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Office complex implants RFID chips in employees' hands

Lucas Mearian | Feb. 9, 2015
Workers volunteer to get the implants.

"However, I fundamentally believe that smart implants are a technology of the future," he added.

Not everyone is convinced inserting radio-transmitting chips with user ID information under your skin is a good idea.

John Kindervag, a principal security and privacy analyst at Forrester Research, said RFID implants are simply "scary" and pose a major threat to privacy and security.

While RFID chips, whether implanted or carried in a fob, are passive and not activated until they come within inches of an electronic reader, that reader can be hacked by impersonating another person's RFID chip to gain sensitive data.

Additionally, nefarious thieves can also set up readers in inconspicuous places (such as retail stores) to activate RFID chips, stealing access to the same information.

The difference between implants and popular mobile payment technologies, such as Apple Pay, is that an NFC implant would not typically be shielded.

External RFID chips, contained in smart phones, fobs or cards, can be placed in sleeves or protective wallets that block the radio signal until they're ready for use, Kindervag said.

Sjöblad, however, said implants have the potential to greatly increase efficiency and simplify mundane tasks. RFID chips are already used as car keys and membership cards, as well as be used as passwords and pin codes for logging into smartphones, tablets and computers.

"But this is really just a beginning. I believe it will be possible to use them for riding public transport within a year or two. (I believe it will be possible to facilitate payments with implants within two years," Sjöblad said. "I believe they will have the capacity to replace fitness trackers within 3 years. (And that, indeed, is still just the beginning."

RFID chips could also be used to control activity, Kindervag warned. For example, if a fob is used to enable a vehicle's ignition, a driver who is late with a car payment could have that device disabled by the bank.

"I think it's pretty scary that people would want to do that [implant chips]," Kindervag said. "That's a frightening apocalyptic vision, for sure."

 

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