What is an RFID Card?
If you have a credit card that lets you wave or tap it at a payment terminal, it’s probably RFID-enabled. You can tell by looking for a contactless symbol on the front or back of your card – it looks like a sideways Wi-Fi symbol.
While these cards are more convenient than traditional swiped cards, there’s concern that they are less secure. Let’s explore how this technology works.
Simple and Easy to Use
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) cards have a chip and antenna embedded in plastic and are triggered when a scanner or reader is scanned. Unlike magnetic stripe credit cards that require insertion into a card reader, RFID-enabled credit cards can be tapped directly by a reader to process payment. This is why they are also known as contactless credit cards and can RFID Card work with mobile readers or even be integrated into a smartphone for cashless payments, access control and brand amplification.
During the pandemic, RFID credit cards have been popular among consumers, because they allow people to make purchases with a simple wave or tap of their phone or other device. This makes them more convenient than a traditional swipe credit card and can be more hygienic during the pandemic, as well as in other situations where hand washing is limited.
While it is true that some criminals can use RFID technology to steal credit card information, it is not as easy as the viral Youtube videos suggest. First, the signal is a radio frequency and requires an obstruction-free environment to work. Most materials, including most wallets and purses, block the signals, so a thief would need to be within an inch of your body or less to capture your information.
Additionally, there are a number of products available for protecting your credit cards and phones from this type of theft, such as RFID-blocking wallets or sleeves. Additionally, integrating your credit card into your smartphone will protect it from unexpected scans.
Credit cards with RFID technology allow you to make contactless payments. Instead of swiping the card or inserting the chip into the reader, you simply wave it in front of the reader (look for a contactless logo that’s the same as the Wi-Fi symbol) to complete the transaction. It’s an incredibly convenient way to pay.
Similarly, smart cards with RFID tags can be used to give residents and staff members access to facilities. In addition to providing convenience and security, these smart cards can help organizations save money. For example, residents can use their RFID cards to access their apartment or office and also make purchases using a single card, which reduces the likelihood that they’ll lose or misplace their wallet. Additionally, these RFID cards can be scanned by mobile devices like smartphones to verify identities, which reduces the need for administrative staff to manage ID badges and other related processes.
While it’s true that RFID cards can be cloned, there are ways to prevent this from happening. For instance, it’s a good idea for employees to wear their RFID credentials above the waist in order to ensure that the card cannot be easily copied. It’s also possible to purchase RFID-blocking wallets, which can offer additional protection.
In the context of cashless payment, RFID technology is a convenient way to make purchases without needing to enter a PIN code or sign a receipt. The chips found in cards like MasterCard’s PayPass or Visa Contactless transmit RF signals when they come within range of the reader. The signal is drawn from the reader and used to power the chip, allowing for transactions to be completed in seconds.
This same technology is also utilized for access control systems, and you can easily tell if your card has this capability by looking for a small contactless symbol on the front. While some people worry that RFID can be hacked, the fact is that the proximity required to transmit data makes hacking impractical. In addition, RFID uses a cryptographic key to protect information, which is constantly changing. Therefore, even if hackers successfully intercept data, it won’t be usable for subsequent transactions.
RFID systems can significantly speed up the process of tracking items in warehouses, manufacturing plants and other large-scale operations. This is because they can be integrated into supply chain technologies, enabling you to automatically upload data from the item’s location into your ERP or financial management system. This saves time by eliminating manual form filling and replacing outdated spreadsheets, while fixed readers can be placed at strategic points to eliminate the need for human intervention altogether.
As technology makes our lives easier, it can also open new security concerns. It’s important to consider these risks when selecting a RFID card solution for your business. While there are a variety of ways your company’s information can be compromised, the good news is that these systems are incredibly secure when correctly implemented and monitored.
When considering an RFID system, look for products that are encrypted to prevent eavesdropping. Also, look for a system that offers the ability to use a cryptographic hash or digital signatures to protect data and make it unreadable without the right key. It is crucial that your RFID reader vendor and system architects have a proven track record of strong information security. Impinj partners with a highly-experienced ecosystem of product vendors, systems designers and resellers to ensure the highest standards of security in every deployment.
While credit cards with RFID technology are very convenient, there is a potential risk of unauthorized theft of your personal information. To work, RFID credit cards must be in close proximity to the reader to transfer information, so a scammer could potentially skim your data with a device. Special mifare desfire RFID wallets and sleeves are available to help prevent this from happening, but they aren’t necessarily necessary as the technology requires an obstruction-free environment to work.
Another threat is RFID cloning, which allows an attacker to capture the information on a user’s RFID card from several feet away and write it onto a blank, compatible RFID card. This allows the attacker to gain access to your building without the victim’s knowledge.