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Radio Frequency IDentification
Adam Szmyt i Urszula Bernolak
Furthermore. The omnipresent barcode labels that triggered a revolution in identification systems some considerable time ago. the mechanical contact used in the smart card is often impractical. The number of companies actively involved in the development and sale of RFID systems indicates that this is a market that should be taken seriously. industry. including mobile phones and cordless telephones. The RFID market therefore belongs to the fastest growing sector of the radio technology industry. bank cards). in recent years contactless identification has been developing into an independent interdisciplinary field. the following section gives a brief overview of different automatic ID systems that perform similar functions to RFID. goods and products in transit.d. n. The technically optimal solution would be the storage of data in a silicon chip. are being found to be inadequate in an increasing number of cases. 2 . the power required to operate the electronic data-carrying device would also be transferred from the reader using contactless technology. However. manufacturing companies and material flow systems. data protection and cryptography.Introduction In recent years automatic identification procedures (Auto-ID) have become very popular in many service industries. semiconductor technology. It brings together elements from extremely varied fields: HF technology and EMC. telecommunications. which no longer fits into any of the conventional pigeon holes. manufacturing technology and many related areas. but their stumbling block is their low storage capacity and the fact that they cannot be reprogrammed. A contactless transfer of data between the data-carrying device and its reader is far more flexible. Whereas global sales of RFID systems were approximately 900 million $US in the year 2000 it is estimated that this figure will reach 2650 million $US in 2005 (Krebs. Automatic identification procedures exist to provide information about people. Because of the procedures used for the transfer of power and data.). purchasing and distribution logistics. contactless ID systems are called RFID systems (Radio Frequency Identification). The most common form of electronic data-carrying device in use in everyday life is the smart card based upon a contact field (telephone smart card. As an introduction. Barcodes may be extremely cheap. animals. In the ideal case.
and is therefore compatible with it (Virnich and Posten. biometry is the general term for all procedures that identify people by comparing unmistakable and individual physical characteristics. the following barcodes are popular in other industrial fields: • Code Codabar: medical/clinical applications. by the different reflection of a laser beam from the black bars and white gaps (ident. made up of wide and narrow bars and gaps. Voice identification Recently. The most popular barcode by some margin is the EAN code (European Article Number). In such systems. which was introduced in the USA as early as 1973. can be interpreted numerically and alphanumerically. the manufacturer’s item number and a check digit. The sequence. the company identifier. The EAN code represents a development of the UPC (Universal Product Code) from the USA. They are arranged according to a predetermined pattern and represent data elements that refer to an associated symbol. shipping containers and heavy industry. goods storage. retina (or iris) identification. The EAN code is made up of 13 digits: the country identifier. 1996). voice identification and. i. Today. despite being identical in their physical design. less commonly. fields with high safety requirements. In practice. In the context of identification systems. the user talks into a 3 . 1992). The barcode is a binary code comprising a field of bars and gaps arranged in a parallel configuration. In addition to the EAN code. Biometric procedures Biometrics is defined as the science of counting and (body) measurement procedures involving living beings. these are fingerprinting and handprinting procedures. which was designed specifically to fulfill the requirements of the grocery industry in 1976.e. • Code 2/5 interleaved: automotive industry. there are considerable differences between the code layouts in the approximately ten different barcode types currently in use. However. It is read by optical laser scanning. pallets. specialised systems have become available to identify individuals using speaker verification (speaker recognition). logistics.Automatic Identification Systems Barcode systems Barcodes have successfully held their own against other identification systems over the past 20 years. the UPC represents a subset of the EAN code. • Code 39: processing industry. universities and libraries.
readers that are accessible to the public (telephone boxes) cannot be protected against vandalism. The system calculates a data record from the pattern it has read and compares this with a stored reference pattern. of which 500 million were memory cards and 100 million were microprocessor cards.g. then a reaction can be initiated (e. The first smart cards in the form of prepaid telephone smart cards were launched in 1984. which makes a galvanic connection to the contact surfaces of the smart card using contact springs. One of the primary advantages of the smart card is the fact that the data stored on it can be protected against undesired (read) access and manipulation. One disadvantage of contact-based smart cards is the vulnerability of the contacts to wear. Modern fingerprint ID systems require less than half a second to recognize and check a fingerprint. the fingertip is placed upon a special reader. Smart cards make all services that relate to information or financial transactions simpler. Readers that are used frequently are expensive to maintain due to their tendency to malfunction. which — for convenience — is incorporated into a plastic card the size of a credit card. ‘open door’). This equipment converts the spoken words into digital signals. usually for entrance procedures. but also from objects that the individual in question has touched. The smart card is supplied with energy and a clock pulse from the reader via the contact surfaces. Fingerprinting procedures (dactyloscopy) Criminology has been using fingerprinting procedures for the identification of criminals since the early twentieth century. Smart cards A smart card is an electronic data storage system. corrosion and dirt. Smart cards are placed in a reader. 4 . This process is based upon the comparison of papillae and dermal ridges of the fingertips. For this reason. safer and cheaper. In 1995 this figure had risen to 600 million. This is achieved by checking the speech characteristics of the speaker against an existing reference pattern. In addition. Data transfer between the reader and the card takes place using a bidirectional serial interface (I/O port). possibly with additional computing capacity (microprocessor card). When fingerprinting procedures are used for personal identification. which are evaluated by the identification software.microphone linked to a computer. fingerprint ID systems have even been developed that can detect whether the finger placed on the reader is that of a living person (Schmidh¨ausler. The smart card market therefore represents one of the fastest growing subsectors of the microelectronics industry. 200 million smart cards were issued worldwide in 1992. which can be obtained not only from the finger itself. The objective of speaker verification is to check the supposed identity of the person based upon their voice. It is possible to differentiate between two basic types of smart card based upon their internal functionality: the memory card and the microprocessor card. If they correspond. In order to prevent violent frauds. 1995).
data is stored on an electronic data-carrying device — the transponder. The option of programming the microprocessor cards also facilitates rapid adaptation to new applications (Rankl and Effing. using instead magnetic or electromagnetic fields. 1996). The RAM is the microprocessor’s temporary working memory.Memory cards In memory cards the memory — usually an EEPROM — is accessed using a sequential logic (state machine) (Figure 1. RAM and EEPROM segments). Like smart card systems. microprocessor cards contain a microprocessor. Examples are smart cards for GSM mobile phones and the new EC (electronic cash) cards.g. memory cards are very cost effective.5). stream ciphering.e. 5 . The chip’s EEPROM contains application data and application-related programme code. are identical for all microchips from the same production batch. However. The functionality of the memory card in question is usually optimised for a specific application.6). The mask programmed ROM incorporates an operating system (higher programme code) for the microprocessor and is inserted during chip manufacture. It is also possible to incorporate simple security algorithms. The abbreviation RFID stands for radio frequency identification. RFID systems are now beginning to conquer new mass markets. e. Data stored in the RAM are lost when the supply voltage is disconnected (Figure 1. RFID systems RFID systems are closely related to the smart cards described above. i. Microprocessor cards are primarily used in security sensitive applications. Reading from or writing to this memory area is controlled by the operating system. The application-specific parts of the programme are not loaded into the EEPROM until after manufacture and can be initiated via the operating system. Microprocessor cards As the name suggests. on the positive side. The contents of the ROM are determined during manufacturing. unlike the smart card. One example of this is the national insurance card used by the state pension system in Germany (Lemme. 1996). Due to the numerous advantages of RFID systems compared with other identification systems. the power supply to the datacarrying device and the data exchange between the data-carrying device and the reader are achieved without the use of galvanic contacts. Microprocessor cards are very flexible. large-scale applications (Rankl and Effing. Flexibility of application is highly limited but. For this reason. The underlying technical procedure is drawn from the fields of radio and radar engineering. using this system. 1993). In modern smart card systems it is also possible to integrate different applications in a single card (multi-application). information carried by radio waves. memory cards are predominantly used in price sensitive. and cannot be overwritten. which is connected to a segmented memory (ROM.
It occurs with the connection between a tag and a reader. One key element of operation in RFID is data transfer.k. interrogator) and antennae (a. such as the cost. where short range is advantageous. transponder). RFID applications for animal tagging have been operating in the 135 kHz frequency band.k. software components of an RFID application are responsible for managing and manipulating the data transmitted between the tag and the reader and between the reader and the host computer. For example. In this case a tag only unlocks an RFID-enabled door lock when it is moved within close range of the reader. in some cases. coupling devices) located at each end of the system. with standards and regulations that govern specific applications. The reader is typically connected to a host computer or other device that has the necessary intelligence to further process the tag data and take action. such as access control. size. These types of systems are used mostly in applications.a. not when people who may be carrying a tag in their wallet or purse are walking past the reader in a hallway in front of the door. measured in inches. based on longstanding regulations and accepted standards.Description of RFID Systems In a nutshell. is connected to the Internet. and environmental conditions.k. accuracy. speed. The tag and the reader each has its own antenna. Another important element in an RFID system is the frequency of operation between the tag and the reader. The coupling in most RFID systems is either electromagnetic (backscatter) or magnetic (inductive). RFID involves detecting and identifying a tagged object through the data it transmits. The method used in a particular implementation depends on the application requirements.a.a. 7 . The element that enables the tag and reader communication is the antenna. For example. Although hardware components are responsible for identifying and capturing data. Specific frequency selection is driven by application requirements such as speed. The host computer is often a part of a larger network of computers in a business enterprise and. and read range and accuracy. This requires a tag (a. through the antennae on either end. a reader (a. inductively coupled RFID systems typically have a short range. also known as coupling.
The period of validity begins after the first deduction from the contactless card. The superiority of contactless systems is demonstrated by the following benefits for users and operators of public transport companies. • Monthly tickets can begin on any day of the month. Benefits for the driver • Passes are no longer sold. Benefits for passengers • Cash is no longer necessary. • No cash in vehicle. resulting in less distraction of driving staff. • Prepaid contactless smart cards remain valid even if fares are changed. contactless smart cards can be loaded with large amounts of money. • The passenger no longer needs to know the precise fare. passengers no longer need to carry the correct change. • Elimination of the daily income calculation. Although the purchase costs of a contactless smart card system are still higher than those of a conventional system. the system automatically deducts the correct fare from the card.Where we can use it? Public Transport Public transport is one of the applications where the greatest potential exists for the use of RFID systems Benefits of RFID systems The replacement of conventional paper tickets by a modern electronic fare management system based on contactless smart cards provides a multitude of benefits to all those involved. the investment should repay itself within a short period. 8 .
9 . • It is easy to change fares. Benefits for the transport association • It is possible to calculate the performance of individual partners in the association. • Expressive statistical data is obtained. can significantly reduce the number of fare dodgers. all terminals are connected to a central computer by means of a network. • Very secure against vandalism (chewing gum effect). the discount for the association can be calculated using precise figures. in which all passengers must produce a valid travel pass. Passports RFID tags are being used in passports issued by many countries. Online systems Online systems tend to be used where the access authorization of a large number of people has to be checked at just a few entrances. When designing such systems we must first differentiate between two fundamentally different systems with corresponding properties: online and offline systems. • The introduction of a closed (electronic) system. Benefits for the treasury • Reduction of the need for subsidies due to cost reductions.Benefits for the transport company • Reduction in operating and maintenance costs of sales dispensers and ticket devalues. for example. (commercial or event) premises. • Better use of public transport due to the improved service has a positive effect on takings and on the environment. The first RFID passports ("E-passport") were issued by Malaysia in 1998. Access Control Electronic access control systems using data carriers are used to automatically check the access authorization of individuals to buildings. In this type of system. Malaysian e-passports record the travel history (time. and place) of entries and exits from the country. or individual rooms. In addition to information also contained on the visual data page of the passport. at the main entrances to office buildings and commercial premises. Because precise data is obtained automatically in electronic fare management systems. date. This is the case. no new tickets need to be printed.
Upon disembarking at the final station (check-out). on the other hand. Transportation payments Fare systems using electronic payment Transport association regions are often divided into different fare zones and payment zones. the card can be checked at each change-over point for the existence of a valid ‘check-in’ entry. are to be equipped with an electronic access control system. in which the same route can be travelled using different transport systems at different fares. then the contactless card can automatically be converted into a cheaper 24 hour or monthly card. Each terminal saves a list of key identifiers. to which only a few people have access. There are also different types of travel pass. Best price calculation improves customer relations and makes a big contribution to customer satisfaction. Fare system 3 Best price calculation Different fare systems for payment with contactless smart card 10 . This model is best suited for interlinked networks. Fare system 1 Fare system 2 Payment takes place at the beginning of the journey.Offline systems Offline systems have become prevalent primarily in situations where many individual rooms. facilitate the use of completely new procedures for the calculation and payment of fares. time zones and numerous possible combinations. To foil attempts at manipulation. the fare for the distance travelled is automatically calculated and deducted from the card. for which access to this terminal is to be authorized. At the beginning of the journey the entry point (check-in) is recorded on the contactless card. There are four Basic models for electronic fare calculation. The calculation of the fare can therefore be extremely complicated in conventional payment systems and can even be a source of bewilderment to local customers. If a certain number of journeys was exceeded on one day or in the month as a whole. There is no network to other terminals or a central computer. the lack of a ‘check-out’ record can be penalised by the deduction of the maximum fare at the beginning of the next journey. Every time the passenger changes vehicles a predetermined amount is deducted from the card. A fixed amount is deducted from the contactless smart card. regardless of the distance travelled. bonus fares for long distance travellers and people who change several times can be automatically taken into account In this system all journeys made are recorded on the contactless card for a month. In addition. Electronic fare management systems. This gives the customer maximum flexibility and the best possible fares.
First. Collar transponders can be easily transferred from one animal to another.Inventory systems An advanced automatic identification technology such as the Auto-ID system based on the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has two values for inventory systems. England is piloting a monitoring system designed to keep tabs on pupils by tracking radio chips in their uniforms. can be read at a distance of up to 1 m. Ear tags incorporating an RFID transponder compete with the much cheaper barcode ear tags. The transponders are more well-known as passive RFID technology on Microchip implant. RFID reduced Out of Stocks by 30 percent for products selling between 0. A fixed connection is thereby made between the animal’s body and the transponder. the transponder is placed under the animal’s skin using a special tool. Benefits of using RFID include the reduction of labour costs. This permits the use of this system within a company. Injectible transponders were first used around 10 years ago. and student ids in a primary school. Second. RFID ear tags. the visibility provided by this technology allows an accurate knowledge on the inventory level by eliminating the discrepancy between inventory record and physical inventory. the latter are not suitable for total automation. Animal identification Implantable RFID tags or transponders can be used for animal identification. However. back packs. In this system. on the other hand. the simplification of business processes and the reduction of inventory inaccuracies. This allows the use of implants in inter-company applications. A school in Doncaster.1 and 15 units a day. Schools and Universities School authorities in the Japanese city of Osaka are now chipping children's clothing. because barcode ear tags must be passed a few centimeters from a hand reader to identify the animal. In an academic study performed at Wal-Mart. such as the verification of origin and the control of epidemics. 11 . which can only be removed by an operation. Possible applications are automatic feeding in a feeding stall and measuring milk output. the RFID technology can prevent or reduce the sources of errors.
who implanted a chip in his arm in 1998. use an implantable chip to identify their VIP customers. The bolus is a transponder mounted in an acid resistant. RFID in libraries Among the many uses of RFID technologies is its deployment in libraries. who in turn use it to pay for drinks. the omasum that is present in all ruminants. DVDs. etc. In 2004. A particular advantage of this method is the simple introduction of the transponder into the animal’s body. Spain and in Rotterdam. via the gullet using a sensor. Night clubs in Barcelona. cylindrical housing. the RFID tag can contain identifying 12 .The so-called bolus is a very useful method of fitting the transponder. and in particular the fact that it does not cause any injury to the animal. The Netherlands. the Mexican Attorney General's office implanted 18 of its staff members with the Verichip to control access to a secure data room. which may be made of a ceramic material. An early experiment with RFID implants was conducted by British professor of cybernetics Kevin Warwick. Under normal circumstances the bolus remains in the stomach for the animal’s entire lifetime. CDs. The removal of the bolus in the slaughter house is also simpler than the location and removal of an injected transponder. However. The bolus is deposited in the rumen. The options for attaching the transponder to a cow Human implants Implantable RFID chips designed for animal tagging are now being used in humans. This technology has slowly begun to replace the traditional barcodes on library items (books.).
picklock) and started up by an unauthorized person. Batteryoperated remote control devices with a range of 5–20m had already been available on the market for years. Interestingly Michelin are required under the terms of their license to offer this eTire system to all other tire manufacturers in November 2008. a clear identification system can help to prevent such errors. In January 2003. Accountability and Documentation Act (TREAD Act).g. the eTire includes a batteryless pressure sensor. The information is read by an RFID reader. as the system cannot check whether the mechanical key is genuine. Recall. Vehicles secured in this manner can therefore be opened with a suitable tool (e. The transponder data can also be changed at will. volumes. maximum filling pressure and analysis data. such as a book’s title or material type. Therefore additional information can be attached to the containers such as owner details. and its short lifetime means that maintenance is expensive. These are small infrared or RF transmitters. the mechanical lock can still be used to gain access to the vehicle — in case the remote control device fails to work due to the failure of the battery in the transmitter. which are primarily used to control the central locking system and an integral alarm. A large proportion of containers supplied today are identified by barcodes. in industrial use the popular barcode system is not reliable enough. In addition to product specific sealing systems. and security mechanisms 13 . In this type of anti-theft device. which replaces the standard barcode reader commonly found at a library’s circulation desk. is marketed by Michelin for truck tires. A machine readable identification system gives additional protection. however. As at August 2007 the progress has only extended to truck tires where rubber patches are affixed to the truck tire. Selecting the wrong bottle during refilling or use could have fatal consequences. An advanced version. the manufacturer would offer RFID-enabled tires to car makers. Transponders also have a much higher storage capacity than conventional barcodes. Enhancement. Automotive The sharp rise in vehicle theft at the beginning of the 1990s — particularly in Germany — boosted the demand for effective anti-theft systems. Car tires still present technical problems for embedding tags as the low cost of the tire means the cost of fixing the tags should be very cheap to be commercially viable. However. An (electronic) immobilizer may also be coupled to the remote control function. Their primary purpose is tire tracking in compliance with the United States Transportation.information. contents. without having to be pointed to a separate database (but this is rare in North America). Michelin began testing RFID transponders embedded into tires with the intention that after an 18 month testing period. This is the greatest weakness of this type of system. Container Identification Gas and chemicals are transported in high quality rented containers.
a production process of this type is only able to produce objects that are identical in function and appearance. However. with the same stage of production being performed at a certain position on the assembly line time after time.(authentication) can be used to prevent unauthorized writing or reading of the stored data. If different variants of a product are to be produced at the same time on an assembly line in an automated procedure. all runners carry a transponder with them. it might be 5 minutes before the last runners have crossed the starting line. For many runners it takes several minutes before they actually cross the starting line. the runners in the back rows are therefore at a severe disadvantage. Sporting Events In large-scale sporting events such as major marathons. the runners who start at the back of the field are always at a disadvantage. In very large events with 10 000 participants or more. To rectify this injustice. because their times are calculated from the moment the race is started. In experimental events it was found that using a ingenious arrangement of multiple antennas in an array and a chip in the shoe over 1000 runners can be registered up to eight times in a minute with a start width of just 4m. This soon led to production line assembly (‘conveyor belt production’). the days are numbered for machines that produce large quantities of a single product with no variants. Industrial Automation Production processes underwent a process of continuous rationalization during the development of industrial mass production. The system is based upon the idea that each runner places his feet repeatedly on the ground and thus comes very close to a ground antenna. the object must be identified and its 14 . Without individual timing. For the present.
it must be possible to unambiguously attribute the quality data gathered earlier to the correct object. an unwanted air conditioning system from being fitted. A vehicle must be clearly identified at the individual manufacturing stages to avoid. without having to set up a complex communication with the central computer for each object. automatic material flow tracking is crucial to smooth operation. that is. products can be manufactured right down to a batch size of one. Read errors are recognized as such and the data ignored. they are totally dustproof and waterproof. down to a batch size of one. When the product is inspected at the end of the production process. If the object is subsequently put back into the process. oils. cuttings. • Data security: Protecting the data stored in the transponder using a checksum procedure ensures the complete security of the data that has been read. With writable transponders that travel with the product this is easy to achieve because all the quality data obtained during the production process is carried with the object. Benefits from the use of RFID systems • Quality control: In modern production lines the quality of products is tested at test points located at a number of stations. Glass and plastic transponders usually comply with protection type IP67. or the wrong paint color being applied during painting.status clearly recognized at every work station. which would 15 . for example. the relationship between an object and its current data can be established anywhere and at any time. Even after software crashes or failures of the central computer. • Flexibility: The use of writable transponders facilitates much more flexible control of the manufacturing process. work can continue without problems or faults occurring. Even particularly dusty or dirty environmental conditions. coolants. moisture. For example. If necessary. Using modern identification techniques. or even different products. The automotive industry is a good example: since vehicles are predominantly produced to order and it is rare for two identical vehicles to be ordered. production systems can now be realized which can produce variants of a product. • Harsh environmental conditions: RFID systems are completely insensitive to dust. the setup data for universally programmable robots and production machines can be written to the transponder carried with the object during the preparatory stage and is available immediately where it is needed. Using this technique. objects can also be withdrawn from the production process without losing the data. high temperatures and similar problems that can occur in a manufacturing environment. gases. so that the correct processes can be performed. • System security: Shifting object data from the central computer to the object significantly increases system security.
hospitals have begun implanting patients with RFID tags and using RFID systems. pose no problems for RFID systems. the Food and Drug Administration issued a ruling that essentially begins a final review process that will determine whether hospitals can use RFID systems to identify patients and/or permit relevant hospital staff to access medical records.make the use of barcode readers impossible due to the rapid blocking of scanner optics. Since then. a number of U.S. Patient identification In July 2004. more generally. 16 . for workflow and inventory management.
A common example of this kind of disclosure occurs each time someone applies for a loan. RFID applications identify ordinary objects and access or transmit data about those objects. or the object holders (for example. a door handle. consumers). this also means that consumers could reveal confidential or private data. technology solutions. For example. Since the mid 1990s. In many ways. or on private computer networks not easily accessible to hackers and intruders. such as detailed identity and financial information over a conceivably insecure medium to potentially untrustworthy parties. such as encryption. or a beloved pet will carry an RFID tag whose data could be compromised. As RFID technology and its applications become ubiquitous. the widespread use of the Internet has created large amounts of data that is exposed on what is essentially a public network. If left unprotected. and potentially available on a public network. the issues of security and privacy related to the use of RFID applications mirror those created with the introduction of the Internet. and intrusion detection. However. nearly every item imaginable car tire. identity management. data was either kept on paper. The Internet offers a convenient way to shop and perform a variety of financial transactions. RFID tags are essentially tiny little computers that hold information that can be confidential and personal. on stand-alone computers. this data becomes exposed to malicious or unauthorized use and distribution. a box of cereal. Consumer privacy groups contend that RFID tag data could conceivably be used by commercial or governmental agencies to track and trace 17 . firewalls.Security and Privacy In the pre-Internet world. To help keep data secure. part of the Internet's popularity centers on electronic commerce. or just opens a bank account online. The dramatic increase in the amount of easily accessible data in our everyday lives brings with it a set of new security and privacy concerns. are routinely employed. by radio frequency through the air around us. or e-commerce. mortgage.
and subsequent solutions to address security and privacy issues associated with the proliferation of RFID. Therefore. With this in mind. we recommended that such complexity and cost be weighed against the risks associated with security breaches. businesses can create mutually beneficial relationships with their partners. To address the issues associated with this risk. Distinguishing Between Privacy and Security By addressing security vulnerabilities and implementing privacy protection practices. carry. This data can directly or indirectly reveal confidential and private information about people or businesses that hold. Securing access to the data from unauthorized access and ensuring that the data is not used in a way that violates individuals' (or businesses') rights to privacy are critical. the risk of misuse by businesses or government agencies that have authorized access to the data. we focused on assessing security vulnerabilities of RFID systems. and we offered a set of solutions to help secure RFID data. handle. RFID tags are tiny microchips that hold data. and customers while contributing to the eventual ubiquity of RFID. debates. which discusses some of the more impact-full trends we expect to emerge from RFID technology and its applications. When the ultimate ubiquity of RFID is realized. The path ahead of RFID will include many discussions. we offered a very specific set of privacy best practices that can help calm many of the concerns raised by consumers and privacy advocates. we move to the last chapter of the book. or touch objects with RFID tags. 18 . In this chapter. The solutions we discussed vary in complexity and cost.people's actions and belongings in ways that might violate individual rights to privacy. This poses a tremendous privacy risk particularly. many items in the world will have an RFID tag on them whose data can be compromised. vendors.