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New passport holder claims to block unwanted RFID signals

Humphrey Cheung / Tom's Hardware Guide | August 24 2006

An Orem Utah-based forensics company is now selling metal mesh bags that it claims will stop identity thieves from accessing the newer US E-Passports. Paraben Corporation, known for their mobile phone forensic kits, is selling a nickel, copper and silver mesh "Passport StrongHold" bag will block RFID transmissions from hitting unopened passports.

Passports are placed inside the bag by opening the Velcro-secured sides. After closing the sides, the metal mesh of the bags acts as a Faraday cage to block both inbound and outbound electronic signals. Paraben says signals are reduced by an average of 85 db.

Paraben's Rob Schroader told TG Daily that the nickel, copper and silver mesh fabric is expensive to buy. "It's not the metal itself, but the weave that drives up the cost," said Schroader. Schroader also said that signals cannot penetrate because the electromagnetic waves are bigger than space between the threads.

Paraben has traditionally sold mobile phone forensic kits corporations and government agencies. These kits extract caller numbers, messages and other information from phones. The Passport StrongHold bag is similar to the company's previous Wireless StrongHold bag which was specifically made for mobile phones. So similar that Shroader said the Passport bag will also block cellular phone signals from reaching a phone inside the bag.

The Passport StrongHold bags are currently selling for $19.95 each or for $14.95 if you buy in packs of 10 or more.

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