New passports could be vulnerable to hackers

IDENTITY thieves will be able to access and copy personal details stored on the country’s new electronic passports with simple devices available to buy off the internet.

Last week, a German computer technician showed an IT conference in the US how he copied the details of his own passport and declared “the whole passport design is totally brain damaged”.

Lukas Grunwald took the data off a bio-metric chip that has been adopted as the standard for all new passports by the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

He told an American news organisation that the system adopted by countries like Ireland is too vulnerable to hackers.

The new bio-metric passports are due to be issued in October and will contain Radio Frequency Identity chips (RFID) that will broadcast personal information to transmitters operated by immigration officials.

The new passports will store a digital profile of the passport carrier’s face.

Fingerprint and retina data are set to be added when technology allows.

The ICAO has dismissed Mr Grunwald’s claims, as the radio chips will not act as a substitute for immigration officers physically examining each document.

There are plans to cover each passport with a protective metal sleeve to stop random people skimming personal details in passing.

The Department of Foreign Affairs was yesterday unable to provide a response on the impact Mr Grunwald’s experiment may have on the arrival of bio-metric passports to Ireland.

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