RealTime IT News

Infineon Wins E-Passport Order

German chipmaker Infineon is the winning bidder to supply security chips for the new U.S. e-passports, which the Department of State began issuing earlier this month.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

E-Passports contain an individual's biographic information and a digital photograph. The Infineon chip, embedded in the back cover of the document, contains the same information.

A separate piece of hardware at airports and other ports of entry will "read" the information on the chip.

The hardware contains a security feature known as Basis Access Control (BAC), which is intended to prevent the unauthorized reading or "skimming" of information on the passports by devices other than the authorized reader.

According to the U.S. Department of State, metallic anti-skimming material used in the front cover and spine of the new passport will also reduce the threat of unauthorized reading.

In addition to shielding and BAC, Infineon said there are more than 50 individual security mechanisms inside the chip, including the capacity for encrypting data.

Infineon said the actual data transmission between the e-passport and the reader occurs over a distance of about four inches.

The company already supplies its secure identification chips to more than 20 countries that are currently using e-passports or are in the testing stage.

In addition, Infineon provides the chips used in e-identity documents used in Italy, Finland, the United Arab Emirates, Australia and Belgium, as well as the chips used for secure identification cards issued by the U.S. Department of Defense.

"Our chips have successfully passed some of the most stringent security tests in the world. We are very happy to be chosen to supply the electronics for the large-scale rollout of the U.S. electronic passport," Christopher Cook, managing director of Infineon Technologies North America, said in a statement.

The State Department estimates that as many as 15 million new e-passports will be issued over the next 12 months, the largest rollout of e-passports in the world.

The Department of Homeland Security hopes biometric technologies will prevent the use of fraudulent or stolen international travel documents.

After more than a two-year delay over the security of the new passports, the U.S. began issuing electronic passports to diplomats and other government workers in late 2005.