Users warned on e-passport risks

Electronic passports being introduced in the US and other countries have a major vulnerability that can allow criminals to clone embedded secret code and enter countries illegally, an expert, quoted in an Associated Press report, warned.

A demonstration by German computer security expert Lukas Grunwald showed how personal information stored on the documents could be copied and transferred to another device, the report said.

It appeared to contradict assurances by officials in government and private industry that the electronic information stored in passports could not be duplicated.

"If there is an automatic inspection system, I can use this card to enter any country," Grunwald was quoted as saying, holding up a computer chip containing electronic information he had copied from his German passport.

The research was the latest to raise concerns about the growing use of RFID, short for radio-frequency identification, which allowed everyday objects such as store merchandise, livestock and security documents to beam electronic data to computers equipped with special antennas, the report said.

Germany already used RFID in passports to help border officials guard against forgeries and automate the processing of international visitors. US officials planned to start embedding RFID in passports in October, the report further said.