RSA prescribes RFID blocking tag therapy

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RSA has unveiled technology to stop consumers being tracked after buying products with a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tag.

The RFID Blocker tag uses frequency jamming to obscure RFID readers.

RFID tags transmit a radio signal that makes it possible to track products, offering benefits to retailers and supply chains but raising concerns for privacy advocates. Last year, the UK supermarket chain Tesco stopped selling products with RFID tags, after it was faced with a publicity backlash.

"In a naive, RFID-enabled world without technical forethought, there is risk that sensitive information could be visible in secret to anyone with an RFID reader," said Burt Kaliski, director and chief scientist of RSA Laboratories. "The unique serial numbers emitted could be used to track people and objects surreptitiously. For businesses too, RFID introduces new privacy and security risks – and a whole new dimension to corporate espionage. These concerns have motivated our scientists to work on a new generation of technical solutions that match these challenges."

The technology was demonstrated at the RSA conference in San Francisci. In a mock-up pharmacy, RSA 'pharmacists' prescribed pills to passersby who carried the blocking tags.

The tags blocked RFID readers from discovering what the customer had been prescribed.

Kaliski was quick to point out the tags could not be used to circumvent theft control systems or as a launch pad for denial-of-service attacks.

The product is still in its early stages and is not expected to be available for some time.

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