RFID technology, or radio frequency identification, has been around for a long time. Along with the convenience, however, comes the risk of having the information contained on RFID-equipped items being stolen in a new brand of electronic pick pocketing known as RFID skimming.
The technology has made its way into a variety of items, including credit cards, driver’s licenses and passports. These items, which are mostly found in the wallets of people, use embedded RFID chips to transmit information wireless to compatible readers to perform functions such as confirming the person’s identity or paying for a purchase.
RFID uses radio waves to read information stored on tags attached to certain objects, and can be scanned from several feet away, without the need for a direct line-of-sight to the reader.
The Threat Of RFID Skimming
Individuals who have RFID readers can possibly activate the RFID chips embedded in personal items, which would allow them to extract sensitive information without the owner of the items even knowing that they were victimized.
Over the years, hackers have demonstrated methods of using handheld RFID readers to acquire information from several feet away. Information that can be extracted this way include the name and country of origin listed in a passport, and more alarmingly, complete credit card numbers.
The Need For RFID-Blocking Wallets
One of the more popular ways for consumers to protect themselves from RFID skimming is through the use of RFID-blocking wallets, which has spurred a whole new industry. Before, the most important decision to be made on purchasing a wallet is choosing its color and material; now, one of the top criteria for purchasing wallets is that they should have RFID-blocking capabilities.
This new kind of wallet protects consumers from RFID skimming by creating a shield around their RFID-equipped items. This shield repels the electromagnetic energy sent out by RFID readers that the items need to be able to send out the information they contain.
Alternatives For Worried People
For consumers who are worried by RFID skimming, but do not want to replace their wallet for any reason, there are some alternatives in protecting your RFID-equipped items.
One such option is the Armourcard, which is a battery-powered device with the size of a thicker credit card that can be slipped into wallets or bags. When a person comes in contact with an RFID reader, the Armourcard jams scanning attempts made by the reader. The product has been launched in Australia and is making its way into the United States through online stores.
Other options for protecting against RFID skimming include placing the items inside an Altoids tin or wrapping the items in aluminum foil, both of which might not look stylish, but they get the job done.
Protection Or Paranoia?
Despite the growth of the RFID-blocking wallet industry, one question remains. Is such a type of wallet actually needed to protect consumers from having their information compromised? Or is the industry just a product of technological paranoia?
The companies behind the growth of this new multi-million industry, of course, will insist that the risks of RFID skimming are real. However, there are some experts in the field who are not convinced.
So Are You Buying A New Wallet?
While there are skepticisms about the rise of RFID skimming, many consumers are still leaning towards the side of caution. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.
RFID-Blocking Wallet Options
A RFID wallets are with prices ranging from between RM30 to more than RM400.