Canada rolls out ePassports

On Canada Day earlier this week, the government quietly rolled out new passports with enhanced electronic security features which it claimed rendered the travel document “more tamper-proof.”

“As of July 1, 2013, all new Canadian passports issued are 36-page electronic passports or ePassports,” according to a post on the Passport Canada Web site. The Canadian ePassports look like a regular passport, but has new security features that make the passport even more tamper-proof.”
 
 
The new passports each have an electronic chip embedded in its back cover which stores the personal information of the person named in the passport. The data store in the chip is the same information found on page two of the passport, but it does not include the bearer’s signature.
 
Passport Canada also sought to ease privacy concerns as it assured people no additional data about the user’s travels are stored in the chip. The inside pages of the passport will also show images that “celebrate Canada and serve as extra security features,” according to Passport Canada.

Canadians also have the option of applying for a five or 10 year validity period.

Passports embedded with electronic chips came under a cloud of doubt some four years ago over data theft concerns and as  numerous reports from security and technology researchers indicated that the radio frequency ID (RFID) chips in the documents could be cracked and the information contained stolen. Some researchers also demonstrated that hackers armed with an RFID reader can capture data from the electronic chips and the data contained in the chips could be “cloned” or altered.

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Passport Canada said it is unlikely that personal information stored on its ePassport chips could be read without the owner’s knowledge.

To guard against hacking, data in the chip cannot be read unless the passport is held “within 10 cenitimetres of an ePassport reader, open to page 2 and the machine-readable zone has first been read.”

The data store in the passport’s chip is also electronically locked so that the information cannot be tampered with.

More than 100 countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, the Philippines and China have been using ePassports for several years now “with no reported failures,” according to Passport Canada. The government office also conducted a pilot program in 2009 involving more than 60,000 diplomatic and special passports that contained an electronic chip and “no problems were reported.”

 

 



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