Are you familiar with RFID technology? You are probably seeing and using it every day now without even realizing it.
You might have seen a TV show or movie where a hacker grabbed someone's credit card information or cloned an ID badge just by standing next to them. Unlike many Hollywood hacker techniques, these kinds of attacks are possible, thanks to RFID technology.
In this tip, we'll talk about the various uses for RFID technology, its security risks and how you can protect yourself against such risks.
What is RFID?
RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. This system uses radio waves to read, transmit, and capture information stored on a tag that's attached to an object.
The beauty of the RFID system is that the tag can be wirelessly read from up to several feet away. It's also multi-directional, meaning the tag doesn't have to be directly within a reader's line of sight to be read.
With the current advancements in RFID technology, the tags are now smaller and cheaper to produce. Better yet, passive RFID tags also don't require internal power to work.
This is why RFID tags are now widely used and they can be found virtually everywhere.
How an RFID system works
A basic RFID system is made up of just two components - a tag/label and a reader.
The tag/label has two parts - a microchip that stores and processes the data and an antenna that receives and transmits the radio signal.
Fun fact: The average passive RFID tag can only store one KB of information! This sounds so tiny but it's enough to store sensitive information like your name, credit card details, Social Security number, address, etc.
The reader, on the other hand, has a two-way radio transmitter/receiver (known as an interrogator) that sends out a signal to communicate with a nearby tag. The tag will then respond with the information written in its storage chip.
Types of RFID tags
Here are the three types of RFID tags in use right now:
Passive Tag - This type of RFID tag is the most popular since it doesn't require an internal power source. This tag relies on the reader's radio wave energy for power. Since passive tags are cheaper to produce, they are meant to be disposable.
Active tag - This RFID tag has a small onboard battery for broadcasting its data at set intervals. These are more expensive to produce and are meant for objects that need to be read over greater distances.
Semi-passive tags -Similar to active tags, semi-passive tags also have internal batteries. However, this type of tag only activates when it is near a reader.
Current uses for RFID technology
Since RFID technology is so accessible now, it is used for a variety of functions including:
- Contactless payments/payment cards
- Pet tracking
- Key cards
- Time cards
- Inventory management
- Human tracking
Over the last few years, you have most likely received the newer EMV-chip equipped credit and debit cards. With these types of cards, you simply insert them in a register's reader instead of swiping.
Aside from EMV chips, some of these newer credit cards may also have embedded RFID tags that can be used for contactless payments via NFC (Near Field Communication).
With an RFID-enabled credit card and an NFC-capable register, you can make payments by touching the card to a payment system or just by putting it near the payment system.
That's convenient, for sure, but this system does come with its own share of security risks.
For example, criminals can use hacked portable payment terminals to skim information from RFID-capable payment cards while they're still on the victim's wallet or purse!
It may sound like a proof-of-concept hack, but in theory, an enterprising thief can actually stand next to you and steal your credit card information without your knowledge.
Note: Although heavily encrypted, newer electronic passports also have embedded RFID tags that can be susceptible to remote skimming techniques.
If you're concerned about RFID tag skimming and remote attacks, you can get RFID blocking wallets, purses and even clothing for your peace of mind.
Simply put, RFID blockers have built-in shielding that blocks the radio waves that RFID tags rely on.
The Komando Shop has an assortment of RFID blocking accessories to choose from!
For ultimate travel security, try this RFID-blocking purse organizer. Not only will your handbag contents become more accessible, your personal information will be safe and secure from unauthorized card readers.
The U.S. State Department issued rules dictating that all U.S. passports must have embedded RFID tags. This secure passport holder contains a layer of RFID shielding that prevents criminals from reading any information stored on your passport. Don't travel without this RFID blocking passport holder from Komando shop!
Smart and fashionable! This clutch bag will keep your identity safe and your gadgets charged. Equipped with RFID blocking technology, this wallet will keep thieves from being able to steal your identity. Get your RFID blocking clutch here from Komando Shop.
Shimmers: The new way crooks are stealing your credit card info
The EMV card system has proven to be effective against old-school shimmers so far. It is so effective, crooks have started to look for new ways to steal your card information. One of the newer tools is what is known as a shimmer. Click here to learn more about this new technique.