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Summit Daily News Article 10-1-2010

Summit Daily News Article 10-1-2010

Ski Pass Defender made the front page today! Our local paper, the Summit Daily News, published an article featuring SPD and the potential controversy among stakeholders.

There are two corrections to the article. 1) We did not invent it.  We did review more than 3 dozen and tested a dozen passholders to find the one which serves the skier and rider the best.  Though jacket scanning, pass security, and easy opening even with gloves were significant considerations. We asked to make a few modifications to the existing package.  Ski Pass Defender is the best evolution for snowsports, and it is made in the USA. We also believe the Patent pending Squeeze to Read design is second to none. 2) We will be including a 5/8″ lanyard and 2 credit card shielding sleeves  per Defender to each of our  previous, current, and future online orders ($12 value).

Summit Daily News Article 10-1-2010


Ski industry deployment and use of RFID. Hacking and cloning

Aspen Ski Company integrated RFID technology into ski season passes in 2008-09. According a recent article in Computer World magazine, “The company will also extend the RFID program so that ski passes can be used as stored-value cards in any of its retail shops and restaurants, says Paul Major, managing director of technology for Aspen Ski Co.  The expanded use of RFID technologies “helps us to identify our truly loyal customers,” says Major.”

As profits get squeezed in the current economy, resorts (businesses) will be looking for additional or increasing revenue sources and/or lowering of expenses. As I have been recently reminded, that is the primary objective.  If the convenience of stored-value on RFID makes it easier for a guest to buy, and buy more frequently, then that is what the resort will do.

I believe integrating more information on the RFID chip is the direction the industry will travel.  Instead of the magnetic strips on the back of cards, resorts will move toward putting “Stored value” on RFID cards.  We shall be told that the systems are “encrypted and safe”,  there will be many who blindly believe this. However, this will invite hackers and thieves to “go where the money is”.  This is not paranoia, this is reality.

The MBTA subway system was hacked a few years back by MIT students.  RFID, Magstrips, and stored-value fare cards systems were all hacked. The MBTA tried to silence the data as they want to keep the pubic ignorant of the situation.  The MIT students released a slide show “Anatomy of a Subway Hack”

Squeezed to read, release to ride technology

Squeezed to read, release to ride technology

As you travel to a resort which incorporates RFID in their lift passes, you may not know what information is stored on the RFID chip in your pass or how it is encrypted, nor what type of back office safety systems the resort has in place. But one thing you CAN do is to use a Ski Pass Defender to block RFID intrusion and prevent cloning of your pass.  Push the clip to allow it to scan (even through clothing), and let it go for protection.

Ski resorts are turning on their snow guns and will soon turn on their RF guns.  We will be ski and riding soon. When looking at these gantries, I don’t think I would refer to the RFID scanners as “Gun Cases”, but I would assume the marketing departments know what they are doing.  Right?  You can be the judge. states, "Epicmix Fact: did you know that each pod on the gantry structure is a gun case?" states, "Epicmix Fact: did you know that each pod on the gantry structure is a gun case?"

I wonder if anyone in the marketing meetings voiced their opinions regarding potential security concerns or the desire to not have their movements cataloged.  And if so, was the statement given back to the dissenter something like this, “Our terms of use restricting access go beyond Federal Law and current industry standards”.  Did they think the people who knew about this data collection care about industry standards or federal law?  There is not even a state law which prohibits the tracking of individuals without their consent (although the State Government in California is in the process of passing one).  Did they think the issue of privacy and personal tracking would just go away?  And as importantly, didn’t just one person in that meeting say, “Hey we are people with identities too.  Let’s do the right thing and make it easy for people to truly opt-out of corporate data gathering whenever they want to do so.”  Well, I did.  And this was my story as reported by Bob Berwyn of the Summit County Citizen’s Voice.  The story is also being picked up in Europe by PlanetSki

A Ski Pass Defender for every mood (Phantom model pictured)

A Ski Pass Defender for every mood (Phantom model pictured)

As more ski areas from around the world move to RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) they will start to store more information on that chip.  Sometimes it is benign lift pass information.  Other companies will use it to track your usage data and categorize you in a group or groups.  Some resorts may choose to store critical information or a key which can unlock a database of information at a POS (Point-of-Sale) terminal.  As Ski resorts and corporations grow their usage of RFID the individual is at the mercy of a CIO (Chief Information Officer) and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer).

I prefer to to have tighter controls on what information I expose.

Hacking of RFID is not that tough.  And cloning of your ski pass information isn’t either.  A few bucks, and a little desire can snag your RFIDentification.

I use Ski Pass Defender, and I prefer to ski and ride UNTRACKED.

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