A paper presented by Melanie Rieback, a third-year Amsterdam's Vrije Universiteti PhD student, at the IEEE conference in Pisa, Italy, on Wednesday sent waves through the radio frequency identification (RFID) technology industry.
Rieback's paper "Is Your Cat Infected with a Computer Virus?" suggests computer viruses could spread from RFID tags through readers into poorly written middleware applications and into enterprise backend systems and databases. Rieback "artificially" created a virus, rather than find vulnerabilities in a deployed RFID system.
Industry reaction, while fast and furious in some cases, proved mixed, according to a series of interviews with TechWeb.
"With respect to the students involved, the paper as presented is rather weak," said Kevin Ashton, ThingMagic Inc. vice president, and co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Auto-ID Center. "The 'real' virus, they claim to demonstrate in the paper, is not a virus, just a self-replicating piece of SQL code."
The paper, however, does call attention to an obvious problem the software industry has faced for years. "Companies need to provide multi-level security and take responsibility for testing before releasing applications to the market," said Julie England, vice president at Texas Instruments Inc.