Is RFID in Your Future?

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has the potential to revolutionize business much as ERP and supply chain integration did in the late 1990s, but it can also have some serious security risks if you are not careful when deploying it. Beth Cohen reveals the power and the pitfalls of this exciting new technology so you can determine for yourself whether your company is ready to ride the next technology wave.

By Beth Cohen | Posted Jun 3, 2003
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Have you ever wondered what those little plastic tags in your clothing are? Perhaps you have seen library books with little pieces of metal attached. In both cases, these are RFID tags.

It's quite possible you've never heard of RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification), but this technology is so powerful that you can literally inventory an entire warehouse just by installing an array of transceivers -- or readers, as they are called in the industry -- around the perimeter and placing tags on your stock.

Gillette recently announced that they will deploy several billion RFID tags in every item they manufacture so they can more closely track their billion-dollar inventory. RFID tags are commonly used in the retail industry for just-in-time supply chain delivery and the elimination of five-finger discounts. Think of how this technology could simplify tracking your company's valuable computer equipment and other assets.

RFID technology is also being heavily deployed for company access badges and other people-tracking type tasks. Imagine if your company's employees only needed to walk through doors to gain access to their areas instead of swiping their badges. While it sounds great in theory, there are some serious security repercussions to utilizing the technology for this purpose.

According to Dan Kaminsky from Doxpara Research, "When an employee is standing in front of the legitimate badge reader, this is a good thing. When an employee is sitting on the subway on his way to work and some guy walks by with a power source and a 13.56Mhz sniffer in his briefcase...well, I guarantee you that briefcase ain't going to beep 'Thank you for your access credentials; I'll be you now.' All the attacker needs to do is forge a standard plastic badge and covertly trigger a transmitter when approaching the door -- there's no way for anyone to know the badge wasn't the source of the RFID transmissions! Just because your badge reader only works from a few inches away doesn't mean anyone's reader will. If all I need to do to get access to your entire corporate infrastructure is sit in the lobby 'waiting for someone' as your CEO strolls by, you don't actually have a security system. You just have doors."

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has the potential to revolutionize business much as ERP and supply chain integration did in the late 1990s, but it can have some serious security risks if you are not careful when deploying it. Let me introduce you to the power and the pitfalls of this exciting new technology so you can decide for yourself whether your company is ready to ride the next technology wave.

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