Products block unauthorized RFID reading of contactless cards

Published 21 May 2009

More and more countries and organizations move toward adopting RFID-enabled, biometric e-IDs — driver’s licenses, passports, national IDs, and more; trouble is, these e-documents are susceptible to digital pickpocketing; a U.K. company offers solutions

More and more countries are moving toward adoption of RFID-equipped, biometric IDs — from national IDs to passports to driver’s licenses. There is a weakness in all these schemes: Digital pickpocketing. Credit card readers can be easily purchased that will read the personal information off of an e-document — or credit account number, expiration date, and even the name off an RFID-enabled credit card. These readers can be concealed so that someone could walk through a crowd, ride on a train, elevator, or other crowded area and steal nearby credit card information without the card holder ever knowing it happened.

Most contactless smart card systems implement industry-standard security mechanisms, but readers can be modified to access information without authorization, making the electromagnetically opaque shields essential to achieve total security.

SecurityPark reports that Kingston upon Thames, Surrey-based Databac Group has introduced several products designed to help stop digital identity theft. The FIPS201-approved product family from U.S. developer Identity Stronghold, for example, is designed to block unauthorized RFID reading of contactless cards, passports and driving licenses. Secure Sleeve and Secure Badgeholder products create an RFID shield by blocking the electromagnetic energy necessary to power and communicate with contactless smart cards, passports, driving licenses, and travel cards. While encased in the holder, the card or passport cannot be read or copied. It is only extracted when required, putting the user in control of where and when the card or passport is read.

It is frighteningly easy to steal data from contactless cards,” said Databac managing director Charles Balcomb. “Secure Sleeve and Secure Badgeholder are essential protection for any business serious about ID security.”

The company says it currently sells these four products:

  • Secure Sleeve — Credit / ID card: Secure Sleeve for credit / ID cards is a pouch-style card holder designed to protect a single contactless identification, credit card, debit card, travel card, Mifare card or driving license. Secure Sleeve ensures that invasive communications such as relaying, eavesdropping, cloning and tracking of ID, debit and credit cards do not occur.
  • Secure Sleeve — Passport: Secure Sleeve for passports is designed to protect a single passport embedded with a wireless chip, protecting it against identity theft, tracking and other unauthorized reads.
  • Secure Badgeholder Duolite: Secure Badgeholder Duolite is a rigid card holder which blocks RFID reading of up to two ID cards. It provides a barrier to invasive or unwanted communications with the card.
  • Secure Badgeholder Classic: Secure Badgeholder Classic blocks RFID reading of a single ID card.