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Implanted RFIDs - your stories?

Hello everyone

As those who've seen my thread on hacking hearing already know, I have a regular BBC Future column, Beyond Human, about transhumanism issues:
UK Proxy:

I'm working on a piece about RFID implants, and I wanted to hear your stories - why did you get them, what do they do? I'm struggling to find a really persuasive case for implanted RFID, seeing as it's not -truly- embedded in the body - functionally they are little different to an RFID wearable (ring, brooch, etc).

It's something I've tinkered with in the past: I made this video showing how to extract the RFID from a London Oyster transport card in 2008:

I was planning to implant the chip under my skin - even had an army medic willing to do the dirty and prescribe ABX and everything else - but the project failed as I couldn't find a source of medical-grade silicone to coat the chip. I moved away from London in 2009, which nixed the idea. That said, I'm moving back next month, so I'll probably pick it up again.

So that's my (somewhat disappointing) RFID implant story. What's yours? 


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  1. I'll start with a boring story and let people pick up the pace.

    I've had piercing reject due to getting snagged on clothes or worse getting trashed by doing something foolhardy.  I've scraped up a labret piercing bead, along with my face, while longboarding.  Then there was the time I had a nipple piercing tear after getting tackled by a friend in a parking ramp.  We're still friends.  The idea of having a GLASS tag embedded in my hand didn't appeal to me.

    Instead I checked the diameters of available rfid against common piercing diameters.
    That is roughly the same size as a 12 gauge piercing.  As fate would have it, I already had a 12 gauge piercing in my left ear as a conch piercing.  You can just barely see the tag in my profile picture.  I simply hold it in place with o-rings.

    Mine clearly doesn't count as an implant but I wanted to get the ball rolling on this thread.
  2. As a fellow labret piercee and sometime longboarder, I am wincing so hard right now.
  3. @McSTUFF - what do you use your RFID tag for?
  4. As for my RFID implant story. I played with the idea for many years but I was lacking a good application (aka excuse to do it). Then, somewhere in 2009, I found some RFID unlockable external HDD's. So I bought one and found that regular veterinary RFID tags didn't work on it. I ended up cutting a few traces on the HDD controller, and looped a microcontroller into it to do the signal translation between the original tags, and the implantable one. Once that was working, I got my RFID implant in the right hand by a vet. The actual implantation took... I'd say about half a second. Healing went fast and after a few weeks there were no signs of the procedure anymore. Since then I carry my external HDD with me, and lock and unlock it just by putting my hand over it. I use it on a daily base, more than four years now. It's not offering real security, but it does prevent most people from accessing/manipulating/formating my HDD. A fun and convenient toy. Would certainly do it again :) I can also stick small magnets on the back of my hand and they won't fall off, for all those interested in "party tricks". I never ran into any problem so far. The only occasion where I can feel it is when someone else tries to feel it and presses the thing against a bone. Other than that, not a single negative moment in all those years. I can't tell too much about MRT with an RFID implant yet. I may be able to participate in a study involving fMRT, but i'm still waiting for the feedback from the technicians to see what precautions etc must be taken. So maybe I can report back on that in a couple of weeks.
  5. I've got two, one in each hand. The one that I mainly use is a rewriteable NFC tag in my left hand that I use to unlock my cellphone and keep numbers on that I haven't fully memorized (Drivers license, certain phone numbers etc) in the event that I need them and am away from my phone. I also have a 125khz RFID in my right hand that's used for access control. I'm currently working on a door lock and wiring another controller into the ignition for a couple of toys. No, they're not true security, but it does add another layer which never hurts.
  6. @geckogut Thanks, very interesting. A couple of questions - 1) if you're away from your phone, how do you read the NFC tag? ie what would this provide that, say, a tattoo wouldn't? Is it a psychological thing, of having what you need to hand (no pun intended) 
    2) Seen a few people mention they use tags for access control, doesn't this make it more difficult if, say, you need to give someone else access when you're not there (ie in an emergency)
  7. @ThomasEgi Thanks - interesting use, I kinda like it in a simple hack way. 

    A question for all: it seems that getting chipped is essentially a way of making yourself machine-readable: do you think implanted chips will come to replace traditional ID tokens like credit cards and, latterly, smartphones? Does their usefulness only become apparent when the surrounding infrastructure is in place?
  8. I have not had enough time to program anything useful and the location on my body makes it inconvenient.  The hands make sense when you consider that an RFID readers can be installed in a door jamb but I don't want to headbutt my apartment to get in.  Although, after saying that it's slightly appealing.

    If anyone knows of a 2mm diameter NFC tag I would be eager to make my cellphone react, or not react, when I hold it to my left ear. 

    I don't think implanted chips will replace something as ubiquitous as credit cards anytime soon.  I think that until RFID chips come with validator-style number generation they won't be used as anything but an extra layer of security on an already robust system.
  9. RFID chips aren't crypto-secured, right? You can just duplicate them.

    Why aren't there any crypto tags out there? Is it too hard to make passive crypto units?
  10. There are crypto tags. A whole lot actually. They are widely used in car keys. Many modern cars have keys with rfid and crypto abilities to prevent theft. Many of those are passive systems. About the replacement of ID tokens etc. it's not going to happen anytime soon, not unless everyone agrees on a single good standard. It's pretty easy to pull such a trick as diy solution tho. Even building your own tags with crypto ability is possible at reasonably small sizes. general info on diy tags:
  11. Sorry about the wall of text. There should be a gem or two in it somewhere though.

    About 9 years ago (maybe 8), I decided it would be really cool to get an RFID implant, I think it was after I read about a bar that would implant them and let you use it to pay the tab.

    So I decided I wanted one. But back then they were fairly hard to get, except for.. animals. So I went to a local veterinarian and told him I was doing a school presentation on RFID implants and I wanted to buy an RFID with applicator (big needle), so I can use it to show during my presentation.

    The veterinarian did look a little bit suspicious at me, but sold me the kit. Then I crossed the street (might have been two streets over, not sure anymore) and went into a body piercing studio. I pulled out the applicator and asked the body piercer: "Can you implant this above my wrist?" He looked at the needle with big eyes and said with great enthusiasm, "that's a big fucking needle! I've never stuck something that size in someone. I'll do it for free!"

    Once home, I decided to look into actually using the implant (before you ask, 9 years' older me does tend to look with considerable disdain at some of the actions of 9 years' younger me, this one being a particularly enlightening example). I found an RFID reader with a serial interface and hooked it up to my PC (worked fine) and then eventually to one of the early Arduinos (well at least it was an Atmega168), but I couldn't get it to work - mind you I didn't know that much about electronics back then - or now for that matter). I must have spend dozens of hours tinkering, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, but I just couldn't get it to work. In the end, I decided the project was too hard for me and dropped it.

    Years went by. Not sure how many, four, five. During that time I decided I wasn't smart enough for the work I was doing, so I turned to nootropics, followed by a DIY tDCS device and training program and lo and behold, it worked, it worked wonderfully well.

    So I turned back to the RFID project. In a matter of a few hours I had figured it out. The manufacturer of the RFID device had tuned it for about 9500 baud, not 9600. A PC doesn't have a problem with that, an Arduino on the other hand can't cope with it.

    Anyway, at that point I added a touch screen, some nice RGB leds and printed an enclosure to stick it all in. I'm still using it daily to authenticate to my computers (which I have to do fairly often for various reasons, probably 20 times a day or something).

    It turned out to be a successful project. When I use it to authenticate and the LEDs glow up and I'm logged in, even now it still gives me tiny bit of pleasure, particularly when I use it the first time during the day. And whenever there's a new person at work, it's a delight to see their expressions and I use it as a crutch to set their initial impressions of me in a way that pleases me.

    And it does go beyond just that. It has a much deeper meaning for me.

    Externally, it is my way to signal to the prevalent culture I'm surrounded with that I'm not conforming and that my nonconformist approach makes my life easier in some ways. That instantly creates different, more interesting conversations, it allows me to interact with people in ways that wouldn't be acceptable for others, but that I can get away with, because hey, it's the RFID guy right? He's a bit weird.

    Internally, I've created a narrative where I've grown over the years and have proven to myself that I now can take on projects and problems I would never been able to tackle in the past, so it's a great self esteem booster (not that I needed that, but fine, now I'm even more arrogant than I already was I suppose) and motivates me to make my life miserable by taking on insanely complicated projects, just like practically everyone else in this thread.
  12. @fufu1 Ahh, that's a great story
  13. This won't be much of a story as it's only been three days since I got the first of my two RFID implants ... Will explain the history later but just wanted to quickly answer your access query, @Frank.
    I (legally) reside in an abandoned Catholic girls boarding school with eight male friends. They're forever losing their house keys plus the spares I repeatedly hide outside so when I ordered my RFID tags, we opted to split the cost of a Samsung Ezon door lock for our building. 
    This will be installed on our front door. I'll use my implants to unlock it; and rather then carry around their own RFID tags, the guys plan to use the combination code feature.
    The Ezon accepts 70 codes (from memory) so I'll set up a generic code should a plumber or other contractor, family member or friend ever need to get inside when nobody's home. Once they're gone, we'll just delete that number from the system.
    Elsewhere, I've begun installing a cheap access controller with electric strike on my bedroom door. And, after that, I'll look at throwing my second control unit in the car for ease of entry.
    Fingers crossed, I'll also convince the HR department at work to let me hand in my office swipe-card and photocopier tag in favour of using my implants. Before too long, I simply won't need keys at all.

    PS: While I appreciate your earlier distinction regarding the logic of embedding RFID chips, as an implantee I just don't see it that way. It's like saying: "Why bother piercing your ears when it's just as easy to wear fake clip-ons?" 
    If anything, I've already found my new tag to be far more practical than my magnet. And unlike RFID jewellery or magnet rings, I can't forget to put my implant on or lose it.

  14. @Frank The NFC tag is rewriteable unlike a tattoo, at any moment I can change what it "says" on the tag. Most modern cellphones are capable of reading NFC so if I store any information as plaintext, it's really easy to read it. The only problem is it being a high frequency tag and having such a small antenna, it's kind of difficult to locate the phones antenna at first.
        As far as access control, it was previously mentioned but there are door locks that will tag both tags and passwords; the vehicle I'm using RFID on is just a toy so it's not my main vehicle. I shouldn't have to worry about blocking everyone else from using that one. (it's also really fun if anyone wants to borrow my phone and tries to unlock it!)
  15. Article is now published. Thanks all for your thoughts Ultimately I realised that the advantage of an RFID implant is to meld your digital and physical identities, which, in a machine-moderated world, will be increasingly relevant.
  16. @ThomasEgi any chance of an instructable-style tutorial to set up an RFID-secured hdd like yours? Amal recently stuck me with a 125 khz tag in San Fran and I want to put it to use.
  17. @Saal i never prepared such instructions but there are a few things i can tell you about. First you need an RFID HDD enclosure. When i bought mine they were all out of stock, seems like they are available again. From the 3 HDD enclosures i bought, all three contained a combination of chips from innmax. . The two yellow pictured boxes are actual chips located on the PCB. i tapped into the connection between those two, besides GND there's only the Clock and Data signal to be connected. The clock can be directly connected to a microcontroller, the Data line has to be cut and looped through the microcontroller. The firmware on the microcontroller basically forwards the data of the receiver chip to the main controller unit, it keeps checking the incoming signal for a known key (like the one in my hand). if it detect it, it sends out a copy of the sequence from the original keys. Having said that, i only needed this because the chip in my had used a different signaling standard than the keys delivered with the HDD. When first connecting a HDD you have to teach in the keys. So if your implant is compatible with those keys, it may even work out of the box. One issue has been the range with implanted tags. It works for me since i'm very skinny, i had some trouble with some combinations of coils and cases.
  18. I'm pretty sure that HDD cover is compatible with the EM4102 in your hand @Saal. I use mine with a different but similar HDD case.
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