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Switch approach to tackle skimming

by Brian Sims

The potential fraud problems of data, money and identity theft from the use of RFID for Near Field Communications (NFC) in contactless access control, passports and credit cards has been well highlighted. Known as skimming, thieves can use easily available electronics or a smartphone to read the data on such devices without the user being aware of the attack. These contactless devices work by being waved over a reader and data is exchanged between the reader and the device. The problem comes from the fact that the devices are always on and ready to interact, even when in a wallet or bag. Peratech has developed a solution that overcomes this by incorporating an ultrathin switch into the credit card or other credential, so that it is always off unless the owner is actually pressing the switch to activate the device. This ensures that the owner has full control of when the data is accessed and by whom. ‘We could see that NFC had this fundamental flaw,’ stated David Lussey, Peratech’s CTO. ‘A number of card companies are now deploying contactless credit cards without protection that can have their details skimmed and used fraudulently so we expect problems to start becoming widespread.’ Peratech makes a very thin, pressure-sensitive switch using Quantum Tunnelling Composites (QTCs) technology. This acts as an on/off switch in the circuitry of the device and is robust enough to be laminated into the credentials during manufacture. Only when the switch is deliberately activated by the owner will the device become active, and it immediately turns off when the pressure is removed.

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