Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


RFID Zapper

rfid-zapper.jpgI’ve been mulling over John Robb’s description of the (very cool) RFID zapper the Chaos Computer Club demoed at their conference. He calls them “the German branch (privacy activists) of the global guerrilla innovation network.” He also states that “In order to correctly route and track items from inception to purchase, these chips are attached to packaging and increasingly the products themselves.” This is true, but misleading. RFID chips are actively designed to survive industrial level washing and drying in clothing. They are being actively, and expensively, designed to track items after purchase, and there is the motivation for the Germans. They’re innovating on behalf of those of us who don’t like being surreptitiously tracked.

What does this have to do with the global guerrilla? Well, bad choices (like track after purchase) mean that the technologies we need to defend ourselves end up being useful to bad guys. This is nothing new. The car you drive is useful to a bank robber. The digital camera you use is useful for capturing and sharing pictures of potential targets. The assertion that these folks are innovating on behalf of guerrillas is, prima facie, ridiculous. People designing for guerrillas don’t show their wares at conferences open to the public and press.

2 comments on "RFID Zapper"

  • John Robb says:

    LOL. Didn’t mean to mislead you.

  • Dan says:

    The RFID Zapper, like any tool, can be used for good or ill. It really depends on who is using it. NMAP, a very popular open-source port scanner package, can be used by security personnel to scan a network for weaknesses, but it can also can be used by hackers to scan a network for weaknesses.
    The tools are essentially neutral. Guns, cars, slimjims, knives… basically any tool can be used for both good or ill. Guns are used by police to protect people, but also by criminals to rob, hurt or kill people. Cars are very useful but drunk drivers kill people with them. Slimjims allow a tow truck operator to open your car door when you’re locked out, but allow car thieves to more easily steal cars, and so on and so forth.
    Personally, I’d make an RFID Zapper to protect my own identity. I think there is far more potential for harm with the new “chipped” passports and other RFID technologies, if not properly implemented and controlled.

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