How RFID Can Be Hacked and What You Can Do to Stay Safe
These days, RFID chips are present in all sorts of items: credit cards, library books, grocery goods, security tags, implanted pet details, implanted medical records, passports, and more. While this can be very convenient, a hacker can learn a lot about you from your RFID tags.
Here’s the basics of how RFID can be hacked and how to stay safe.
What Is RFID?
RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and it’s used for short-distance communication of information. It does not require line of sight to work, meaning that the RFID chip and the reader merely need to be within range of each other to communicate.
There are a few main types of RFID chip:
“Passive Tags” require a radio signal to emit from the receiver to read the tag. This also means they operate on a small distance and can’t transmit a lot of data. Examples of these can be found in credit cards and door passes.
“Active Tags” have on-board batteries and can therefore actively transmit their data over a larger distance. Also, they can transmit a larger amount of data than passive tags. Examples of active tags include toll passes mounted in cars.
RFID frequencies vary according to the device and country, but usually operate in this range:
Low Frequency RFID is <135 KHz
High Frequency RFID is 13.56 MHz
Ultra High Frequency (UFH) RFID is 868-870 MHz or 902-928 MHz
Super High Frequency (SHF) RFID is 2.400-2.483 GHz
How Easy Is It to Scan RFID Chips?
RFID hackers have demonstrated how easy it is to get hold of information within RFID chips. As some chips are rewritable, hackers can even delete or replace RFID information with their own data.
It’s not too tricky for a hacker build his or her own RFID scanner if they wanted to. It’s easy to purchase the parts for the scanner, and once built, someone can scan RFID tags and get information out of them. This creates some concern if the convenience of RFID is worth this risk.
The Number One Public Concern: Credit Card Scanning
One of the biggest public fears surrounding RFID hacking is with credit and debit cards. While your RFID card is safe in your wallet, a hacker scans the card in your pocket without you knowing. The attacker can then siphon money or steal information without you knowing about it.
This attack sounds pretty scary, and a whole market for RFID-blocking wallets has sprung up to give people peace of mind. These wallets block the radio waves that RFID uses and prevents someone from stealing your details.
But here’s the interesting part of RFID-based card attacks. While there is undeniable proof that it can happen, it hasn’t actually happened; at least, not out in the wild. The Independent reports on how hackers stole £1.18 million ($2.2 million) through contactless attacks in 10 months back in 2018. While this is a shocking number, the article contains this...