The Passport Index: a beautiful guide to the passports of the world

The Passport Index features beautiful high-resolution images of the covers of all the world's passports, with interactive features ranking passports by how much visa-free travel they entitle their bearers to, and the ability to assemble grids of the places your passport(s) permit entry to. (via Dark Roasted Blend) Read the rest

Your passports are full of tech

In close to a decade of work as a full-time journalist, I can't recall a single instance where I referenced my work for one outlet at another. There's a few reasons for this.

First, outside of an occasional mention of something I've written on Twitter, self promotion's always felt awkward and kind of gross to me.  When I'm not online, I live a quiet, nomadic life. I don't like a ton of bother and my Imposter Syndrome assures me that I'm not worth it. Second, the moment my work's approved by an editor for publication, I cease to consider it mine. As a freelancer, I'm employed on a pay-for-work basis.  I don't own the words I write for Macworld or USA Today. They do. I take pride in the work I do, but most of the companies I work for have talented social media specialists that do a better job at getting the word out about something that I penned than I ever could. So, I leave it to them.

That said, I wrote something that I thought was much more interesting than the work I typically get asked for by joints aside from Boing Boing. So, here I am, sharing it with you.

Earlier this month, I interviewed officials from the Department of State and an ethical hacker for AFAR Magazine to get the skinny on what the hell's actually on a passport's RFID chip, who can read it and whether it's being read is anything we need to be worried about. Read the rest

US Customs and Border Protection made forging e-passports easier

One of the things that make every RFID implanted US Passport 'safe' is each document's unique cryptographic identifier. Customs and Border Protection can use this key to verify the authenticity of each passport, if they'd bother to install the software to do so.

For 12 years they have not.

Via Wired:

Passports, like any physical ID, can be altered and forged. That's partly why for the last 11 years the United States has put RFID chips in the back panel of its passports, creating so-called e-Passports. The chip stores your passport information—like name, date of birth, passport number, your photo, and even a biometric identifier—for quick, machine-readable border checks. And while e-Passports also store a cryptographic signature to prevent tampering or forgeries, it turns out that despite having over a decade to do so, US Customs and Border Protection hasn't deployed the software needed to actually verify it.

This means that since as far back as 2006, a skilled hacker could alter the data on an e-Passport chip—like the name, photo, or expiration date—without fear that signature verification would alert a border agent to the changes. That could theoretically be enough to slip into countries that allow all-electronic border checks, or even to get past a border patrol agent into the US.

...and they need a wall. Read the rest

Buying citizenship is a $7 billion industry

If you have lots of money, you can buy a citizenship in many different countries. The cheapest passport will run you $45,000, from the African island nation of Comoros. In this interesting short video I learned that if you can spare 1.15 million euros, Malta will sell you citizenship and a passport that allows you to work and live anywhere in the European Union.

There's an even larger market for "golden visas," which give you resident status in exchange for a hefty investment in the country. In the last decade, Chinese have spent $24 billion on golden visas, $7.7 billions which was spent in the United States (each visa requires an investment of $500,000). Trump happily renewed this golden visa program, because "it has become a huge funding source for luxury developments," and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, uses these funds in his company's projects. Read the rest

Passports, ranked by country

The Passport Index ranks passports according to their "power", defined around how many countries will let you in without a visa. British and American passports share the top spot. Meanwhile, a South Sudanese or Palestinian passport wouldn't get you into a candy store.

Visa Free Score Passports accumulate points for each visa free country that their holders can visit without a visa, or they can obtain a visa on arrival.

Passport Power Rank Passports are ranked based on their Visa Free Score. The higher the Visa Free Score, the better the Passport Power Rank.

Methodology The country list is based on the 193 UN member countries and 6 territories (Macao, Kosovo, etc.) for a total of 199. Territories annexed to other countries such as Norfolk Island, French Polynesia, etc. are excluded. Data is based on research from publicly available sources, as well as information shared by government agencies.

The best part of the site is the page where you can sort the passport cover images by color. Read the rest