Non-physical payment methods have created new security concerns: can criminals use card readers to steal your identity and empty your bank account?
RFID blocking products appear to be a solution to this problem, with wallets and passport covers limiting RFID scanning, but what is RFID blocking and what do you need to be sure?
What is RFID?
RFID stands for ‘radio frequency identification’. Credit cards and passports use RFID technology to allow machines to scan them from a short distance. It is this system that facilitates contactless payment and some worry that it may be vulnerable to criminal manipulation.
Some users are concerned that a nearby thief could surreptitiously access the RFID feature of their card. In so-called “skimming” attacks, a thief can theoretically withdraw money from a victim’s account while they are walking down the street or waiting in a store.
Another risk is that of identity theft, a crime that can haunt victims for years after their data is initially stolen. Could a silent attacker scan your passport or credit card for sensitive information, then impersonate you online? Companies that sell RFID products claim to have the solution.
Does RFID blocking really work?
RFID blocking materials can effectively prevent the scanning function on a card or passport, and the range of products that have this function is constantly growing.
Everything from wallets to waterproof fanny packs now support RFID blocking capabilities. A layer of carbon fiber or aluminum can protect you from non-contact attacks, and that’s a key selling point for some items.
Studies suggest that a thick layer of kitchen aluminum foil will also be effective.
Ultimately, RFID blockers have built-in shielding that blocks the radio waves that RFID tags rely on.
You may have seen reports that “contactless crime” can lead to huge financial losses, and that is absolutely true.
Does RFID blocking prevent identity theft?
The anxiety around identity theft is understandable. The idea that an attacker could scan nearby credit cards for sensitive information seems plausible. If your card numbers or passport details fall into the wrong hands, it may be impossible to repair the damage.
RFID protection on credit cards
When scanned, credit cards use a unique transaction code to complete the process, and that code is strongly encrypted.
To steal your data, an identity thief would have to physically get close to the victim. The risk of being caught in the act, and captured with no guarantee that the target’s card is accessible, is a strong deterrent.
Criminals no longer need to risk getting close to a victim to steal their information, because there are huge lists of compromised credit card details on the dark web.
It is something similar for passports. The information available through RFID is completely encrypted; manufacturers know how sensitive it is.
If you still have doubts, it must be said that most passports issued in the last decade already contain layers of RFID blocking material. Adding more physical protection won’t do much for security; the real threats are online
conanexiles-database is a specialist in industrial terminals and RFID. Ask us any questions about this technology