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Study: Consumers Misunderstand RFID and Its Security
Consumers don't realize RFID cards and documents can be read without their knowledge or from more than a few inches away, according to a small study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. The study suggests consumers can't adequately assess the risks associated with RFID.
Apr 22, 2008—This article was originally published by RFID Update.
April 22, 2008—Consumers have misunderstandings about how RFID works and the security issues related to the technology, according to a new paper from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. The report, Where's The Beep?: Security, Privacy, and User Misunderstandings of RFID , says most users of RFID-enabled passports, transit passes, and credit cards do not realize these items can be read without their knowledge or from more than a few inches away. Users also tend to think RFID cards and documents contain more personal information than is actually encoded.
The study was undertaken to gain insight as to how well users of common RFID cards and documents understand how the technology works, and how the knowledge level impacts user comprehension of the privacy and security risks associated with RFID. Researchers Jennifer King and Andrew McDiarmid interviewed nine users of RFID-enabled fare cards, credit cards, and passports after identifying them through a written survey. The research was sponsored by Team for Research in Ubiquitous Secure Technology (TRUST), an organization focused on cyber security science and technology issues. The authors plan to conduct a follow-up study with more participants. They plan to drop transit cards from the follow-up because the cards do not carry personal information.
Major findings of this study included:
The report also criticizes e-passport issuers for not adequately communicating how the documents work and their potential security risks. It will likely be cited in the ongoing debate on electronic passports and in RFID legislative efforts. For more background, see recent coverage:
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