According to this article from the BBC, the British e-Passport has already been cracked. The new cards contain an RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) chip, which stores personal information that can be accessed wirelessly from up to a few metres away. Apparently it was demonstrated that the contents of the chip can easily be downloaded to a PC, from where it can be uploaded to a new chip, allowing for trivial replication of the ‘e’ component of the passport. The UK Home Office responded with the following:
It is hard to see why anyone would want to access the information on the chip. Other than the photograph, which could be obtained easily by other means, they would gain no information that they did not already have – so the whole exercise would be pointless: the only information stored on the ePassport chip is the basic information you can see on the personal details page.
In addition to “you’re an idiot mate”, my more disciplined response to this is “in that case what the hell is the point in the e-Passport in the first place?”.
If the statement made above by the UK Home Office is anything to go by, it would appear these e-Passorts achieve literally nothing in the way of improving security or confirming identity, but do a hell of a lot to compromise it and potentially allow identity theft.