Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Is your pet infected with a computer virus?

16.03.2006


Digital vermin poses a real threat to RFID tags


Is your pet infected with a computer virus?

Has your dog or cat contracted a computer virus? It’s not impossible. These days, large numbers of pets and livestock have a small chip implanted under the skin so that they can be identified if they stray or turn out to be infected with a disease. As these chips only have a limited memory capacity, it was widely assumed that they could not become infected with a computer virus. However, researchers at VU Amsterdam have now discovered that this is a real possibility. Fortunately they have also come up with a number of adequate countermeasures.

The chips in question are called Radio Frequency Identification Tags, or RFID tags. These are small, relatively cheap microchips, which can be used to tag supermarket products, for example. They can also be implanted into pets or livestock. The same chips are used in public transport chip cards, ski passes or on baggage labels at airports.



Thanks to these tags, we will soon be able to do our shopping without having to queue at the tills. An RFID scanner placed at the exit will transmit a radio wave that will be received by all the RFID tags in your shopping trolley. The tags identify themselves, the scanner registers the products you have bought and the total bill can be debited directly from your bank account. Walmart, the largest supermarket chain in the world, expects to make a total switch to products with RFID chips within the next few years.

But these tags are apparently more vulnerable than was first thought. PhD candidate Melanie Rieback and her supervisor Prof. Andrew Tanenbaum have found a way of placing a computer virus onto a RFID tag. This was previously considered impossible on account of the limited memory capacity of the tags. Melanie Rieback will be giving a demonstration of her discovery on Wednesday 15 March at the annual IEEE Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications in Pisa.

Digital plague

These chips may be small, but just one infected RFID tag is capable of disrupting an entire system with disastrous consequences. Take, for example, the airport at Las Vegas, which handles two million items of luggage per month. As from May 2006, RFID tags will be attached to cases to speed up the baggage handling process. If someone intentionally attaches an infected RFID tag to his case, the entire system will be thrown into disarray. As soon as the case is scanned, the infected tag will be able to invade the airport’s central baggage database and all cases subsequently checked in will also become infected. On arrival at other airports, these cases will be scanned again and within 24 hours, hundreds of airports throughout the world could be infected. The perfect solution for smugglers and terrorists wanting to send suspicious luggage across the world without being noticed.

Countermeasures

Fortunately, the threat of infection can be countered using standard measures. Rieback stresses that developers must check their RFID systems, and implement safety procedures and secure programme technology. Although these countermeasures will curb the threat posed by RFID viruses, extra time, money and effort will need to be spent on implementing them. It is therefore imperative that RFID system developers and users check the security of their systems now, before they are put to large-scale use.

Tanja Terpstra | alfa
Further information:
http://www.rfidvirus.org

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches
25.05.2018 | Universität Ulm

nachricht Supercomputing the emergence of material behavior
18.05.2018 | University of Texas at Austin, Texas Advanced Computing Center

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>