RFID Skimming Hits Close To Home

January is typically the time of year when most of us are scared to look at our bank and credit card statements. It doesn’t help that when we do, we find fraudulent transactions or, even worse, our accounts are maxed out or drained completely of funds.

This happened to some 400 people in Nova Scotia, Canada this past December. It is believed they were victims of RFID Skimming.

RFID security breaches are nothing new, but it has typically happened in bigger cities. Atlantic Canadians were caught completely off-guard, including a close family member of yours truly.

That being said, I am not accusing any organization of failing to notify customers of RFID skimming.

What is RFID Skimming?

RFID Skimming is a form of digital theft, which enables information from RFID based smart cards, also known as “tap” cards, to be read and duplicated. It works by reading the RFID chip at a distance using an RFID scanner, which downloads the card information. It can then be written to a new blank card, which then operates in the same manner as the original legitimate card. Because the data is identical on both cards, and the information is only copied, it makes no difference if the original data is encrypted or not.

How can you protect yourself?

  • RFID blocking sleeves, pouches, or wallets which are lined to protect RFID-enabled cards. Unfortunately, like any other wallet, these will most likely wear out in time.
  • Aluminum foil is a simple, low-tech approach that creates a sleeve with a limited useful lifetime. On the other hand there may be limits as to how well this works. It may simply make transmission more difficult (but not impossible).
  • An Altoids tin or duct tape wallet (seriously).
  • Disable the RFID functionality on the card. This can be accomplished in a few ways. You could microwave or drill a hole through the chip, but your card issuer might frown upon that. You could also call your bank or card issuer to see if they can disable the functionality from their end.

These measures will increase the security of your RFID-enabled cards, but they are far from being foolproof. The best way to stay protected against rogue RFID scanners is to minimize your reliance on RFID-enabled tools; quitting cold turkey really is the only guaranteed protection. But if you can’t find a way around it, then you can safeguard your cards with the methods listed above.

For the record, I am now the proud owner of an RFID blocking wallet.

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. To learn more about tech news and analysis visit Tech Page One. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.