RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) is a technology that practically permeates our modern lives. Everything from your passport, your keyfob at work, tags on the back of your equipment, and even your dog or cat probably has an RFID tag in it that contains important information. Guns are part of this equation too and it is being used predictably by some of the United States Armed Forces to keep track of weapons to prevent potential theft as well as help aid in weapon inventory tasks and distribution. However, recent research has revealed that RFID technology inside the military’s weapons poses a “significant” security risk according to the Department of Defense.
RFID Equipped Weapons Can Be Tracked … By Both Friend And Foe
Both the Navy and the Air Force have already rolled out this novel tracking and inventory system for their small arms and equipment. However, the Marines have outright rejected the technology due to the fact that the DoD has described the technology as a “significant” security risk. But what are these risks and how could they potentially apply to civilian firearms?
First off, the RFID tags are embedded within the weapons to prevent easy removal. This helps armorers to keep track of weapons inventory and assignments and in the event of a theft, it also allows them to track the weapon back to where or who it was stolen from once recovered. However, on the flip side of things, the same technology can not only be duped but used by informed enemies to track down individual weapons from a significant distance.
Experiments performed in the San Joaquin Valley by hackers Marc Roger and Kristin Paget demonstrated that using a sub $500 RFID detection system and an antenna, they were able to detect a single firearm from over 210 feet away – all without breaking any regulations set forth by the FCC. The primary benefit (inventory checks) seems to be overshadowed by the fact that a small rifle case-sized device can spoof the RFID tag information, duplicating it so that a stolen weapon still appears to be in the armory’s inventory when in fact it has been absconded with.
While military experts scoff at the notion that RFID tags can be read and tracked from more than 10 feet away, they also say that the RFID Armory Program has been a success (according to Eglin AFB Spokeswoman Jasmine Porterfield). While the civilian side of things (the hackers) seems to indicate that using the right equipment, individual items can be tracked and spoofed with ease (Rogers and Paget were apparently able to spoof an RFID tag remotely in less than 2 minutes), executives at providers of RFID armory systems have said that the technology inside weapons poses “absolutely no risk at all.”
I’m somewhat torn on this issue. On the one hand, I can see how it would be extremely beneficial from a logistics standpoint to be able to issue and retrieve weapons inventory with 21st-century inventory systems. On the other hand, I also feel like the potential risks can also lead to a lot of harm if the claims and feats performed by the two hackers turn out to be accurate and easily replicated. What are your thoughts on RFID Tech in weapons? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments.