[ISN] People-chipping tech cloned by hackers

From: InfoSec News (alerts@private)
Date: Tue Jul 25 2006 - 22:29:15 PDT


By John Leyden
25th July 2006

Hackers demonstrated how to clone a copy of an human-implanted RFID 
chip at a hacking conference this week. The demonstration goes against 
claims from people-chipping firm VeriChip that its technology, the 
subject of the experiment, can uniquely identify an individual.

By cloning a chip it would be possible to assume someone's identity, 
at least in situations where VeriChip devices are used as the sole 
means of identification.

The main difficulty against such an attack is that a VeriChip can only 
be read at a range of less than 30cm.

During a presentation at the HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference 
in New York, Jonathan Westhues demonstrated how it was possible to 
read the ID number of a VeriChip implanted into the arm of his 
colleague, Annalee Newitz, using a standard RFID reader, an antenna, 
and a laptop running signal-processing software.

Westhues first held the RFID reader against Newitz's arm. He then 
scanned the tiny device again using an antenna connected to his laptop 
in order to record the signal transmitted by the implanted device. 
Westhues then waved the RFID reader by the antenna, revealing Newitz's 
until then "unique" ID. This information is enough to produce a cloned 
chip, the hackers claim.

"Their [VeriChip's] website claims that it cannot be counterfeited - 
that is something that Jonathan and I have shown to be untrue," Newitz 
said, adding that the tiny RFID chip used by VeriChip contains no 
built-in security (such as a challenge response mechanism) that 
prevents the attack.

A spokesman for VeriChip, a subsidiary of Applied Digital, said it 
hadn't had a chance to review the experiment so it wasn't able to 
comment on the hacker's cloning claim.

"We can't verify what they may or may not have done," a spokesman told 
Reuters. "We haven't seen any first-hand evidence other than what's 
been reported in the media.

"It's very difficult to steal a VeriChip' it's much more secure than 
anything you'd carry around in your wallet," he added.

"VeriChip" is described by its manufacturers as an implantable, 
passive radio frequency identification device (RFID) about the size of 
a grain of sand that can be used in a variety of applications such as 
assessing whether somebody has authority to enter a high-security 

In medicine (the main market), the idea is that if a patient is 
unconscious, or otherwise unable to tell doctors about their medical 
condition, medics can still find out this information using the ID 
contained on the VeriChip. This number is cross-referenced with 
hospital databases to give a patient's medical records. ®


External links:
Cloning a Verichip

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