April 28


Attenuo RFID Blocking Card

Attenuo RFID Blocking Card Review Feature ImageAccording to an Internet Crime Report recently released by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), both identity theft and card fraud were ranked among top ten reported crime types. Unfortunately, the harvesting of details from contactless cards and other personal items most of us carry around daily could help tech savvy criminals in achieving both of these.

Enter the Attenuo RFID Blocking Card designed to shield your important cards from the 21st century pick-pocket. We’ve previously featured other RFID blocking accessories including minimalist card sleeves, but the key difference with the Attenuo Card is that it’s designed to work with your existing wallet or purse if you simply want to add a layer of protection to them.

But before we go any further, lets run through how RFID skimming could be employed by cyber crooks.

How RFID Skimming Works

Techniques may vary, but will likely involve a thief using a cloning device attached to an antenna – perhaps hidden in a backpack or shopping bag – that operates on the same frequency (13.56MHz) as a wireless payment reader in a shop.

Said thief can then brush past an unsuspecting victim and read some of the details held on a card’s RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip; usually the long card number and expiry date in the case of debit or credit cards.

The cloning device might then be used to transfer the stolen details to a blank RFID card for fraudulent use. Although the 3-digit Card Verification Value (CVV) security number frequently needed for online transactions probably won’t have been taken, a thief with a cloned card could quietly burn through a lot of money using contactless transactions.

It’s not difficult to imagine how scammers could really develop this sort of technique for use in crowded places like subway stations or shopping malls. It doesn’t necessarily even require particularly specialist equipment: researchers at the University of London built an RFID receiver rig capable of intercepting RFID communications for under £50 ($67).

Some more skeptical commentators point to the fact that there aren’t many recorded instances of these sorts of skimming attack, but this could be due to the problem of attribution. Roll back, say, fifteen years: if you found out your card had been cloned, your details would have quite likely been swiped using the now almost retro process of copying the magnetic strip. You might even have been able to think back to a decidedly dodgy store or bar where you regretted using your card the moment you handed it over.

Today the attack vectors for theft of any kind of data are so numerous victims and credit card companies alike may struggle to pin the blame on a single method – let alone a specific individual.

With RFID and NFC chips fitted to numerous other items including passports and building access cards this isn’t necessarily just about financial data being swiped. In our view a bit of low cost mitigation is in order for this as yet unquantified risk.

Card Clash Risks

Leaving criminal activity to one side, another potential irritant introduced by RFID payment technology is the risk of ‘card clash’, where a couple of contactless payment cards in close proximity both get charged by a payment reader for the same transaction. This is perhaps the biggest issue for those who frequently pass through train or subway stations equipped with contactless payment barriers.

By using an RFID blocker you can help ensure that the cards in your wallet or purse aren’t being charged at the same time as the card in your hand.

Attenuo RFID Protection

Many RFID blocking accessories are simply lined with materials that make them act as a kind of miniature Faraday cage to help stop malicious signals – a bit like one those metal-framed buildings where it’s damn near impossible to get a phone signal. With this tactic in mind some creative types have broken out the duct tape and tin foil in an attempt fashion similar DIY protection for vulnerable contactless items.

For those less interested in MacGyver solutions, the Attenuo card offers a more sophisticated means to protect contactless payment cards by acting as your own personal jammer. It does this by drawing on the power emitted from the scanning device and then transmitting a counter-signal at the same frequency.

You can see a demonstration of the card’s RFID blocking affect in action in the video below.

Attenuo suggest this jamming protection should roughly extend to cards inside a 5cm radius.

Due to the presence of its internal circuitry the Attenuo card is a tad (0.44mm) thicker than a typical credit card but is otherwise the same dimensions and will fit unobtrusively into the sleeve of a purse or wallet. For the style conscious it also comes in several different colors.


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