rfid sniff sniffer skim skimmer cyborg Wisconsin company now embedding microchip in its employees | Planet Biometrics News

Wisconsin company now embedding microchip in its employees
21 August 2018 11:39 GMT Posted by • Nicholas Clark Bryan

Having microchips implanted in employee’s skins for everyday tasks sounds like something out of science fiction but technology company Thee Square Market have been trialling the chips since last August. Over 50 employees from the company, who provides self-service mini-markets to hospitals, hotels, and company break rooms, in their Wisconsin headquarters have taken part in the trial.

Patrick McMullan, the president of Thee Square Market, reported to the MIT Technology Review that the idea came to him on a trip to Sweden where some citizens are already getting subcutaneous microchips to book train tickets or enter secured buildings. Sweden is one of the few places where implanting chips has taken off to any degree of popularity, with around 3,000 of them opting for the implants. Although implanted chips have been used on an individual level for many years.

The chip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, allows the user to log into computers, buy food from the canteen or vending machines and access doors. All with the wave of a hand. The chips are passive and do not require any batteries. Like other RFID chips they gain power from a RFID reader. McMullan’s chip for example also includes personal information about him to grant him access to certain areas as well as basic medical information.

A year into the experiment and it seems to be going well with the chipped employees using their chips regularly. “You get used to it; it’s easy,” McMullan said. Since the start of the trail 30 extra employees have gotten the chip implant with only two employees removing theirs. So out of the 250 employees roughly 80 or one third have implanted technology.

Some of the employees have reported using the chip up to 15 times a day and furthermore some have expressed irritation when the system goes down. “It’s just become such a part of my routine,” said Steve Kasserkert, the vice president of finance.

However, there is an obvious security risk with the new technology. Nick Anderson, an associate professor in public health sciences at the University of California, Davis, has highlighted concerns of people with readers trying to “sniff” out the chip and steal personal information.

A RFID sniffer or skimmer is a device that can locate and read objects that contain RFID chips in them. They have been relatively easy to construct for quite a while now and are based on simple, off the shelf, readers easily available to anyone.

McMullan counters this by saying much of the same information could be acquired from his wallet, which is true. Although while it is possible to make or buy reader proof wallets, it’s unlikely the new users would be keen to wear a glove to protect their identity information in public.

However, RFID attacks are currently incredibly rare although this may change it the chips begin to catch on or more sensitive information is stored on them.

An arguably more pressing issue, highlighted by some of the trial employees, was updating the software in the case the technology became outdated. “There may need to be a—dare I say—upgrade program, or something like that,” one employee said.

Furthermore, civil liberties groups have expressed concerns around personal security, worried employers will use them to keep tabs on employees.

For now, these chips remain small scale experiments. But with every new form of next generation technology in the identity industry there will be the debate between personal privacy and convenience.


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