How to Secure and Protect an RFID Enabled Passport
Many countries including the US, Canada, UK, Australia and most of Europe now issue passports that contain an RFID chip.
While this technology can help authenticate passports, reduce counterfeiting and speed up immigration lines, it’s also possible for electronic thieves to use a scanner to ‘skim’ information from your passport even from a distance away.
In this Hub, you’ll learn more about RFID enabled passports and the various ways you can protect and secure your e-passport while traveling.
What is RFID?
According to Wikipedia, RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) is “the wireless non-contact use of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data, for the purposes of automatically identifying and tracking tags attached to objects.”
Why is RFID used in passports?
RFID provides an additional way to verify and authenticate a passport and the information it contains. It can help speed up the process in immigration and customs lines. It also makes passports more difficult to counterfeit.
Countries that issue RFID Passports
U.S. passports issued after October 2006 contain an RFID chip. The list of countries using RFID technology in their passports continues to rapidly grow.
RFID passports are currently issued in Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, most European countries, Japan and Singapore just to name a few.
In 2011, IMS Research estimated that “90% of passports will be e-passports by 2016.”
How to tell if your passport is RFID enabled
Look for the RFID symbol on your passport or check with your passport issuer if you’re not sure. The photo to the right shows the RFID symbol that’s displayed on the front of a US e-passport.
The RFID symbol can be seen at locations that use RFID scanners, such as the customs line at the airport.
Privacy and security concerns with RFID enabled passports
The drawbacks to RFID technology can be privacy and security issues. Some countries have added security features prevent a person’s passport from being scanned when closed, but this varies by country and the date the passport was issued.
Identity thieves can use scanners to read some or all of the personal information contained on a passport even from a distance away. In busy places, cities, shops, trains, on public transportation or in large crowds, this can happen without the victim even being aware of it.
Identity thieves often work in teams and the information obtained by the scanner is transmitted to someone nearby with a laptop.
Since the scanners used for ‘skimming’ are easy for electronic thieves to obtain and identity theft crimes continue to be a growing problem, it’s important to take precautions to prevent your RFID passport from being accessed by those who shouldn’t have your information.
This RFID blocking passport sleeve fits USA, UK, Australia and some other passports. Comes in a 5-pack.
Ways to protect and secure an RFID enabled passport
One way to stop your passport from being scanned without your knowledge is to be aware of your surroundings when opening your passport.
While that isn’t always possible, especially in extremely busy and crowded places, don’t leave your passport out and open longer than you need to.
Another way to keep your RFID passport secure is to store it in a material known to block RFID transmissions. This can be as low-tech as wrapping the passport in aluminum foil or lining your passport wallet with foil.
RFID Blocking Passport Sleeves
An easier and still very inexpensive way to block RFID is with an RFID blocking passport sleeve. These are available in most travel stores or online and cost about $5 to $7 or less if you buy a multi-pack.
This popular and highly-rated case from Pacsafe protects your RFID enabled passport as well as your credit cards while traveling.
RFID Blocking Wallets or Passport Cases
Another option is using an RFID blocking passport case or wallet. These come all styles and price ranges and are convenient for frequent travelers.
Many also have space to hold credit cards (some of which also have RFID chips that can be skimmed). Just be sure to look for cases or wallets that are labeled as ‘RFID blocking.’
RFID Blocking Money Belts and Pouches
For those who use money belts, choosing one made with RFID blocking material can save you the extra step of putting the passport in a sleeve.
If you already have a regular money belt, just keep your passport in an RFID blocking sleeve while in your belt or pouch.
References & Additional Information
- Radio-frequency identification - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- IMS Research - 90% of Passports To Be e-Passports by 2016
Within five years 90% of passport holders will be using e-passports that integrate a smart card IC chip.
- United States passport - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
© 2013 carolynkaye