Contactless payment cards: Research highlights security concerns

Nov 01, 2013

(Phys.org) —Warnings about the use of contactless payment cards and Near Field Communication (NFC) capable devices are raised in a study led by a team of researchers at the University of Surrey.

The team from the University's Computing Department successfully received a contactless transmission from distances of 45-80cm using inconspicuous equipment, highlighting security concerns to personal data.

NFC technology is in use on more recent mobile phones and on contactless debit/credit cards issued by UK banks.

The team used portable, inexpensive and easily concealable equipment including a pocket-sized cylindrical antenna, a backpack, and a shopping trolley, none of which would raise suspicion if used in a supermarket queue or in a crowded place.

Using this equipment, the team showed how reliably eavesdropping could be carried out at various distances, with good reception possible even at 45cm when the minimum magnetic field strength required by the standard is in use.

The implications for consumers are significant. Dr Johann Briffa, Computing Lecturer, comments: "The results we found have an impact on how much we can rely on physical proximity as a 'security feature' of NFC devices.

"Designers of applications using NFC need to consider privacy because the intended short range of the channel is no defence against a determined eavesdropper."

Eleanor Gendle, IET Managing Editor at The Journal of Engineering, said: "With banks routinely issuing contactless to customers, there is a need to raise awareness of the potential security threats. It will be interesting to see further research in this area and ascertain the implications for users of contactless technology with regards to theft, fraud and liability."

According to Paul Krause, Professor of Software Engineering at the University of Surrey, "Open access is vitally important in order to ensure that the results of publicly funded research are made available to all. It is particularly important for the stimulation of innovation in engineering where new enterprises may not have the financial resources to pay for a range of journal subscriptions. The IET has taken a very significant initiative in establishing a high quality journal that covers all aspects of engineering in one resource."

Explore further: Students design 'nested' dumpster to slash shipping costs

Related Stories

NXP propels NFC technology into 4G age

Feb 28, 2012

Today at Mobile World Congress NXP Semiconductors announced its newest flagship NFC solution, the PN547. Following on from the overwhelming success of the PN544, by far the industry’s most widely adopted Mobile Transactions ...

Security card with a one-time password and LED display

Mar 06, 2013

Infineon Technologies AG and Bundesdruckerei GmbH have developed a new security smart card with an LED display and a one-time password. This new technology is centred around a security chip in the card which ...

Recommended for you

Finnish inventor rethinks design of the axe

4 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä is the man behind the Vipukirves Leveraxe, which is a precision tool for splitting firewood. He designed the tool to make the job easier and more efficient, with ...

Lifting the brakes on fuel efficiency

Apr 18, 2014

The work of a research leader at Michigan Technological University is attracting attention from Michigan's Governor as well as automotive companies around the world. Xiaodi "Scott" Huang of Michigan Tech's ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

TCS, Mitsubishi to create new Japan IT services firm

India's biggest outsourcing firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Japan's Mitsubishi Corp said Monday they are teaming up to create a Japanese software services provider with annual revenues of $600 million.

Finnish inventor rethinks design of the axe

(Phys.org) —Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä is the man behind the Vipukirves Leveraxe, which is a precision tool for splitting firewood. He designed the tool to make the job easier and more efficient, with ...

Atom probe assisted dating of oldest piece of earth

(Phys.org) —It's a scientific axiom: big claims require extra-solid evidence. So there were skeptics in 2001 when University of Wisconsin-Madison geoscience professor John Valley dated an ancient crystal ...

ISEE-3 comes to visit Earth

(Phys.org) —It launched in 1978. It was the first satellite to study the constant flow of solar wind streaming toward Earth from a stable orbit point between our planet and the sun known as the Lagrangian ...