Swiping is so last decade. Radio frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communication (NFC) has made it possible to pay for goods with the wave of a hand. But with all that convenience comes a whole new set of vulnerabilities—specifically virtual pickpocketing. In theory, anyone with a card reader could wave it at your back pocket and virtually “swipe” your card, making charges or withdrawing cash.
That’s why researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have come up with a way for RFID credit card users to turn their cards “on” and “off.” They’ve basically built a power switch to boost security. All cardholders would have to do is place a finger on a specified area (such as a logo or emblem) when making a transaction. When you let go, the card turns off and can no longer be read by scanners.
How safe is your RFID credit card without an on/off switch?
The engineers at Pitt have applied for a patent on the card switch and hope to see it put into use quickly. But until then, RFID credit card users will have to rely on the basics of credit card security to keep them safe: don’t let anyone see the account number and limit the time other people (like waiters and merchants) have access to your card.
But according to a FoxBusiness.com report, RFID cards were actually designed with those security standards in mind. RFID credit cards naturally limit your card’s exposure because you don’t have to even take it out of your wallet to pay. And if a thief does get access, he’ll have to break through the card issuer’s encryption to get to any of your personal information.
Each transaction you make on an RFID card is also protected by a new authentication code. That means if a thief manages to pull information from your RFID chip, they’ll still only be able to make one purchase with that particular authentication code.
Of course, consumers concerned about the security of their RFID card can also purchase an aluminum RFID-blocking wallet or special credit card shield. But if you’re that paranoid, RFID cards are probably not for you.