The United States of America, the country with one of the most draconian border crossing procedures in the world, hadn't verified the validity of chip-implanted e-passports since 2007, the time when foreigners were first required to have one.
Shockingly, the reason is that US border agents lacked the software to do so, according to revelations made this week by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) in a letter sent to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) management.
The two senators are now urging the CBP to correct this glaring security hole and purchase the equipment necessary to verify if e-Passports are authentic and haven't been tampered with.
e-Passports are mandatory for all foreigners entering the US from a country on the visa waiver program. These are countries whose citizens aren't required to obtain a visa before entering the US.
Instead, as one of the security measures imposed on citizens from the 38 countries on the US' visa waiver program, travelers must possess an e-Passport that comes with an electronic chip.
This chip contains data on the passport holder, but also a digital signature that border agents can verify using special software.
The data and accompanying signature are meant to be an anti-forgery system as only state authorities can change data on the chip and resign the chip with a valid signature.
Since 2007, when the US has started asking foreigners to present an e-passport when entering the US, border agents have been able to read the data on the chip, but not verify its digital signature for authenticity.
This means that for almost eleven years, foreigners could have entered the US using forged e-Passports, albeit they still had to craft a convincing passport in the first place.
"CBP has been aware of this security lapse since at least 2010, when the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report highlighting the gap in technology," Wyden and McCaskill wrote in their letter. "Eight years after that publication, CBP still does not possess the technological capability to authenticate the machine-readable data in e-Passports."
The two senators are now urging the CBP to implement a plan to properly authenticate e-Passport holders and their data by January 1, 2019.