VeriChip targets DC market for its RFID implants

March 15th, 2006

The Washington Post has an article that describes how VeriChip is marketing it’s implant RFID chips to the DC metropolitan area.

Use of Implanted Patient-Data Chips Stirs Debate on Medicine vs. Privacy … “The two D.C. residents are among just a handful of Americans who have had the tiny electronic VeriChip inserted since the government approved it two years ago. But the chip is being aggressively marketed by its manufacturer, which is targeting Washington to be the first metropolitan area with multiple hospitals equipped to read the device, a persuasive factor for Fischer and Hickey. Within weeks, the first hospital is expected to announce plans to start routinely scanning all emergency-room patients.”

It is going to be an uphill battle to convince people to do this.

“The company has sold about 2,500 chips worldwide for use in people, and several hundred have been implanted, including about 100 in the United States, spokesman John Procter said. So far in the United States, however, most of the chips have been implanted into the company’s own employees. Suspecting that many people are hesitant to get the chips until more emergency rooms are able to scan them, the company has begun giving scanners to hospitals for free, Procter said.”

Two issues that should make us wary are privacy and security. The privacy issues are well known, but here is also a serious security problem. VeriChip is also marketing implanted RFID tags for controlling access to secure or sensitive areas.

The company is, however, marketing the devices to limit entry to secure facilities. The Mexican government is using the implants like key cards for high-security offices. And CityWatcher.com of Cincinnati, which stores surveillance-camera footage from around the country, recently started using the chips to control access to tapes. Bars in Spain and Amsterdam, meanwhile, are offering the chips to patrons who want quick entry and to run electronic tabs.

But, it turns out to be easy to skim and clone a verichip, as cq.cx demonstrates:

… “Verichip markets their product for access control. This means that you could have a chip implanted, and then your front door would unlock when your shoulder got close to the reader. Let us imagine that you did this; then, I could sit next to you on the subway, and read your chip’s ID. At this point I can break in to your house, by replaying that ID. So now you have to change your ID; but as far as I know, you cannot do this without surgery. …”