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Expert issues warning about e-passports

DAN GOODIN / AP | August 6 2006

LAS VEGAS - Electronic passports being introduced in the U.S. and other countries have a major vulnerability that could allow criminals to clone embedded secret code and enter countries illegally, an expert warned.

It appeared to contradict assurances by officials in government and private industry that the electronic information stored in passports could not be duplicated.

The research is the latest to raise concerns about the growing use of RFID, short for radio-frequency identification, which allows everyday objects such as store merchandise, livestock and security documents to beam electronic data to computers equipped with special antennas.

A State Department spokeswoman said late Saturday she did not have enough information on the matter to comment.

Another security professional showed how people can have their phone numbers hijacked when using certain types of equipment that route calls over the Internet.

Once the routers are accessed, a person can change the device‘s so-called media access control address, which acts as a serial number that Internet phone providers such as Vonage Holdings Corp. use to verify the identity of customers. A person exploiting the flaw could intercept calls made to a legitimate Vonage user and make calls that would appear to come from the user‘s phone number.

Cisco spokeswoman Molly Ford said she could not immediately comment on Hung‘s research.

Marc Tobias, a South Dakota lawyer who authored a textbook for locksmiths, showed how a simple technique can allow a person to secretly pick the locks of most homes, businesses and post office mailboxes.

"You can do this with virtually every lock," said Tobias, who is calling for a change to U.S. postal regulations to prohibit the trafficking of bump keys, which are advertised for sale on the Internet.

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