Chase "Blink" RFID credit cards (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Thu, 21 Aug 2008

Chase "Blink" RFID credit cards

Chase sent us replacement MasterCards out of the blue. They came with a brochure touting their wonderful new Chase's "Blink" feature. So convenient! You just hold the card near a reader and it charges your account, no need for any of that pesky swiping of cards or signing of forms!

Yes, it's RFID (Radio Frequency ID tags), the small low-power radio transmitters also used by Walmart and various other retailers, and in other applications such as company security badges/access cards (and, unfortunately, new passports in quite a few countries).

It seems a little odd to me that Chase's marketing implies that most people would think it's a good thing to have a credit card that can be charged easily without even taking it out of your wallet ... to have a card that can be charged from some distance away without your even knowing about it.

It's apparently easy and cheap to build an RFID credit card skimmer: Bruce Schneier has collected several articles about it, and in a later article he offers several links to articles on how to build your own RFID skimmer.

We called Chase right away and told them we didn't want the "Blink" cards. They said we could keep our old, non-RFID cards and continue to use them, and destroy the new ones. Whew!

Googling for links for this article, I found that we're not the only Chase customers to want to decline Blink.

For anyone wondering how secure this technology is, the recent debacle of the cracked Dutch RFID subway cards gives you an idea (Bruce Schneier, "Dutch RFID Transit Card Hacked"; The Register, "Dutch transit card crippled by multihacks", and a followup where the MBTA, Boston's transit agency, used the courts to muzzle three MIT students who were trying to present a paper at Defcon on the security holes in the MBTA's RFID-based pay system.

For anyone who gets stuck with an RFID credit card, here's how to make an RFID-blocking wallet, and how to make an RFID zapper.

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[ 10:26 Aug 21, 2008    More tech/security | permalink to this entry ]