Critical Evaluation of RFID Security Protocols

Critical Evaluation of RFID Security Protocols

Azam Zavvari (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Malaysia) and Ahmed Patel (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Malaysia, & Kingston University, UK)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/jisp.2012070103


Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system is a low-cost contactless automatic identification technology; and barcode as a traditional technology is now broadly replaced by RFID systems to make objects more manageable in supply chains and other enterprises. This technology is operational in open wireless communication spaces whereby its transmission signals can be easily accessed resulting in security problems. Consequently, it becomes an absolute necessity to develop efficient security protocols to protect the data against various attacks. This paper outlines a critical evaluation of the RFID systems, the security and privacy issues in the RFID security protocols, the EPCglobal Class-1 Generation-2 standard as it is an international standard, its lower cost of implementation, and high speed data transmission and operation.
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The history of RFID technology dates back to the Second World War. The British military commenced the first usage of this technology to differentiate between a friend aircraft from a foe aircraft. In the 1950s and 1960s, a number of researches about RFID techniques were published and the theory of RFID was developed. In the 1970s and 1980s, the academic institution of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory was established which focused on toll payment systems, which were widely applied on different situations such as roads, tunnels, bridges and so on. They developed Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) passive RFID tags for animal tracking. RFID systems were also used for commercial purposes in various applications related to warehouse management, smart cards, and anti-theft systems. The 1990s was a decade that the RFID system was standardized and developed widely. In the 2000s, EPCglobal Inc. was founded to continue works on the Electronic Product Code (EPC) technology. RFID systems are now a part of our daily lives (Symonds, Ayoade, & Parry, 2009).

Components of RFID Systems

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems apply a small device to send and receive Radio Frequency (RF) signals. The major components of RFID systems are tag (or transponder), reader (or transceiver), and server (Liu & Bailey, 2009), as it is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

RFID systems components

A tag attached to an object is used to identify the object uniquely. The reader can read and write the information on the tags, and communicate with the server. The server obtains the data from the reader and stores this information.

These components work together through transmitting electromagnetic waves. First, the reader sends a query signal to the tags in the interrogation zone of the reader. The tags thereafter send out their unique identification data to the reader. The reader receives the signals and converts them into a form of data that can be used by the computer. Then, the reader transfers the data to the server, and the server stores this data to the database. The database server manages and stores all data related to the tags, such as the electronic product code data and previous identification information (Huang, 2009).

Type of RFID Tags

RFID tags are categorized in three major groups: passive, semi-passive, and active tags, as they are shown in Figure 2 (Liu & Bailey, 2009).

Figure 2.

Passive, semi-passive and active tags respectively

The differences among the passive, semi-passive, and active, tags (Kim, Lee, Jung, Maeng, & Park, 2010) stem from their power source, cost and processing capability. In the passive tags, the required power is provided by the reader’s radio frequency signals. These types of tags are low in cost, and run very simple functions; while active tags have their own battery power source, and send back their data to the reader by using the battery power. It works like a simple computer. In semi-passive tags, there are batteries same as the active tags, but the required power to transmit the tags’ data is provided by the reader, which is the only difference. These types of tags can read the sensors. Active tags and semi-passive tags are expensive because of their hardware complexity. Table 1 compares the different properties and features of passive, semi-passive and active tags.

Table 1.
Comparison of passive, semi-passive and active tags
    Type of Tags    Power SourceCost    Processing Capability
Passive (a)Harvesting RF energyLeast expensiveAlmost none
Semi-Passive (b)Battery & RF energyMore expensiveAbility to read sensors
Active (c)BatteryMost expensiveLike a very small computer

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