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Do contactless cards need extra protection?

Guest post by Andréa Black, a student in Professor Lynn Heinrichs’ information security class.

You may already have one or more contactless cards in your purse or wallet.  They are the cards that do not need to be physically swiped at a card reader but can simply be waved near the reader to process a transaction or allow access into a building. Information needed for the transaction is transmitted from the contactless card using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

You may think your contactless credit card, MasterCard Paypass or Chase Blink, is a quick and easy way to shop, but it may be putting you at a higher risk for being a victim of fraud.  If you have one of these cards, keeping them in your wallet or purse may not be enough to keep your account information safe.  RFID card readers can be easily bought online for under $100.  Recursion Ventures, a security research and consulting company, showed that these readers could acquire credit card information in the same amount of time it takes to bump into someone.  Once your credit card information is read, the thief can then easily upload it to his computer but it is unlikely that the information can be used to create counterfeit cards.

There are RFID blocking wallets if you find yourself in crowded places often and you are concerned about electronic pick-pocketing but contactless cards only work within a short range distance.  Below are some tips for all of your payment cards, whether contactless or not.

  • Check your statements regularly.  If there are any charges you did not make (even if it is a small amount), report it to the card issuer.
  • Keep all of your cards in a safe place.
  • Report a stolen or lost card immediately.

Resources
Protect cards from wireless theft - CBS news

Image source

Christina Bonds

Christina Bonds is an Application Specialist in the Web Technology department at Elon University.

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