All About RFID

WHAT IS RFID?

For those who don't know about RFID - Radio Frequency Identification - is a relatively new way of communication at a shorter distance using radio waves. You might have seen RFID tags on various items in superstores. The cashier at the counter disables the RFID tag when you check out. Anyone crossing the exit gate with an unremoved RFID tag will trigger the alarm.

RFID scanners can read your card while it is still inside your wallet.

RFID is commonly used for making small payments usually lower than $25 at checkouts without having to swipe your credit card on the machine. You just touch or hold your card near a device, and that’s it. Anyway, as good and easy it might seem, it is quite easy for some bad guy to scan your card data without you even noticing. This is commonly referred to as "RFID Skimming." RFID scanners can read your card while it is still inside your wallet.

WHY WE NEED RFID ANYWAY?

RFID was introduced to cater to some traditional theft issues related to physically taking out your credit card in public.  According to Denis G. Kelly, chairman of Identity Ambassador Commission in Seattle, RFID secures your card in three ways:

  1. No or less card exposure in public.
  2. Data encryption while making a payment
  3. New authentication code for each payment.

Unlink magnetic strip cards that have a static authentication code embedded in its magnetic strip, RFID generates new code for each transaction. This gives an extra security layer on your card. Plus, RFID reduces your average checkout time at a counter.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD OF RFID

RFID was created to solve the security concerns related to traditional magnetic strip cards, but it created new kinds of security issues related to RFID skimming. A very cheap RFID scanner can scan your card data without physically touching your card. The data can even be scanned while your card is inside your wallet in your back pocket.

A study at the University of Massachusetts in 2007 showed that first-generation card encryption could be easily hacked.

They can’t use that data without the encryption key, which is provided by the card issuer (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc.). But they may decrypt that data using modern decryption methods.  Once the data is decrypted, they can use it to emulate your card and make fraudulent payments. A study at the University of Massachusetts in 2007 showed that first-generation card encryption could be easily hacked. Another attempt at the University of Virginia showed the same results.

RFID IS NOT JUST IN YOUR CREDIT CARDS

RFID chips are not only used in credit cards, but they are quite popular in other items too especially travel

You are potentially out there transmitting your personal details as soon as your card is in the range of a scanning device.

documents like your passport. You might not want some stranger to know your personal details like your name, date of birth, your country, etc. Even RFID chips in credit cards used to transmit username, expiry date, and CVV in their early days. Later on, the credit card companies realized the privacy threats associated with such unsafe transmissions and removed these data from the transmission stream and applied secure encryption protocols.

Offices are using RFID chips in their employee’s cards to mark attendance. Another widely used RFID application is your subway train pass. These cards directly transmit your personal details and that too, without any standard encryption that banks and credit card companies use. So you are potentially out there transmitting your personal information without even knowing it.

THE SOLUTION

The solution is pretty simple. Wrap your cards in a material that effectively blocks specific ranges of frequencies used by RFID chips to transmit data.

One of the widely used materials inside RFID blocking wallets is Nickel Impregnated Nylon lining. It's a pretty elegant solution to the problem. RFID wallets are internally lined with woven NIN cloth that blocks the frequencies used by RFID chips making your personal data safe & secure.

We have recently started introducing RFID blocking versions across all our products. Check all available products HERE

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published