In a rapidly expanding and innovating world we want things to be simpler and faster, this includes how we pay for items. RFID which stands for Radio-frequency identification is commonly found in the form of a chip in all manner of contactless payment systems, it’s also not just found in our bank cards, but our passports, driving licences, implanted into livestock and pets and many more items. Contactless cards along with other identification items use the RFID feature in a signal tag that is easily picked up by an electronic reader making transactions quick and easy.
In modern society where ease and speed are now crucial focal points, have we forgotten about how this impacts our identification security and monetary theft? These chips contain personal information as well as giving us direct and convenient access to up to £30 directly from our bank accounts in the form of contactless payments. For an avid user of contactless payments this simple purchasing process initially sounded great and I did not even think about the risk in security when happily paying for items with just a quick touch of my card.
Even with all the positives of contactless payment there is unfortunately a downside, and this comes in terms of criminals being able to access not just your data but your personal identification. This in itself opens up questions on personal information non-consent and privacy, but for now I’m going to focus on contactless cards and question ‘how easy it for your card is to be used by anyone else?’.
The first problem is: unlike non-contactless cards they can be stolen and used instantly by anyone, with just a tap of the card to make £30 payments but this does involve someone actually physically stealing your card from you. So as long as you are careful with your purse/wallet etc and cards this is unlikely to happen.
The second more worrying problem is the new wave of electronic pick-pocketing, by an electronic card reader through radio frequency.
It begs the question of how easy it is to be a victim of digital pickpockets especially when they don’t even need your physical card. This also applies to personal details, identity theft and can extend to key cards as well as bank details.
With the use of hand-hold specially designed ‘RFID readers’ and an encryption tool, your card, personal information can be copied or ‘Skimmed’ from a fairly short proximity of where you are standing, the information is then downloaded and used onto blank cards or to access your bank account and personal details can be forwarded or used by fraudsters.
Readers can be brought online, or apps downloaded and within a matter of seconds and a six inch radius of where your card is, using radio frequency thieves can pick up your data and start making transactions. Researching this multi sites came up advertising these readers or even advising what the best apps to get which slightly shocked me at how easy it was to get hold of and do.
So how can you safeguard against this?
The most effective solutions seem to be RFID pouches or sleeves sometime classed as wallets. The pouches/sleeves are made out of coated plastic that reflects a card reader's ability to access your information. In some options they detail that they contain a metallic foil inside lining that effectively blocks scanning attempts.
All of the different sleeves/pouches etc state they prevent electronic pick-pocketing as discussed above, protecting your ID & credit card information by blocking high-tech hijacking scanning equipment waves. This prevents theft, fraud, data loss and also privacy breaches.
The pouches come in a variety of sizes to include cards as well as key cards and electronic car keys, they are a very lightweight and thin which you can slide your card to easily, instantly blocking the signal and protecting all of your data. As soon as you slide your card out of the pouch it is ready to use again and you can buy them in multipacks for all of yours cards.
Apart from the security safety aspect, your cards just slot in the pouches for ease of use and can fit in your wallet. Prices on pouches can range from £5 upwards depending on how many and type and can come in a few different sizes. For peace of mine especially when travelling these work, are fairly inexpensive, non-obtrusive and convenient to use, a win, win situation I think, and I will be purchasing some asap.
Helen Harvey, Marketing Manager at Website Magpie. Lover of technology, fly fishing and travelling. Proud owner of 'Pickle' the sausage dog.