On Friday, April 4, 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder told the House of Representative Appropriations Subcommittee that the Department of Justice is looking to technology to solve gun violence. Specifically, the AG is looking for money to develop technology that would disable a handgun unless the user was authenticated by fingerprint reader or wireless communication (RFID). Smart gun technology would also incorporate GPS to locate a firearm if stolen or identify a person wearing a concealed handgun.
The response from 2nd Amendment advocates has been immediate and negative. The National Rifle Association opposes the imposition of mandatory technology that would be expensive and unreliable in an emergency situation. The NRA and other raise privacy concerns that such measures would prompt the government to keep tabs on the whereabouts of gun owners.
Equally troubling to many is the vulnerability of RFID technology. During the July 2013 Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, NV, security analysts Drew Porter and Stephen Smith detailed methods available to defeat RFID technology used in building access badging systems called “proximity cards.” According to Porter and Smith, it is possible for someone to copy another person’s RFID data from several feet away and without attracting attention.
How easy it is to steal data from a RFID device was documented by Andy Greenberg in his January 2012 article in Forbes magazine. Kristin Paget, a presenter at the Washington, D.C. Shmoocon hacker conference. Wirelessly ready a volunteer’s credit card using a $50 Vivotech RFID reader sold on Ebay and then duplicated the card’s magnetic strip with a $300 card magnetizer.
From my point of view, Mr. Holder’s “blaster bling” has lost its luster.
Bruce Bremer, MBA is LET’s technology contributor. Bruce retired from the Submarine Service after 21 years of in-depth experience with complex electronic technology. Lately, he is developing a corporate learning management system (Moodle LMS), curricula, and technical documentation for lighter-than-air tethered surveillance craft (aerostats). He has an extensive background in fleet modernization and military analysis. He teaches electronics and alternative energy at a Virginia college. Besides his MBA, Bruce earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer networking. He has been volunteering in public safety for many years.
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