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RSA Security Demonstrates New RFID Privacy Technology: The RSA® Blocker Tag

  • 25 February, 2004 11:12

<p>FYI - please find following a media release announcing RSA Security’s new RFID privacy technology – the RSA Blocker Tag. The RSA Conference in San Francisco this week will play host to the new prototype which is designed to ensure consumer privacy yet still allowing businesses and consumers to enjoy the benefits of RFID. Few businesses realise the privacy and security risks RFID poses given that sensitive information could be visible to anyone with a reader, for example corporate espionage.</p>
<p>If you are interested in speaking to Mark Pullen, Business Development Manager of RSA Security regarding the prototype technology, please contact Kate Andrews or Kate Crosbie on 02 9904 4533 or at</p>
<p>For Immediate Release</p>
<p>RSA Security Demonstrates New RFID Privacy Technology: The RSA® Blocker Tag</p>
<p>“RxA Pharmacy” Demonstration Prescribes RSA® Blocker Tag for Business Efficiency and Consumer Privacy</p>
<p>RSA® CONFERENCE 2004, SAN FRANCISCO, February 25, 2004 – RSA Security Inc. (NASDAQ: RSAS) today announced that it is demonstrating a prototype of its RSA® Blocker Tag, a new technology designed to enforce consumer privacy while allowing consumers and businesses to reap the full benefits of Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.</p>
<p>The RSA Blocker Tag is a special RFID tag designed to prevent readers from performing unwanted scanning and tracking of people or goods, without any disruption to normal RFID operation. Devised by RSA Laboratories, the research arm of RSA Security, in conjunction with Professor Ronald Rivest (the `R’ in RSA), the patent-pending RSA Blocker Tag is one of several RFID innovations under development at RSA Security, which is seeking to meet the emerging security and privacy challenges of RFID. The demonstration will take place at the RSA® Conference 2004 in booth #711.</p>
<p>An RFID tag is a small silicon microchip attached to an antenna that emits a unique serial number via radio over short distances. It is commonly viewed as a form of next-generation barcode poised to sweep the world of commerce by cutting costs and yielding unprecedented levels of supply chain efficiency. At the same time, because information stored on RFID tags can be read by anyone, they may pose privacy threats to customers when deployed in retail environments, and have already triggered a wave of consumer outcry.</p>
<p>“In a naive, RFID-enabled world without technical forethought, there is risk that sensitive information could be visible in secret to anyone with an RFID reader,” said Burt Kaliski, director and chief scientist of RSA Laboratories. “Moreover, the unique serial numbers emitted by RFID tags could be used to track people and objects surreptitiously. For businesses too, RFID introduces new privacy and security risks – and a whole new dimension to corporate espionage. These concerns have motivated our scientists to work on a new generation of technical solutions that match these challenges.”</p>
<p>At RSA Security’s booth, RSA Laboratories will be demonstrating its prototype RSA Blocker Tag in a mock “RXA Pharmacy.” The RXA Pharmacy aims to show how live RFID tags on medication bottles can help make prescription dispensing and refills swift, easy and accurate for customers. At the same time, if deployed without care, RFID tags can expose and jeopardise consumer privacy and medical information. The RXA Pharmacy shows how innovative solutions like the RSA® Blocker Tag can help consumers and businesses achieve the best of both worlds with RFID: privacy and convenience.</p>
<p>Attendees entering the RXA Pharmacy fill out mock prescription forms and select a “medication” type – Wisdom, Tranquility or Happiness pills. These “medications” (jellybeans) are provided in a prescription bottle bearing a RFID tag. This serves a dual purpose of linking the RFID tag to a specific customer record, and also recording that the bottle has been purchased and therefore should not trigger theft-control systems in the pharmacy.</p>
<p>Upon checkout, RSA Laboratories pharmacists will provide attendees with special paper “blocker bags” for their purchases. These bags carry a demonstration version of the RSA Blocker Tag to help shield their contents from unwanted scanning and secure consumers’ private information. When a bottle is in the blocker bag, it benefits from shielding against the RFID readers in the RXA Pharmacy. When a bottle is removed from the blocker bag, it may be successfully scanned to execute an easy and convenient “prescription” refill.</p>
<p>A fully developed RSA Blocker Tag will work by “spamming” any RFID reader that attempts to scan tags without the right authorisation, thereby creating a hostile environment for the reader. When ordinary RFID tags are in proximity to an RSA Blocker Tag, they benefit from its shielding behavior; when the RSA Blocker Tag is removed, the ordinary RFID tags may be used normally. Thanks to its selective nature, the RSA Blocker Tag helps prevent unwanted scanning of purchased items, but does not interfere with the normal operation of RFID systems.</p>
<p>“RSA Blocker Tags cannot be used, for example, to circumvent theft-control systems or mount denial-of-service attacks – only to protect the privacy of law-abiding consumers,” said Kaliski.</p>
<p>The demonstration version of the RSA Blocker Tag being presented this week at the RSA Conference has the same effective functionality as the fully developed version in general deployments, but is a software-based solution designed just for the demonstration environment. The RXA Pharmacy demonstration is just one example of an environment in which the RSA Blocker Tag might be used to help protect sensitive information. And it is just one example of the new RFID privacy and security technologies – for tags, readers and RFID backend infrastructure – under development at RSA Laboratories and RSA Security.</p>
<p>As part of its RFID initiatives, RSA Security is a founding member of EPCglobal Inc., the leading developer of RFID standards, and a successor to the Auto-ID Center. EPCglobal is a joint venture of Uniform Code Council (UCC) and EAN International, the two bodies overseeing barcode standards in the U.S. and Europe respectively. Many of the major companies intending to sell or deploy RFID in the near future are members of this organisation, particularly in the United States.</p>
<p>“The promise of RFID will require infrastructure and process changes, and it will also present huge security and privacy challenges,” said Kaliski. “Whereas retailers think about tracking inventory, piracy advocates worry about what happens when the RFIDs leave the store. It’s up to companies like RSA Security to help bridge that gap. Combined with conventional security technologies – authentication, authorisation and encryption – and if suitably supported by standards, reader manufacturers, and auditing processes, this new patent-protected approach of the RSA Blocker Tag is a viable mechanism for protecting sensitive business data and consumer privacy.”</p>
The RSA Blocker Tag is only a research concept at present. It is RSA Security’s opinion that RFID tags are unlikely to become widespread in individual retail items for at least several years. When they do, RSA Blocker Tags are one of a collection of innovative technical protections for consumer privacy. For more information on RFID innovations at RSA Security Inc, please visit</p>
<p>About RSA Security Inc.
RSA Security Inc. helps organisations protect private information and manage the identities of people and applications accessing and exchanging that information. RSA Security’s portfolio of solutions – including identity &amp; access management, secure mobile &amp; remote access, secure enterprise access and secure transactions – are all designed to provide the most seamless e-security experience in the market. Our strong reputation is built on our history of ingenuity, leadership, proven technologies and our more than 14,000 customers around the globe. Together with more than 1,000 technology and integration partners, RSA Security inspires confidence in everyone to experience the power and promise of the Internet. For more information, please visit</p>
<p># # #</p>
<p>RSA is either a registered trademark or trademark of RSA Security Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. All other products and services mentioned are trademarks of their respective companies.</p>
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