Case Study

It should have been a good day, but on one of the biggest days of the retail year, Ron Field was hearing nothing but bad news.

The new RFID inventory management system had been sold to Big Screen Electronics with a long list of benefits—tighter inventory management, more efficient loss prevention, faster customer service—but no one had given Ron Field a list of what could go wrong.

Someone had placed a signal jamming device on the loading dock, and RFID tags on many of the goods received in the last week had been unreadable. Seasonal employees, unfamiliar with the RFID tag readers, had heard the readers beep, and then loaded the goods into the stockroom. None of them had noticed—or cared—that the beep had been a warning beep, not a confirmation beep. Now Field had goods in the stockroom that weren't in his computerized inventory, so his employees continued to tell customers that those goods weren't available, and the customers were going elsewhere. His accountants kept telling his suppliers that the goods hadn't been received and refusing to pay the invoices, so the suppliers were refusing to make any more deliveries.

Someone had also modified the prices on some of the goods on the store shelves. A few high-priced items had been sold for much less than they were worth; however, most of the price changes were inexpensive items that were ringing up for more than the correct price—not a ridiculous increase, but sufficient to cause a customer to demand the price be changed at the register, causing an extensive backup. Customers were becoming angry.

Even worse, Field had learned that none of the tags leaving the store had been deactivated, and a television news crew was outside, reporting that organized groups of thieves were using scanners to search for these tags and breaking into cars when their scanners located high-value electronics inside them.

It was not a good day, and no one could tell Ron Field how to make it better.

Radio frequency identification, or RFID, uses miniscule radio transceivers to transmit identification codes from tagged objects to a receiver that can record those codes, giving users the ability to identify objects in real-time. The MIT Auto-ID Labs developed RFID to "create an Internet of things" that has the potential to change the way we live and interact with everyday objects.

Using RFID technology, companies can track an item from raw materials all the way to the consumer. This can generate huge operational savings benefits for industry, but concerns have been raised that it can affect consumer privacy. RFID tags are also increasingly being used to identify and verify governmental documents, such as passports, banknotes, and other official documentation.

If the technology is not applied and secured correctly, the RFID technology could have dangerous side effects including

• DoS/signal jamming

• Location attacks

• Input validation attacks

• Skimming/eavesdropping

• Replay attacks

This chapter begins with a basic explanation of RFID and proceeds into RFID attacks and the countermeasures that can be used to defeat them. Although RFID technology seems relatively new, RFID has an interesting history, beginning with the first passive bugging device known as "The Thing" and followed by the first military radar identification capabilities or Identification-Friend-or-Foe (IFF). Most importantly, RFID and Linux have a strong connection.

Linux is often used as the base OS hosting the RFID software. Its flexibility makes it perfect for cutting-edge developers to use, especially in the cases of new commercial technologies and possibilities like RFID. Linux is also quickly becoming the tool RFID hackers play with and build upon in their quest to understand or undermine RFID.

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