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Hacker Clones VeriChip

With the debate over genetic cloning in full swing, hackers could not have cared less at a conference in New York City, where two presenters demonstrated the electronic equivalent of making a copy of an implanted RFID or radio frequency ID chip.

The point was to show just how easy it is to fool a detection device that purports to uniquely identify any individual.

Annalee Newitz and Jonathan Westhues presented their experimentations at the HOPE Number 6 (Hackers On Planet Earth) conference in New York City in front of a crowd of hackers, tweakers and phone phreakers.

“This is the first time someone has cloned an human-implanted RFID chip,” Newitz said. “Since I have been chipped Jonathan refers to me as an implanted pet.”

Newitz said she has an RFID chip implanted in her right arm manufactured by VeriChip Corp., a subsidiary of Applied Digital.

“Their Web site claims that it cannot be counterfeited — that is something that Jonathan and I have shown to be untrue.”

The pair demonstrated the cloning process: Westhues held a standard RFID reader against Newitz’s arm to register the chip’s unique identification number.

Next, Westhues used a home-built antenna connected to his laptop to read Newitz’s arm again and record the signal off her implanted chip.

Westhues then takes the standard RFID reader and waves it past his laptop’s antenna. The reader beeps, showing Newitz’s until then “unique” ID. “It actually has no security devices what-so-ever,” Newitz said of VeriChip’s claims that its RFID chips can not be counterfeited.

VeriChip spokesman John Procter said in a phone interview that he had read about Newitz and Westhues work, but the company had not been able to review the evidence. He had no specific comment regarding their “cloning” project.

“We can’t verify what they may or may not have done,” Procter said, adding that: “We haven’t seen any first-hand evidence other than what’s been reported in the media.”

“It’s very difficult to steal a VeriChip … it’ s much more secure than anything you’d carry around in your wallet,” he added.

Source: Reuters Newsblogs, Jonathan Westhues

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