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Protecting EPC Tags
In the short term, companies could use a transponder ID written to every microchip to ensure the authenticity of an EPC tag.
Sep 22, 2008—Companies are looking to use Electronic Product Code (EPC) tags to reduce counterfeit goods in the supply chain, but the tags themselves can be counterfeited. One cost-effective solution is to use the transponder ID (TID) number, which identifies the chip type and any custom commands and optional features it supports, to authenticate the tag.
ETH Zurich Auto-ID Lab and believe that when they're appended with unique serial numbers, they can be used as an inexpensive anti-counterfeiting measure—at least in the short term.
Anyone who's close enough to a tagged product can read the EPC number written on the tag and write the number to another tag. Counterfeiters could easily buy blank ultrahigh-frequency tags based on the EPC protocol, even in small quantities, and write a bogus EPC to the tag. Then they could put that tag on a counterfeit article to fool supply-chain partners, customs or even consumers into thinking the product was genuine. So an EPC number alone doesn't prevent counterfeiting.
The TID number can be read from tags just as easily as the EPC number, but because chip manufacturers protect this part of the chip's memory from changes, these numbers can't be rewritten—at least, not without a significant investment in special equipment to modify the chip's physical structure. As a result, if the genuine tag has a unique serialized TID number, a counterfeiter could copy the EPC number to another tag, but not the TID number.
A bigger threat against the TID scheme is that a chip vendor could start selling chips with writable TIDs. But until that happens, companies using EPC tags in their supply chains can employ TIDs with unique serial numbers as proof of authenticity of their products.
Florian Michahelles is deputy director of information management at ETH Zurich and associate director of the St. Gallen/ETH Zurich Auto-ID Lab. Mikko Lehtonen is a senior researcher at the lab and a doctoral student of information management at ETH Zurich.
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