You’re walking out of your office, you’re about to be mugged, but you’ll never be touched. You are about to be the latest victim of electronic pick-pocketing, and you won’t even know it until your credit card company calls you.
Maybe you have your passport in your bag. That information will be stolen as well. Your name, age, nationality, place of residence, contact information, next of kin, work history, travel history and photo are up for grabs by anyone who has a cheap reader available on eBay. Now that banks have embedded chips or RFID (radio frequency identification) into your card, it has become very easy to steal your personal and banking information. Contactless RFID uses wireless radio waves to transmit your credit card information to a merchant, without the need to swipe a magnetic strip, insert your chip in a reader, or have any physical contact at all.
RFID chips are everywhere. Many companies use RFID cards for access keys. Retail giants like Target and Wal-Mart use them as inventory tracking devices, and as of Oct 15, 2015, all US passports and new credit cards will contain RFID chips. All the information stored on these cards is easily transmitted to a reader wirelessly. An electronic pick-pocketer only needs to be close to steal all your valuable information, without your knowledge that a crime has even been committed.
According to Wired Magazine (Annalee Newitz , May 2006),RFID technology dates back to World War II, when the British put radio transponders in Allied aircraft to help early radar system crews detect good guys from bad guys. The first chips were developed in research labs in the 1960s, and by the next decade the US government was using tags to electronically authorize trucks coming into Los Alamos National Laboratory and other secure facilities. Commercialized chips became widely available in the '80s, and RFID tags were being used to track difficult-to-manage property like farm animals and railroad cars.RFID chips broadcast information to specialized electronic readers.
A Thief with a scanner only needs to come close to a contactless chip for it to respond by giving up its information. Here’s how Frances Brown, Managing partner at security firm Bishop Fox describes how a 125KHZ ID card responds to a scanner (Kerner for EWeek, 2013/07/31): "Basically, if the card gets close enough to a card reader, it just starts yelling out its ones and zeroes," Brown said.
Once a thief has your information, it’s incredibly easy to clone your credit card.
Here’s how it works:
The thief connects an electronic card reader to a laptop or notebook and conceals it in a briefcase or backpack. There’s even a phone app for this.
He or she then gets close enough to any bag containing his victim’s purse, wallet, or passport to skim the information, most often from from credit cards.
Now your information is on the thief’s laptop. Next, he or she simply attaches a magstripe-writing device to the laptop and copies your information to a blank card, making a clone of your credit card.
How do you protect yourself?
RFID signals can be encrypted, but the cost is typically quite high, so banks are not encrypting your credit cards. Some are partially encrypted so that only one unauthorized transaction will be allowed, but not all. This leaves the majority vulnerable to electronic skimming or cloning.
RFID is like the early days of the Internet, no one thought to build in security features to the worldwide web, and now we have viruses and other attacks. We will see a sharp increase in these attacks when all US bank-cards switch to RFID in October 2015.
An easy solution for your credit cards and passport is to wrap aluminum foil around it. Ugly but effective. A better solution is an Elk & Bear RFID credit card protector sleeve on each of your cards that you carry in your wallet. These inexpensive sleeves contain an aluminum and copper liner that block RFID signals and protect your valuable information.
Be aware there are ‘protectors’ that only screen for hits the magnetic stripe portion of the credit card, or a small part of the Electro Magnetic frequency spectrum. The most effective sleeves use copper and aluminum in their construction. To purchase a package of 10 credit card protectors and 2 passport protectors follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/Protector-passport-identity-prevention-technology/dp/B00YBD9DFA