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SPOTLIGHT: e-Passports are here

There are twenty-seven countries in the U.S. visa-waver program, that is, their citizens do not need an entry visa to enter the U.S. Following 9/11, the U.S. government instructed these countries that if they want to retain their visa-waver status, they will have to issue new passports to their citizens--passports which contain biometric information and which are equipped with RFID technology. The deadline for these countries to comply is the last day of October. In the meantime, the U.S. this week has launched its own e-Passport project. The new passports have embedded in them a chip which requires no power and contains duplicate information of what is printed on the passports. The new passport is more difficult to forge--but they pose a different security problem. The problem is called digital pick-pocketing: Clever hackers with the right RFID readers may walk about in an airport lounge, stealthily reading the personal information off of the passports in the pockets of unsuspecting travelers. The government says that the information stored on the new passports is encrypted and cannot be copied and modified. Likewise, the information on the passports cannot be scrambled or changed because the chips are read-only. Report

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