RFID blocking?

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by kmann31, Aug 31, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. kmann31

    kmann31 Silver Member

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    Okay, this question will really show my "newbie" traveling status.....
    Is it crucial to have RFID blocking technology for passport/credit cards when traveling abroad? I have done some searching and can't tell if it is a gimmick or brilliant invention.
    Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
     
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  2. splat

    splat Silver Member

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    I have no idea if it's a gimmick or not, but I bought the RFID passport covers and a wallet. The only negative is that it was a total pain to take 4 passports in and out covers at the airport several times.
     
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  3. viguera
    Original Member

    viguera Gold Member

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    Well think about it this way... back in 2009 (which is basically the stone age in technology terms) someone coupled a Symbol XR400 RFID reader and a Motorola AN400 antenna inside their car and drove around San Francisco reading RFID information from passports from a distance.

    The guys at Flexilis had used gear that was a generation older than that and set a (then) read distance record of 69 feet -- RFID tags are passive devices, so it's all in the antenna. With enough juice and the right gear, people don't need to bump into you to read the information on the tags.

    With that said, I'm not sure that anyone has actually seen an exploit in the wild that capitalizes on this.
     
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  4. MX

    MX Gold Member

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    Most credit cards do not have an RFID (i.e. contactless) chip embedded in them. To check if any of your cards have them, look for a mandatory wifi symbol, and sometimes a catchy brand-specific trade name, e.g. "speedy pass", etc.
    I understand that many recently issued passports do come with RFID chips, and may also have a shield (foil) embedded in the cover. Such passports can only be read when opened. My passport (USA) was issued 6 yrs ago, and doesn't have the RFID feature.
    On balance, chances that you can benefit from RFID-blocking technology are remote.
     
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  5. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Is it "crucial" for you? Absolutely not. It may not even really matter.
     
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  6. bigx0

    bigx0 Gold Member

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    I don't think there's one answer. The threat is real, but limited. Credit Card and Passport RFID chips are quite range-limited. Well, by standard means anyhow -- devices which can read from more than a short distance exist but tend to be a bit large though I guess they can be hidden in luggage and taken through an airport. And the data returned by the passport chip are encrypted (though the decryption key can be derived from info on the passport so it's not much security).

    So, definitely, someone with a reader by your butt (or wherever you keep your wallet/cards) can get info and in an airport at times you can have lots of people around you. But I'm not too worried about credit cards -- someone reading those won't get your billing address or the CCV code. Passports/Global Entry card and the like might be more worrisome. I still say the chance is slim, but definitely present.
     
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  7. Counsellor
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    Counsellor Gold Member

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    My thought as well. If traveling internationally, you might be interested in keeping your nationality on a "need to know" basis, and a Faraday cage (RFID blocker) helps in that circumstance. I'd recommend them, with the hope they'll never be needed (like insurance), but the difference is that -- unlike insurance -- you don't know whether it has actually been needed.
     
  8. kmann31

    kmann31 Silver Member

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    Thanks for all the great responses. Looks like I will pick some up before we head out. Hopefully they would never be needed, but my husband already thinks I am setting myself up for identity theft with this hobby, so I think the extra sense of security will make him feel better as well!
     
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