Wondered why my newly minted passport contained such a thick cover. Reading the back page carefully, I noticed the phrase, “This document contains sensitive electronics,” and of course, my curiosity was piqued.
The chip used in the e-passports will comply with the ISO 14443 RFID specification and contain the same information as a passport’s data page—the passport holder’s name, nationality, gender, date of birth, place of birth and digitized photo. The chip will also contain the passport number, issue date, expiration date and type of passport. The ISO 14443 specification permits chips to be read when an e-passport is placed within approximately 10 centimeters of an RFID interrogator (reader).
Of all objections the department received regarding its plans, the overwhelming majority expressed concern over the potential for skimming and/or eavesdropping. Skimming is the act of creating an unauthorized connection with an RFID tag in order to gain access to its data. Eavesdropping is the interception of the electronic communication session between an RFID tag and an authorized reader.
To prevent skimming, the department will add shielding material to the passport’s front cover and spine. The material is supposed to make the e-passport’s RFID tag unreadable as long as its cover is closed or nearly closed. The department will also implement Basic Access Control (BAC), which functions as a Personal Identification Number (PIN) in the form of characters printed on the passport data page. Before a passport’s tag can be read, this PIN must be inputted into an RFID reader. The BAC also enables the encryption of any communication between the chip and interrogator
(click to continue reading United States Sets Date for E-Passports – RFID Journal.)