What is RFID in information security?

RFID stands for radio frequency identification. It is a technology that incorporates the need of electromagnetic or electrostatic coupling in the radio frequency (RF) area of the electromagnetic spectrum to uniquely recognize an object, animal or person. RFID is coming into enhancing use in market as an alternative to the bar code.

The benefit of RFID is that it does not need direct contact or line-of-sight scanning. An RFID system includes three components such as an antenna and transceiver (often combined into one reader) and a transponder (the tag). The antenna needs radio frequency waves to transmit a signal that activates the transponder.

The use of RFID for personally identifiable data has been the context of debate for years. It raises concerns generally about the protection of personal information. People see a threat in the method that RFID tags can be read without having to face the owner, as the unique identifier of the stamps can be linked to the owner’s personal data.

Moreover, RFID tags can be placed on some goods without the knowledge of the user. Moreover, the tags can be read remotely by some readers that are hidden in the environment, therefore an individual cannot even be acknowledge of being “read”. For example, a user cannot deactivate the detectors in a department store.

When payment is decided by bank card, the purchased product can be associated to the customer. Consequently, the customer can be recognized by name. Therefore, it can be possible to track not only the product, but also the customer from a higher distance.

Of course, radio signals can also be encrypted by several cryptographic approaches, but this can be limited by the memory capacity of passive tags. There are another problem is whether RFID is detrimental to health or to the environment. The RFID related electromagnetic fields (EMF) are usually weak, and the population is exposed to radiation at a rate that is lower than the modern standard limits.

Some commercial RFID chips are passive emitters, which define they have no onboard battery. They send a signal only when a reader powers them with a spray of electrons. Once juiced, these chips advertised their signal indiscriminately within a specific range, generally a few inches to a few feet.

Active emitter chips with internal power can send signals thousands of feet; these are used in the automatic toll-paying devices (such as FasTrak and E-ZPass) that sit on car dashboards, pinging tollgates as autos whiz through.

For protection, RFID signals can be encrypted. But some commercial RFID tags don’t contains security, which is cheap. A general passive RFID chip costs about a quarter, whereas one with encryption capabilities runs about $5. It’s only profitable for the average office building to invest in protected chips.

Updated on: 09-Mar-2022


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