to would be hackers. Regardless, your anxious tinfoil hat types will certainly love the hack-proof promise.
RFID chips that track items from a far aren't going away anytime soon, so it's inevitably good that somebody is making them more secure. You'll can already find these chips on anything from clothes on the sales rack to boxes of DVDs. And since 2007, these chips have been built into US passports for tracking and counterfeit protection. They're now showing up in credit cards to allow swipe-free payment. But lately, there's been a lot of concern that crooks with RFID readers could easily steal information like your name, gender, nationality, and more — without laying a finger on your wallet. It's what's prompting the sale of RFID-blocking wallets or passport covers.
What this new chip does is guard against "power glitch attacks" which cut password-protected gadgets' power and allows unlimited password attempts. This grants the hacker thousands of tries to squeeze out the device's secrets. But the new chip comes with an on-board power, something normal RFID chips lack. That makes the chip's power "virtually impossible to cut," the press release says.
Which is good! Again, RFID chips aren't going anywhere. The technology is even making its way into driver's licenses, which the ACLU decries as "civil liberties nightmare." While RFID proponents argue that the risk of a crook using a reader to swipe wirelessly transmitted information is low, we're not gonna complain over extra safeguards.
Image of standard RFID chip via MIT