RFID Skimming

Posted 4:01 6 February 2015

Back to Blog

As promised, this week we are going to look at RFID Skimming. First of all we need to know what RFID is. RFID is short for Radio Frequency Identification. In simple terms this is when electromagnetic fields are used to store and transfer data. This technology can be used as a chip that is not much bigger than a single grain of rice, with common applications being chips and readers that will identify lost pets, track data and retrieve data that is stored on magnetic strips, just like those on your bank or store, debit and credit cards.

RFID is thought to have been a further development of an historical covert listening device, invented by Leon Theremin in 1945. Back in those days, covert surveillance was mostly carried out by the military or professional private investigators. Although you would have been hard pressed to find a private investigator outside of the military with Theremin’s device. As you will see, it seems that as the technology became more portable, cheaper and of course with the advent of the internet and the wide access to information the criminal element of society has found a use for RFID skimming technology.

What is RFID skimming?

So, why is RFID skimming a problem? If a criminal wants to steal information quickly, without the need to take a pen and paper with them an RFID reader can sniff out any information stored on a RFID Tag. (Tags are where the data is stored such as the strip on your credit or debit card). On your bank card the magnetic strip is likely to contain:

  1. The name of the cardholder.
  2. The account number.
  3. The expiry date
  4.  The card’s account number
  5.  The Card Verification Value (CVV)

This then allows them to take your data away and clone it, and nowadays the criminal doesn’t even have to go to the bother of making a duplicate card because they now have all the information needed to make thousands of pounds worth of purchases online in your name.
It has to be said there is a less risky and even beneficial use of RFID technology, i.e. the chip in your beloved family pet, allowing a pet to be identified when it goes missing.
Join us next week as we look at ways to protect yourself from RFID sniffer scammers.
rfid skimming