“Bits n Bytes”
With ‘chip and pin’ technology slated to be introduced in to Thailand during 2015, here is a cautionary tale for us all.
A pair of jeans containing material that blocks wireless signals is being developed in conjunction with anti-virus firm Norton. The trousers are intended to stop thieves hacking into radio frequency identification (RFID) tagged passports or contactless payment cards as according to security experts this type of theft is a growing problem.
The jeans are designed by online clothing company Betabrand and use a silver-based material to block signals and are due to go on sale in February.
Security software maker Norton teamed up with San Francisco-based Betabrand in October to make the jeans and a blazer. The jeans will retail at $151 (£96) and the blazer at $198.
The majority of credit and debit cards are fitted with Near Field Communication chips, a type of RFID tech
Digital forensic firm Disklabs has used similar technology to make a wallet, which, like the Betabrand jeans, blocks RFID signals.
“There is technology readily available for anyone to snatch other people’s credit and debit card data within seconds,” said Disklabs boss Simon Steggles.
“These apps simply copy the card with all the information on it.”
His firm also designs “faraday” bags which block mobile signals. Such bags are often used by police now to store mobile phones taken from suspects.
Last month it was reported that several police forces around the UK had admitted that some mobile phones confiscated from suspects had been remotely wiped because they had not been stored in a secure way.
Disklab’s RFID-blocking wallet will go on sale in the new year
Ethical hacker Ken Munro is also acutely aware of the problem of RFID hacking. His firm, Pen Test Partners, has developed him a proof-of-concept RFID-blocking suit.
Made of cloth woven with metal fibres, the suit was not cheap to make but is washable.
“If we are not explicitly blocking these signals there are a lot of things that can go wrong, from stealing contactless payment card details to more life-threatening issues,” he told the BBC.
He thinks the RFID jeans may not be a sufficient defence against hackers.
“The pockets are shielded but nothing else. Stuff in your pockets is easy to shield with a wallet or similar. Our suit is different – the entire thing is shielded.”
This becomes important as more and more RFID technology, such as wearable insulin pumps or in-chest monitoring devices, becomes standard, he said.
“These are the devices where tampering or hacking over radio frequency could be life-threatening,” he said.”I’m not sure that medical device manufacturers have given enough thought to security.”