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Why RFID Tag Counterfeiting is Unlikely

A recent piece in AIM Global analyzes the feasibility of RFID tag counterfeiting, concluding that it would be so problematic for the would-be counterfeiter as to render the proposition unattractive.
Jul 08, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

July 8, 2005—Mike Guillory of Strategic Action Consulting Services recently wrote a piece for AIM Global in which he examined the feasibility of RFID tag counterfeiting, a concern some have voiced with respect to the technology's use in passports, pharmaceuticals, and other sensitive applications. His conclusion is that counterfeiting a fake tag would be so problematic for the would-be counterfeiter as to render the proposition unattractive.

In the first place, most legitimate tags are encoded at the point of manufacture with a unique tag ID (TID), like a dollar bill's serial number, that is "locked" from later change. To counterfeit such tags, therefore, would require the counterfeiter himself to produce tags and encode them with forged TIDs in a private fabrication facility or foundry, an enormously resource- and knowledge-intensive undertaking.

Alternatively, the counterfeiter could attempt to secure non-TID ("blank") encoded tags, but these are available in very small quantities since TID encoding is part of the standard RFID tag production process and is in accordance with international standards. Furthermore, the small number of RFID chip makers by whom such tags might be produced would probably not release them on the market.

There are third-party foundries that a counterfeiter could hire to make blank tags, but such foundries require chip designs of their clients. Developing a chip design is another very expensive and difficult proposition, especially when the chip design must be fully interoperable with that of the authentic chip.

The counterfeiter might attempt to contract blank chips directly from the original chip maker, but, says the article, "The primary defense against this would be the integrity of the chip manufacturer. The major RFID chip producers would not want to take the risk of having their products caught-up in such activities."

Even if the counterfeiter were able to get his hands on and afford fabrication equipment (older versions of which are available on the market in limited quantities), he would still need the aforementioned chip design. Adding to that already staggering hurdle, the chip design would have to be compatible with the fabrication equipment, unlikely since such equipment would probably be outdated and unable to work with a modern RFID chip design.

For argument's sake, even if the counterfeiter overcame all of the above, the ongoing production and maintenance of such an operation would draw too much attention, precluding the stealth existence upon which successful counterfeiters rely.

Read the full analysis at AIM Global
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