Since the idea of embedding RFID chips in passports was first floated, the technology has been besieged by hack attempts, the first of which were designed to simply read passport information remotely and surreptitiously. Now, things are about to get a whole lot worse.
RFID expert Lukas Grunwald has found flaws in the passport system that not only allow passport data to be read, but also allows for stored fingerprint images to be cloned onto other RFID chips. And now, Grunwald has also found ways to encode a passport chip in such a way that it actually attacks the passport-reading equipment when someone attempts to scan it. Grunwald says he's performed this attack successfully using two different types of hardware. While his initial discovery merely crashes the passport reader, subsequent attacks could inject malicious code into a reader that could actually allow it, say, "to approve expired or forged passports."
While Grunwald's attack might sound theoretical, there's nothing to prevent such an exploit from being launched in the real world immediately. Experts have been warning about the dangers of RFID being used in passports for years, with only limited improvement in the security of the passports as a result. Meanwhile, rest assured: Things will continue to get worse on this front before they get better.
Oh, but if you want to disable the chip in your passport altogether, you can just whack it with a hammer.