As RFID-enabled credit cards become more common, so do concerns about skimming, a process that allows unauthorized users to gain access to cards, often by scanning the card with a portable handheld reader.
A University of Pittsburgh researcher thinks he has a solution to the problem. Marlin Mickle, a professor of engineering and executive director of the RFID Center for Excellence at Pitt’s Swanson School, has devised a simple “on-off” switch that would allow the card to be deactivated except during use for purchases.
“Our new design integrates an antenna and other electrical circuitry that can be interrupted by a simple switch, like turning off the lights in the home or office,” says Mickle. “The RFID or NFC credit card is disabled if left in a pocket or lying on a surface and unreadable by thieves using portable scanners.”
RFID tags and NFC credit cards are currently enabled to operate any time they’re placed in an electromagnetic field. With this new technology, consumers would simply hold RFID or NFC credit cards in a specified area—for example, on an emblem or some other identifying mark—when making a transaction. As long as the “switch” is held, the card is turned “on.” When returned to a wallet or purse and tactile contact is discontinued, the card automatically turns “off.”
“This solution is simple and very inexpensive to integrate into the RFID and NFC credit card manufacturing process,” Mickle says. “We have filed a patent application and hope to see the technology quickly adopted, once approved.”
Click here to read more of RFID 24-7′s coverage about security and privacy issues.