RFID security gets tagged


Security issues around radio frequency identification (RFID) continue to be the subject of many debates as discussions around the use of the technology for personal identification applications increase.

Industry observers, however, believe RFID security may not be top of mind for many enterprise IT managers. At least, not until RFID finally emerges as the mainstream technology of choice for identity and authentication applications.

Many enterprise RFID applications today are on the supply chain side for tracking products, supplies and other inventories. In such implementations the information embedded on an RFID tag, which is typically basic information about an item, may not be as valuable to a potential hacker as say, information about a person’s identity.

But as organizations start to look at RFID for applications beyond item tracking and towards more identity-based deployments, security tends to make it to the top of the list of concerns.

“RFID is a very nascent market in my opinion, but it’s becoming a more critical component of the marketplace today because of some of the applications that we’re looking at that will require greater security,” said Michael Liard, research director at ABI Research based in Oyster Bay, N.Y.

As the technology gets closer into the “consumers’ and citizens’ hands,” such as retail deployments or for passports, there will be greater need for proof that RFID solutions are able to protect citizens and consumers, Liard added.

Although there exists a notion in the market that RFID is vulnerable to data theft attacks such as cloning, the analyst noted that vendors are increasingly developing technologies to make RFID more secure.

Last month, RFID security provider SecureRF Corp. launched what’s touted as the first RFID tag with embedded security, dubbed LIME Tag with Onboard Security.

Most RFID security solutions in the market involve creating strong security around the tag, such as in the RFID reader or in the network level, said Louis Parks, CEO of SecureRF in Westport, Conn. LIME Tag is the first tag to actually have security embedded on it, he added.

Applying a two-hundred-year-old branch of mathematics called Algebraic Eraser to its cryptographic method, SecureRF developed security capabilities that can fit on small RFID tags or chips, said Parks. ABI Research’s Liard said efforts to embed security into RFID tags would help ease concerns about protection of personal information.

“By having security in the tag versus authentication in a database type of approach, it could provide some type of security measure for things like ID documents and other potential uses for authentication,” he said.

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