University of Arkansas researchers have developed a new method for preventing the cloning of passive radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. The method prevents the production of counterfeit tags by focusing on one or more unique physical attributes of individual tags, instead of the information stored on the tags. “It is easy to clone an RFID tag by copying the contents of its memory and applying them to a new, counterfeit tag, which can then be attached to a counterfeit product–or person, in the case of these new e-passports,” says Arkansas professor Dale R. Thompson. “What we’ve developed is an electronic fingerprinting system to prevent this from happening.” The researchers determined that all RFID tags have a unique fingerprint due to variances in radio frequency and manufacturing. By using an algorithm that repeatedly sent reader-to-tag signals, the researchers found that radio frequencies in RFID tags ranged from 903 MHz to 927 MHz, and increased in increments of 2.4 megahertz. The measurements showed that each tag had a unique minimum power response at multiple radio frequencies, and that power responses were significantly different even in same-model tags. Thompson says the different minimal responses are just one of several unique physical characteristics that enabled them to create an electronic fingerprint to identify tags with a high probability of detecting counterfeit tags.
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