Can I Access an RFID Tag’s Data By Physically Breaking Into Its Chip at the Microscopic Level?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsCan I Access an RFID Tag’s Data By Physically Breaking Into Its Chip at the Microscopic Level?
RFID Journal Staff asked 8 years ago

Can I splice and dice it until I reach the information stored on the chip?

—Name withheld

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To answer your question, I reached out to Roger Stewart, the president of Sourland Mountain Associates, an RFID and intellectual property (IP) consulting firm, as well as the former CTO of Alien Technology and Intelleflex. He helped design the chips used in the first generation of Electronic Product Code (EPC) ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID transponders. Here is his response:

“Yes, in theory. However, in practice, this kind of internal ‘physical crypto attack’ is a very difficult thing to do, even for an unprotected chip—and not possible at all for modern security ICs that protect internal data-busing structures from etching, micro-probing, power transients and other physical attacks. It is possible to design RFID and other chip memory such that the data is completely secure—even from the NSA—if one really needs to do that.”

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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