Tamper-proof RFID tags

Radio-frequency identification technologies offer tremendous
potential benefits for anyone who needs to identify, track and
ensure the security of everything from tools and equipment to
shipment containers passing through the world's ports.

However, until manufacturers begin building RFID capabilities
directly into products, the technology has one major Achilles heel:
RFID tags can be removed.

'Standard, off-the-shelf tags have no tamper-evident
capability at all incorporated into them,' said Andrew
Strauch, vice president of MIKHO. 'You can take your fingers
and peel it right off and put it on a surface.'

In some cases, if the adhesive is strong, you may need to use a
hair dryer and a razor blade to remove the tag.

That won't work with all RFID tags. Active RFID tags,
unlike passive RFID tags, can transmit data about their location
and status and can be configured to report if they've been
tampered with. But active RFID tags are also more expensive '
often 10 to 100 times more expensive ' than passive tags.

That leaves a major tradeoff between cost and security.

MIKHO has come up with a low-cost solution that makes
tamper-evident tags much more affordable.

The company's Smart & Secure Insight passive RFID tags use a layered
design, and removing the tags from an object compromises the RFID
electronics. If someone attempts to read the RFID tag, one of two
things will happen, depending on the specific model tag employed:
the tag will be unreadable or will deliver a message that it has
been tampered with.

In a project that began last summer, an RFID tag that carries
data about vehicle registration status is attached to the
windshield of all vehicles.

The tags can be read as far away as 30 feet. A police officer
can take appropriate detection if he or she detects that a
vehicle's registration is expired ' or that the RFID
tag has been removed or tampered with.

'Their return on investment is $2 million a year or $11
million over five years,' Strauch said. 'Their
investment is around $2 million for the system.'

Active RFID tags would not be feasible for that kind of project,
Strauch said. Active tags cost from $20 to more than $100.

MIKHO's tamper-evident passive tags, when bought in large
volumes, cost less than $1 each.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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