The Reality of RFID Card Cloning: Mechanisms and Prevention Strategies
With businesses and organizations embracing the convenience RFID Cards offer, transmitting information is only one swipe away. However, in the world of technology, security is never guaranteed.
If you’re wondering whether RFID cards can be cloned, the answer is yes. Researchers are becoming worried about the potential security risk of hackers tampering with RFID card information. Outdated RFID technology is among the most vulnerable yet prevalently used.
Luckily, modern RFID tags are equipped with improved security– adding ways to ensure that your personal or organizational RFID cards won’t be compromised.
Read this article to uncover the full details.
How Secure are RFID Cards?
The mechanism of RFID cards is straightforward. When the RFID chip is scanned by a reader, it transmits information without the need for authentication. This simple interaction between the RFID chip and the reader gives hackers the chance of Digital Pick pocketing.
Digital Pick pocketing is a term that refers to hackers accessing digital data without consent. This information can then be copied into a blank chip called cloning. When RFID cards have a wider reading range, hackers can use a card reader to scan the RFID chip in proximity.
How Does Card Cloning Happen?
Despite technological advances, RFID Technology is still highly susceptible to hacking and cloning. Proximity plays a role in RFID card safety as some cards with a wider reading range are more vulnerable targets by hackers with a reader.
To clone an RFID card, hackers would only need an RFID card reader, data analytic software, and a blank RFID chip. Nearly all RFID cards that are used to access buildings, workplaces, and smart cards are susceptible to cloning.
How Can an RFID Card Be Cloned?
Some organizations use RFID Cards for employee identification and building access. RFID cards with higher frequencies can be scanned by readers without revealing the physical card. Unfortunately, hackers only need to be a few feet away from the victim to steal their card information.
Here are some of the techniques that attackers use to clone RFID Cards.
Proximity attacks are the most basic attempt to clone RFID cards. These attacks only need an understanding of the communication between the cards and the reader. This provides the attacker with information on how to intercept the card’s data.
Low-frequency RFID cards have a lower reading range, which makes them less likely to be targeted by attackers. However, high-frequency and ultra-high-frequency RFID tags can be read from several meters away which makes them more susceptible to attacks.
Some attackers even use reader devices with specialized antennas to increase reading strength. These can capture the card’s data without leaving a trace. Since no authorization is needed for data transfer, card cloning can be easily done with a blank card.
Eavesdropping happens when an attacker intercepts information being passed between the RFID Card and the reader. Attackers are able to capture and analyze the transmission of data which can include the tag’s identification number and other sensitive information.
A common way for an attacker to eavesdrop is by using a Radio Frequency Scanner that detects radio wave transmission. By gaining personal and sensitive information, attackers can use them for unauthorized cloning.
Replay attacks are built on eavesdropping. When attackers have recorded and analyzed multiple radio wave interactions, they can attempt to bypass authentication by replaying data to gain access or steal information. Legitimate readers would identify cloned cards as authentic.
This type of attack is more complicated compared to the first two types.
Access to Physical Cards
By its name, attackers who have access to physical cards can use specialized equipment to copy data into a blank card. Sometimes, attackers also tamper with the original cards by extracting their components for cloning.
By using this method, attackers can use the cloned cards to access premises and transactions that the original card can do.
How to Prevent RFID Card Cloning?
An additive feature of RFID cards is data encryption. This is a type of feature that locks data in your card, ensuring that it cannot be accessed by a third party. Only authorized card readers will be able to transfer information. Hackers would need a codeword to access this.
Upgrade to High-Frequency Cards
Older-generation RFID cards are more vulnerable, especially low-frequency RFID cards. Despite having short reading ranges, they are very easy to hack compared to higher-frequency cards.
High frequency and ultra-high-frequency RFID cards need powerful card readers that hackers must build. It is not something sold online. Having these type of cards, make it harder for hackers to try and attack.
For added security, choose an RFID card with a two-factor authentication option. This allows cardholders to input a password or a PIN. Although it is more time-consuming than normal RFID cards, this added security makes it difficult for attackers to penetrate.
This type of RFID card can come with a reader that has a keypad so you can type in your password. To have more control over your card, you can also choose to receive codes through your email address or mobile number.
Invest in Unclonable RFID Cards
Investing in cards with unique security features can significantly protect the RFID cards your organization issues. These cards have a unique identifier and a cryptographic key which can only be identified using the physical card.
This means that data extraction from unauthorized RFID readers will be rejected by the legitimate card reader without the original physical card.
Physical Protective Measures to Block RFID Card Cloning
Use Aluminum Foil
One way to temporarily block unauthorized RFID readers is by using aluminum foil to block radio wave signals. However, this solution wears out over time.
RFID Wallets and Sleeves
One of the most popular solutions to RFID card cloning is using RFID wallets or sleeves. These accessories are made of carbon fibers that block your card from transmitting radio frequencies.
With industries rapidly adapting RFID technology, concerns about security breaches and potential risks are becoming prevalent. RFID card cloning is becoming an evolving threat to various industries and individuals.
It’s a good thing that there are preventive means to protect yourself from card cloning. Whether you’ve just begun the RFID technology journey or have been using it for some time, choosing an RFID card with increased security can significantly enhance your defenses.
Take a step today and explore enhanced protection options to protect your assets.