When hackers can successfully inject code into microchips with the intention of changing or corrupting its data, they have effectively created a Radio Frequency Identification, or, RFID VIRUS. The exploiting of such devices are particularly concerning in the world of Tech given the versatility of their application, and, according to some civil liberty advocates, their violation of privacy and other human rights. RFID technology, in general, is increasingly being used in lieu of barcode technology to track its consignments.
The technology makes use of small transponders known as tags which are embedded into a number of subjects. These include cards which verify a person’s identification, passes for public transportation, and even the animals we care for as pets. VeriChip, which authenticates biometric data, is the size of a rice grain and made especially for the tracking of human beings. Though reminiscent of age-old prophesies of the end of the world (hence the featured image of this definition), RFID is unlike traditional barcode tracking as no physical scanning is required. A variety of data can be collected without the consent of the subject.
As convenient a method this tracking may be, if the database was ever to become corrupted, its chain of security would be thrown out of gear. Skilled hackers, for example, could employ the use of an RFID virus to help them bypass security checks to transport themselves and their illegal cargo. It should be noted that at the time of this writing, scenarios like these are mostly conjecture and not real-world use cases. Whether they prove themselves beyond theory is based on the widespread adoption of RFID technology.
The question, however, is whether one should prepare themselves for such an eventuality? Furthermore, how do you prepare and what can be done to prevent such threats? While researchers are confident these viruses don’t exist, test cases have been successfully demonstrated in lab conditions. The good news (at least for now) is that despite these inherent shortcomings, the likelihood of an embedded RFID virus is extremely low as tags are not equipped with memory large enough to accommodate viruses in the wild.
The bad news is that growing demands for memory is reshaping Tech this very second. Space and performance are no longer constrained resources (which under normal circumstances is a good thing), and its only a matter of time that privacy becomes a footnote in the pages of history. Human beings will eventually be microchipped and become the primary targets of hacking. This will lead to the forfeiture of any remaining civil liberties.
As for the present, RFID tags currently in use can be protected through the likes of encryption, filtering, chip coating and authentication. Researchers are also encouraged by certain RFID properties that can be used to detect chinks in middleware and databases. They discovered that tags contain a small portion of data and created viruses small enough to run atop. They concluded that if such threats were ever to surface, they’d be equivalent to SQL injections and buffer overflow attacks, and could possibly be mitigated in a similar fashion.
But the purpose of their research was to caution developers into writing more secure code. This is important for those industries using RFID technology today. Regardless of their nature of business, the ability to track inventories in near real-time is as critical as protecting the integrity of collected data.
Like with any emerging or promising technology, the eventual widespread use of RFID will make it a primary target of cyber criminals. This not only calls for increased awareness in cybersecurity, but responsible government, too, considering VeriChip’s endorsement from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Otherwise, the argument of civil liberty organizations will be justified: A microchipped human is nothing more than a glorified Government Trojan, or better yet, an RFID virus.