Utah Guns Forum banner
1 - 10 of 10 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
351 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is off the topic of firearms and concealed carry.

Our family finally needed passports for our out of country trip. I had one 30 years ago when I went on an LDS mission but it was lost long ago. My wife also had one about 30 years ago which was lost. I've heard war stories of how long they take and so I was worried we wouldn't get them in time. It turned out that my daughter and I applied at one post office 3 days before my wife and son applied at a different post office. I got mine and my daughter's almost exactly 2 weeks and 3 days later came my son's and wife's. I did not pay the additional $60 to expedite it either. I didn't have to fill out a lost passport form but my wife did. I guess there isn't consistency between application offices. I think the government is doing a great job in getting passports processed and sent in a timely manner. They all are even the new computer chipped ones which use to cost more. The only drawback is each one was a big fat 'C' note. $400 = ouch. That's the standard rate.

Just in case you would like to know.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,757 Posts
knayrb said:
They all are even the new computer chipped ones which use to cost more.
Security tip: Store your passports in something that will hold them shut. If you put them in a bag where they might be able to fall open, put a rubber band around them to hold them shut.

The contactless smart card chips embedded in the passports have a short range, and use strong encryption to protect the data contents, but researchers have demonstrated how they could be used to identify the passport holder's nation of origin automatically and from as far as ten feet away (distance outside a lab would be smaller). This facilitates all sorts of nastiness, up to and including a bomb that automatically triggers when an American walks by.

After complaints by privacy advocates and security experts, the State department decided to embed a foil layer in the passport cover. When the passport is closed, this foil layer acts as a fairly effective Faraday cage, isolating the chip from any RF signals and not only preventing communication with it, but preventing even the detection of its presence. If the cover falls open, even 15-20 degrees, the shielding is ineffective.

Odds are miniscule that you and your family would be targeted because of the radio emissions of your passports, but this is a case where the precautions are so simple that it makes sense to take them. Just keep your passports tightly shut except when you actually need to open them.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,203 Posts
GeneticsDave said:
Freaky Shawn... sheesh! What are you trying to do to me here?

I'm going upstairs to make a tinfoil hat... any takers?


Not me btw
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,098 Posts
See how happy that little kitty is? Just so thrilled to be protected by EM waves!

:ROFL:

ian
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,757 Posts
GeneticsDave said:
Freaky Shawn... sheesh! What are you trying to do to me here?

I'm going upstairs to make a tinfoil hat... any takers?
:lol3: :lolbang: :ROFL:

Until the State dept. decided to add the foil layer to the cover, I was actually recommending that people make their own foil passport cases :)

BTW, this is for real. Until recently my day job was as a consultant for security and identity systems built with contactless smart cards, and I actually did some consulting work on the passport project.

All of the data on your passport chip is safe. The chip only transmits it in encrypted form and the key to decrypt it is derived from information printed on the inside. So when you're passing through an immigration agency, they flop the passport open on an optical scanner, which reads the MRZ data. The optical scanner gives the information to a computer which calculates the authentication key and then fires up the contactless smart card reader. The smart card reader communicates via short range radio waves to the chip in the passport, using the key to authenticate to the card and establish a "session key", which is used to encrypt/decrypt the data.

Bottom line: The only way anyone can read the data out of the chip is to see the inside of the passport.

However, it's still possible to identify the nationality of the passport. How? Well, when you energize the RF field that powers a contactless smart card chip, the first thing it does is transmit a sort of "hello, I'm here" signal. That signal contains lots of information needed for subsequent communications, and one piece of it is the chip's serial number, which has a manufacturer ID code embedded in it. Since the US uses a small set of manufacturers, and none of them sell to any other countries (most countries source their passport chips internally), the nationality of the chip can be identified by looking at that serial number.

Researchers have demonstrated how they could trigger a bomb when a passport with a chip manufactured by one of a specific set of companies is carried through a hallway or narrow alley. They recommended that the State dept. could fix this problem by requiring the serial numbers to be randomized (there's an easy way to do this without losing the ability for the government to determine who made a specific chip), but the government said they were too far down the road to change that, and said maybe they'd look into doing it later. They haven't. Not surprising, since their first generation completely ignored security. Not only didn't they have the foil in the covers, they didn't even implement the encryption, so the passport data was all transmitted in the clear. It wasn't until after massive complaints that they fixed those problems.

Hopefully it won't take some American getting blown up by a passport-triggered bomb to convince them to fix this. If you just keep the passport closed, though, the chip will be RF-isolated.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
351 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I was reading that you should take COPIES of your passport when actually travelling around the country you are in. Leave your original back in the hotel safe. Make a few copies in case your original is stolen so that the US Embassy can get you a replacement faster.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,757 Posts
knayrb said:
I was reading that you should take COPIES of your passport when actually travelling around the country you are in. Leave your original back in the hotel safe. Make a few copies in case your original is stolen so that the US Embassy can get you a replacement faster.
That's a good idea, especially since it's not uncommon for hotels (especially in Europe) to insist on holding your passport for you until you check out. Having a copy gives you something to carry in case you should need it. Not that you're likely to need it.
 
1 - 10 of 10 Posts
Top