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Hack-Proofing Devices: Researcher Develops Better Safeguards For RFID Technology

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The feel-safe quotient with radio-frequency identification technology that spread in credit cards, passports, and office passes may become a chimera if the thin layer of security is breached by hackers.

The technology, already a staple of industries, serving well for automated identification of physical objects and warehouses including supply chains, can also be abused.

Reflecting the concern over the consequences of RFID technology being compromised, a Singapore-based academic has proposed a wider review of security protocols in the expanding technology.

RFID tags work by relaying information to electronic readers, and that makes it vulnerable to hackers. The bad consequences from loosened security are explained by Li Yingjiu.

"A security breach in RFID applications would leak valuable information about physical objects to unauthorized parties," says Li, who is an associate professor at the School of Information Systems at the Singapore Management University.

New RFID Protocols

To bolster communications between tags and readers, Li and his team have come up with RFID protocols for enhanced security.

The key to such programs are strategies that make protocol output unpredictable by turning tags indistinguishable and thwarting attempts of hackers to take away information even after fiddling with the tags.

Li is also keen on devising improved access control mechanisms for salvaging RFID information on platforms such as the internet. According to Li, the challenge of taking the research into the market is huge.

The data security expert feels there is a growing gap between academia and industry. People in the industry are staying glued to the market, and academics in heavy attention to research without paying much heed to the market dynamics.

Study On iPhones

However, Li has an edge and has shown his expertise in 2012, when he identified attacks aimed at iPhones. Li and his team handed their findings to Apple to fix the bugs.

Li's team is also concerned about smartphone vulnerability and is planning more work beyond what he did with Huawei.

Li's is working with Professor Robert Deng on an attribute-based encryption system that may offer encryption as a means of controlling access to data and stopping its misuse.

The work of Li assumes significance, as RFID hackers have shown the ease with which information can be stolen from RFID chips.

Blocking radio signals helps in saving RFID chips. Many RFID-protecting sleeves are available in the market, and the best wallets use a Faraday Cage within a leather exterior.

Many chips are rewritable, and hackers can delete and replace the RFID information with their own data.

RFID Technology Growth Areas

Meanwhile, a new research said the RFID lock market worldwide will expand nearly 17 percent from 2016 to 2020.

It looked at the growth prospects of the RFID lock market. North America is ahead in locks with 38 percent share, as customers are accepting new technologies with residential properties using more RFID-based locks.

The increased utility is linked to the customer's smartphone to monitor locks. The hospitality industry is also expanding the use of the technology.

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