How can I secure data on a passive RFID tag so that someone walking by with a reader wouldn’t be able to steal it?
There are a variety of ways to do this, but I should note that in most applications, you would not need to put sensitive information on a transponder. Each RFID tag has a unique serial number. You can store a lot of information about an object in a secure database. When you read the tag, software pulls data associated with the tagged object so you can view it securely. Someone else interrogating the tag without authorization would end up with only a meaningless serial number. This is the best option, in my view, for most applications.
During our RFID Journal LIVE! 2015 conference and exhibition, held in April, global semiconductor company NXP Semiconductors released its Ucode DNA integrated circuit—a passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID chip that provides cryptographic authentication. By using a dynamic password that changes every time you read a tag, as well as requiring verification of each password from a server, the Ucode DNA prevents others from reading or cloning the tag (see NXP Releases IC for Secure Encrypted UHF Reads).
You could also encrypt the data yourself, write it to the tag, read the encrypted information and then decrypt it. This would prevent anyone from obtaining useful information from the tag’s user memory.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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