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Protection for contactless cards

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A new product aims to protect contactless "smart cards" from having their information stolen.

Compare Low Interest Credit CardsNational Envelope Corporation's Smart Card Guard is a line of protective sleeves and envelopes that shield the electronic information on contactless cards from unauthorized transmission during mailing or while being carried in a person's wallet, purse or pocket. 

These lightweight sleeves and mailing envelopes encase the card in a thin protective metallic barrier to protect information on the card's memory chip.  While inside its Smart Card Guard, personal data in the card's embedded integrated circuit is blocked from transmission via radio frequency waves to any contactless card reading device.

National Envelope said that targeted customers include card issuers and government agencies.

Based on a May 2007 report from research firm Packaged Facts, there are now over 550 million banking and payment smart cards in circulation globally, with around 27 million smart cards in the U.S.  Encouraged by success in Europe and Asia, financial institutions are planning to expand the roll out of smart cards in the U.S. to more than 100 million by 2011.

U.S. financial institutions are issuing contactless credit cards, debit cards and small key chain devices.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State is projected to issue 17 million "e-passports" containing contactless smart card technology in 2007. 

Additional smart cards come in the form of federal ID cards, refillable gift cards, payment cards, health insurance cards, driver's licenses and other state or organizational ID cards.

Researchers have expressed concerns regarding potential fraud threats associated with contactless payment, such as the potential for criminals to steal card information using their own readers.

While many contactless cards employ some version of encryption technology, a 2006 study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst found that in a test of 20 smart cards indicated that encryption levels were not nearly tough enough to stop easy interception of personal information. 

Among credit card networks, at least one noted steps to protect smart cards while in transit.  Visa had stated previously reported that it ships contactless payment cards in foil-like packages.

Published: June 1, 2007


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