The Short Answer: Maybe


The world of Radio Frequency Identification or RFID is here and now. Whether you use this technology with your credit card (the chip), at DisneyWorld (those MagicBands) or at an event to check in, register continuing education units or provide information to a trade show vendor, RFID technology is going to continue to grow as a tool to share vital information.

But the ever ominous questions are: What about the data stored on the chip? Is it private?

The answer is kind of mushy for the simple reason, it depends on a few factors which I will discuss below.

Why You Might Be Worried


There is a practice RFID land called skimming. Here is how it works:

Skimming is a form of digital theft, which enables information from RFID devices to be read and duplicated. Typically, it works by illegitimate reading of RFID chips by using a cheap RFID reader device, which downloads the card information unto a computer that is tucked away in a briefcase or backpack. A new blank card is swiped through a magnetic-stripe writing device which then allows this forged card to act as the original legitimate card.

And the worst part? The legitimate user isn’t even aware this just happened!


Where You Are Most at Risk


Believe it or not, the areas you are at most risk are when you are standing in line or sitting for long periods of time in an open, public area. Banks, stores, airports, restaurants and events are some of the most risk perverse areas.


What about Encryption?


It would seem like an easy answer to this problem would be to encrypt the data and be done with the privacy concern. But it just isn’t that easy. Here’s why; in order for the data to be read from the card or wristband it needs to be decrypted and it just turns out there isn’t enough memory in those little chips to turn on and off that feature effectively.

And if you are lucky enough to have an encrypted unit, it is estimated by industry cyber analysts that any sophisticated skimmer could crack the code with little effort.


Where The Truth Lies


RFID has many benefits including tracking and retention of data, the ability to personalize an attendee’s event experience and the ability to have lifesaving medical information available to EMTs at the time of need on a person that may not be able to communicate their medical condition.

And there is no doubt that security measures to protect you will get better and better as technology advancements occur.

However, remember the hacker must be within 30-40 feet of the chip and they have to be in your line of sight. In other words, a nice open area where you are sitting or standing in one location for some time and there are no walls or obstructions between your chip and their skim.


Remember This Above All


Most RFID chips (with the exception of credit cards) hold a fraction of the information that would be required for an identity thief to do anything valuable with the information. And it is in your best interest to keep it that way as you plan meetings and events.

Keep attendee’s personal information off the chip and stick to work addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.

Ask yourself these questions: What would a skimmer want with this info? What would they do with it? If the answers are benign, don’t worry about it! If it is questionable, remove the information from the chip and play it safe.


SmartSource Rentals is Your Source for RFID Readers


For over 30 years, SmartSource Rentals has provided a unique range of rental products and services, with our newest offering being RFID readers. Serving the trade show, professional conferences, and general technology markets, we are widely recognized for our breadth and depth of rental offerings and seamless systems integration for even the most complex installations. Give us a call today at 800.888.8686 for more information.