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Do You Need An RFID Blocking Wallet, Or Is It Not Necessary?

Do I Need An RFID Wallet?

Ever since RFID blocking wallets came out, people have been wondering “Do I really need an RFID wallet?” Here’s the thing. In the good old USA, most credit cards, IDs and other cards don’t have RFID yet, and beyond that, “Skimming” information from an RFID card, the hacker (if you will) would need to have a reader inches away from the card. The fact is that if you don’t have any RFID chips in your cards (not to be confused with the chip cards with the smartchip embedded) then you don’t have anything to worry about and having an RFID wallet is not necessary. If for some reason you do have an RFID card, the hacker would have to get uncomforatably close to you in order to get a read on the card. All else failing, it would be possible to place an RFID reader under a chair that you sit on, bringing the skimmer within range, but again, other than security companies showing all of us that it’s possible and scaring the masses, this really hasn’t been an issue in the US at all, partly due to the slow inception of RFID technology.

RFID blocking Wallets are everywhere, but in the end, you really don’t need one unless you’re carting around a very sensitive contactless card (such as your NSA security badge, LOL). If you don’t even have an RFID card in your wallet, then don’t worry about it.

RFID is near field communication technology. The reader has to be fairly close to the card in order to read it. This is usually a distance of one to four inches. If you have a low-frequency RFID contactless badge or keyless entry, then the read range is usually between one and five feet.

In either case, the chances of anyone being able to “skim” data from your RFID enabled card is extremely low.

The skimmer would have to be positioned so it’s within inches of the card. The only way to do this is to place the skimmer under the seat that you’re sitting on, or to place it uncomfortably close to your butt while standing on the subway on your morning commute. In either case, most RFID readers require the “hacker” to manually skim and save from the reader, so they’d have to be VERY close to you as well.

Some would have you believe that RFID theft is a real crime. But those who are in the field and work with RFID are skeptical.

Says KazWolf from Reddit, “If you actually have NFC credit cards, it is possible for someone to skim data if they’re very close to you (think inches at best). If you have low-frequency RFID (office door keys usually), you can get skimmed at a larger distance (feet usually). Protection is unnecessary because read distances are very short. However, it is useful if you have very sensitive information on a card or you have multiple RFID-enabled cards.”

Also, from the Slate:

“While early versions of RFID payment systems may have transmitted sensitive data like the card number unencrypted, major credit card companies insist that’s no longer the case. Their RFID chips now send a one-time code for each transaction, so at best, a determined thief might be able to make a single purchase by recording and replicating the signal he picks up from a given card. Even if that were to happen, the cardholder would not be liable for the fraudulent purchase under most credit card companies’ policies. From the thief’s perspective, it’s a lot of work for relatively little gain.”

And on the more extreme end, CSO Online refers to RFID Blocking Wallets as “Security Snake Oil”:

“RFID blocking wallets, sleeves, and other products offer protection against RFID skimming. The problem isn’t that these products don’t work, it’s that they’re a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist in the real world. RFID-related crime isn’t only very unlikely, it’s non-existent.”

The cost of RFID blocking wallets has come down as of late, and you can buy a nice RFID Blocking Wallet for the same price (and in some cases, less than) a non-RFID blocking wallet.

My take on the whole deal is that you’re probably not going to get “hacked” anytime soon, and if you’re not carrying any RFID enabled cards anyway, then it’s not even an issue… BUT Since RFID Blocking Wallets are everywhere, and there isn’t a big cost difference between two similar wallets, then if you get one, you get one, and you’re data is a bit safer perhaps.


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