Capture the Tag

Are RFID tags in danger of being hacked?
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This story appears in the February 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Last year, when German consultant Lukas Grunwald announced at the Black Hat Briefings & Training conference in Las Vegas that his new software, RFDump, could rewrite information on RFID tags, the retail community got nervous. Could RFID tags be hacked?

Not likely, says Bert Moore, director of IDAT Consulting & Education, a Pittsburgh technology consulting firm. He asserts that Grunwald's claims are overstated.

"Some pallet and carton labels can be rewritten or have data appended," says Moore. "But there are provisions to lock key data so it cannot be overwritten." That negates the claim that RFDump can be used to change price codes. Moore adds that RFDump works with read/write tags, rather than the more commonly used read-only EPC tags.

If you're worried about security, Moore suggests training cashiers to be alert for RFID tags that "don't look right." If the scanner registers an inappropriate price or the tag looks like it's been tampered with, check the product information manually.

Moore maintains that RFID tags will soon offer real benefits to small retailers. "When transportation companies begin reading carton and pallet tags as shipments are loaded, transferred and delivered, this could provide smaller retailers with the same level of tracking that UPS and FedEx provide," he says. "Better tracking will allow managers to better schedule work flow and inventory."

Edition: July 2017

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