Identity Theft And Rfid – Are You At Risk?
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What is Radio Frequency Identification?

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. RFID technology was created during the Second World War to differentiate enemy war planes from friendly war planes and has evolved into a very useful technology. RFID has a variety of uses that range from asset tracking to the implementation of microchips embedded in credit or debit cards. In a nutshell, information is embedded into a “tag.” The tag contains a unique code and a transponder that can communicate with a reader. The reader picks up the transponder signal and transmits data from the microchip tag back to the “host” computer.

The Evolution of RFID

The evolution of RFID technology has advanced tremendously since the Second World War. It has made the progression from identifying air planes on up to the capability of identifying people, animals, and goods that are bought and sold. For instance, RFID technology has been piloted as a means of communication between retailers and manufactures through the use of a low cost RFID tag that allows each entity to communicate when goods leave the warehouse and when they arrive at their proper destination. In addition the technology is also now used by retailer as a means of inventory control. Plastic sensors with RFID tags are placed on textiles and other merchandise and readers are placed at the entrance or exit doors and if the sensor is still attached to the item, an alarm will sound. Furthermore, RFID has been implemented into the financial industry by providing a way for people to pay for items necessary for everyday life by a wave of the hand or plastic transponder device.

RFID –How Does it Affect You?

Some may agree that RFID technology has improved human purchasing power because it is faster, easier and more convenient than the traditional debit/credit card or cash avenues. But is it really secure? Each RFID tag in a credit or debit card has its own unique code that is only supposed to be capable of communicating with a certain reader, but that is not always the case. As a January 2012 Forbes™ magazine article points out, hackers can retrieve that information fairly quickly just by using a $300.00 magnetizing tool and $50.00 RFID credit card reader. As Kris Paget, the demonstrator in the Forbes article points out “ That RFID-enabled credit card data can be easily, cheaply, and undetectably stolen and used for fraudulent transactions. With a Vivotech RFID credit card reader she bought on eBay for $50, Paget wirelessly read a volunteer’s credit card onstage and obtained the card’s number and expiration date, along with the one-time CVV number used by contactless cards to authenticate payments. A second later, she used a $300 card-magnetizing tool to encode that data onto a blank card. And then, with a square attachment for the iPhone that allows anyone to swipe a card and receive payments, she paid herself $15 of the volunteer’s money with the counterfeit card she’d just created”. (Greenburg, para.1)

RFID – The Controversy

There are 2 very strong sides to the controversy of RFID technology. Some say that there proof that the technology is safe and can be trusted. For example, advocates of RFID state that due to the encryption standards, authenticity, and control that are programmed into RFID systems, they are safe and can be trusted. {privatewifi, para. 12}. On the other hand, opponents of Radio Frequency Identification state “Currently, some RFID readers have the capacity to read data transmitted by many different RFID tag. This means that if a person enters a store carrying several RFID tags-for example, in articles of clothing or cards carried in a wallet-one RFID reader can read the data emitted by all of the tags, and not simply the signal relayed by in-store products.” (EPIC para. 30).

For more information on RFID, visit this page.

Food For Thought

The choice to use RFID technology is up to you. Even though there are safeguards built into RFID, the bottom line is that your information is essentially “floating in the air” via radio waves. Do you really think that your information is safe? Is your identity worth the risk for a few “modern” conveniences? You decide….


Greenberg, Andy. "Hacker's Demo Shows How Easily Credit Cards Can Be Read Through Clothes And Wallets." Forbes, 30 01 2012. Web. 14 Jan 2014 .

Junker, J., “What is RFID and is it Safe?” PrivateWiFi. 12 02 12. Web. 28 Jan 2014. .

"Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Systems." Electronic Privacy Information Center. Electronic Information Privacy Center, 12 08 2012. Web. 28 Jan 2014. .

Roberti , Mark.. “The History of RFID Technology.” RFID Journal. 05 01 16. Web. 22 Jan 2014. .

“Speedpass: How it Works: An Overview.” Exxon Mobil Corporation. Web. 13 Feb 2013.

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