RSA Laboratories

The Blocker Tag: Selective Blocking of RFID Tags for Consumer Privacy

A. Juels, R. L. Rivest, and M. Szydlo

Citation: The Blocker Tag: Selective Blocking of RFID Tags for Consumer Privacy. In V. Atluri, ed. 8th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, pp. 103-111. ACM Press. 2003.

Abstract: The RSA® Blocker Tag is an invention of RSA Laboratories scientists in conjunction with Prof. Ronald Rivest. Consumers will almost certainly wish to possess live RFID tags in many of their belongings -- for "smart" appliances, prescription refills, automated payment, store returns, and so forth. At the same time, they do not want their RFID tags to be scanned indiscriminately. The RSA® Blocker Tag is itself a RFID tag -- in size and cost much like a conventional RFID tag. The RSA® Blocker Tag, however, helps consumers to manage their live RFID tags in a privacy-protecting manner.

One may think of a the RSA® Blocker Tag as "spamming" any reader that attempts to scan tags without the right authorization. (The RSA® Blocker Tag manipulates the reading protocol with the aim of making the reader think that RFID tags representing all possible serial numbers are present.) When a Blocker is in proximity to ordinary RFID tags, they benefit from its shielding behavior; when the Blocker tag is removed, the ordinary RFID tags may be used normally.

Thanks to their selective nature, RSA® Blocker Tags are designed not to interfere with the normal operation of RFID systems in retail environments. They help prevent unwanted scanning of purchased items, but do not affect the scanning of shop inventories. Thus RSA® Blocker Tags are designed not to be usable, for example, to circumvent theft-control systems or mount denial-of-service attacks -- only to protect the privacy of law-abiding consumers.

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