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Data Security Concerns Relating to RFID Technology

  • Akansha Sharma
  • Jul 10, 2023
  • RFID
RFID Technology

Securing data and privacy is one of the core components of running a business and transactions. In the age of information, value data like research, strategies, and campaigns are what drive the success of a venture. That is why, businesses place a lot of resources on ensuring that there are no cases of theft or espionage. The same is the case with using RFID in their operations. And in recent times, some people have shared data security concerns relating to RFID technology.

So, today, we will have a brief discussion about these issues and see if there’s any truth to it. If yes, then what’s the solution?

What is RFID?

It is an acronym for Radio Frequency Identification technology; it is a class of data communication systems that uses radio signals to transmit information. RFID is a class of AIDC (Automatic Identification & Data Collection) technology, that is used by a large portion of the industry, for the purpose of asset identification & tracking. 

This technology consists of two separate systems, namely – readers & tags. The tags store the information about the assets/items, and the reader identifies the tags using its antennas and sends the information to the system. Together, they form an effective AIDC solution.

How is it Different from Other Identification & Tracking Systems?

RFID is vastly different from other AIDC and tracking systems like barcodes, manual tracking, etc. Specifically due to the fact that it works on radio signals. Unlike barcodes, RF systems do not require a line of sight to read & identify assets. It also works vastly faster than barcodes. According to a study by the Danby Group, RFID systems reduced the asset reading time by 90.82%. 

This technology is also far more accurate than barcode or manual tracking & data collection. With a human component, errors are always a risk, and barcodes can make errors while reading, especially in conditions with low light or damaged code. RF systems, on the other hand, don’t face such problems. The only issue it faces is signal degradation & detuning from metal surfaces.

What are the Main Privacy & Security Concerns with RFID Systems?

Like any technology, Radio Frequency Identification is not foolproof. They do invoke some serious concerns in users/businesses, especially when it comes to data protection. One of the biggest fears is data mishandling and theft using frequency-compatible readers. You may have seen wallets that come with labels saying – RFID Protected. These wallets, cases, bags, etc. contain a mesh of copper wires inside them that creates a Faraday Cage that blocks radio signals from reaching the RF inlay.

Applications that deal with valuable/classified information like Credit/Debit Cards, Access Control ID Cards, and Confidential Documents need to be very careful about data theft. If an unauthorized person can access and read tags using a long-range reader, then it may result in a significant data breach.

Concerns like these may often lead consumers/businesses to itching away from RFID implementation in their operations.

Is There Any Truth to These Concerns?

In short, yes and no. It is true that for a normal tag, a reader that operates in the same frequency range can read the information stored in it. That is if the tag is within the reader’s range of communication.

However, we have some simple solutions in place to negate these problems, which is why you rarely if ever hear about data stolen from RFID tags. The first solution that most users employ is encryption. By simply encrypting the data while storing it in the tag, you can make your tags unreadable by any reader that doesn’t have the encryption key in it. The second method, we already mentioned above, i.e., RFID shielding. These shields use copper mesh for electromagnetic shielding around the tags.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is RFID data protection?

RF data protection means the various systems that reduce or prevent unintended communication between an RF chip and a reader. This can be achieved using various methods like RF blocking, these systems reduce the signal power output of the reader, making it impossible for it to communicate with the tags. Another method is creating an electromagnetic shield around the tags, preventing radio signals from reaching the inlay.

Q2. Does RFID have security?

Yes, the most basic and effective security for RFID is data encryption, which can be done easily by the users.

Q3. Which is a common security attack on RFID systems?

There are three types of primary security attacks on an RF system, namely – MITM, Brute Force, and Cloning. Let’s talk about them in brief.

(A). MITM – It’s an acronym for Man In The Middle, and as the name suggests, it involves an unauthorized party intercepting the signal from an RF tag/inlay before it reaches the intended reader. This is usually done through a signal-capturing device.

(B). Brute Force – A brute force attack is as it sounds like, without precision but with multiple blows. In such attacks, a device transmits multiple (hundreds or even thousands) of RF identifier codes to the reader. These identifiers are randomly generated and given enough time can eventually transmit the correct code, based on probability.

(C). Cloning – This is perhaps the most common way an RF system is attacked by an intruder. Cloning involves copying the identification & authorization data of a user and cloning it in a different access card/tag.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

  • Created on Jul 10, 2023

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