HOW TO: Disable RFID in Your New Passport

Despite the fact that RFID chips are not secure and can be read by hackers, any U.S. Passport issued after Jan 1 will contain an RFID chip. If you’d like to risk 25 years in prison for tampering with it, Wired has a primer on how to disable the chip and protect yourself from ID theft.

The basic idea? Don’t try washing it or microwaving it. Hit the chip with a hammer. —MEGHANN MARCO

How To: Disable Your Passport’s RFID Chip [Wired via Gizmodo]

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  1. I’m kind of speaking out of my ass here, as I’ve never actually seen an RFID enabled passport. My limited understanding of the technology would lead me to believe that a hammer would be next to useless, however. It is indeed, a “chip”, but not quite so thick that a hammer might actually break the function of the device.

    Indeed some passive RFID chips are thinner than a sheet of paper, so given the inherent flexibility of the design it would seem to me that a direct-on hammer strike may do very little at all–

    But again, I know virtually nada about what is in use in the passport. Someone with a bit more knowledge may want to weigh in.

  2. A hammer should be able to destroy any device… This thread has been around for a while now.

  3. synergy says:

    Would a magnet get the job done too?

  4. MeOhMy says:

    It might be easier or less illegal to just wrap the ole’ passport in some tinfoil.

  5. feralparakeet says:

    It’s not illegal if your hammer ‘accidentally’ falls on your passport while you’re trying to rearrange furniture or hang new pictures, is it?

    How do they know it’s tampered with and just not damaged? Will passports now come in titanium casings? If so, I’m not paying extra, dammit.

    Should’ve gotten my amendments made right after my divorce instead of leaving it in the safe for the last 7 months… feh.

  6. pestie says:

    A magnet won’t cut it. The RFID chips are actual silicon chips, not any sort of magnetic media. And didn’t I read somewhere that the US passports would be lined with foil to prevent the RFID chip from being read without the passport being open?

  7. ohnothimagain says:

    Intentionally disable your passport? Make it not work properly? Make it like, say, a fake passport? Enjoy your free weekend at the detention shithole at JFK when you come back from overseas.

    Fuck, you really got to wonder sometimes….

  8. spanky says:

    The tinfoil solution should work to keep anyone from reading it covertly. I’d make a duct tape holder for it (like a duct tape wallet) lined with either foil or metal tape. That will keep the chip from being read, protect your passport, and impress the ladies.

  9. mellie3 says:

    They’re supposed to have built-in protection in the cover so hackers can’t read them when they’re closed. But you have to open your passport all the time when you’re traveling – to write down the number on immigration forms, at hotels, for duty-free shopping – and the worry is, someone at any of those places could set up a clever little machine to snag your info.

  10. Plasmafire says:

    I would go with the tinfoil idea, its cheap and its not illegal.

  11. jorywoah says:

    Tinfoil will work or anything like it. There are already RFID blocking wallets on the market http://www.gizmodo.com/gadgets/gadgets/rfidblocking-wallet… Don’t break it – you’ll need it to be read properly if you ever plan on using it!

  12. Trai_Dep says:

    Geez, people, at least follow the link before castigating people for disabling the EZ-ID-Theft features of the new passports.

    The best approach? Hammer time. Hitting the chip with a blunt, hard object should disable it. A nonworking RFID doesn’t invalidate the passport, so you can still use it.

    The laws pertaining to altering passports refers to fraudulantly counterfeiting a different identity.

  13. peters1534 says:

    RFID cannot be read through metal or water. Simply wraping your passport in metal foil should prevent unauthorized access to the data on the chip. It will also probably keep you from going to jail and or having your passport pulled.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I see now the only practical solution is to protest it. Why?:

    “U.S. forces in Iraq soon will be equipped with high-tech equipment that will let them process an Iraqi’s biometric data in minutes and help American soldiers decide whether they should execute the person or not, according to its inventor.

    “A war fighter needs to know one of three things: Do I let him go? Keep him? Or shoot him on the spot?” Pentagon weapons designer Anh Duong told the Washington Post for a feature on how this 47-year-old former Vietnamese refugee and mother of four rose to become a top U.S. bomb-maker.

    Though Duong is best known for designing high-explosives used to destroy hardened targets, she also supervised the Joint Expeditionary Forensics Facilities project, known as a “lab in a box” for analyzing biometric data, such as iris scans and fingerprints, that have been collected on more than one million Iraqis.”

    Bound to go down in the hall of technologies that sound something like, “but we’re just using it to…”, “use will be very limited” and then ten years later it’s spread everywhere and you have less freedom in your supermarket, when you drive, when you travel, when you get pulled over for speeding, when you apply for insurance, when you look like a hippie, when the man doesn’t like your blog, christ, everything, it doesn’t take a genius to see where tracking devices are going from their glorious beginning in the next 10 years.