Smart Card Alliance Corrects Recent Reporting Errors on Security Threats to RF-Enabled Payments

Smart Card Alliance Corrects Recent Reporting Errors on Security Threats to RF-Enabled Payments

PRINCETON JUNCTION, NJ, March 12, 2008–A recent Associated Press story and subsequent news reports contained an important error, and the Smart Card Alliance wants to correct the record. The stories inaccurately linked security questions raised by a University of Virginia graduate student about an RF-enabled chip used primarily in transit applications with the contactless smart card technology used in financial payment cards. The RF-enabled chip used in the U.Va. research is not the same product used in contactless credit/debit cards and electronic passports.Additional information on contactless financial payment card security can be found at /publications-contactless-payment-security-qa.

The research, presented at a hacker’s conference in Germany, involved one dimension of security in one specific product. Like many types of computer chips, a broad range of RF-enabled and contactless smart card chips are available, and individual system operators choose the right overall balance of features, including security, when they design a fare collection system. The transportation industry and its technology partners have decades of experience and know-how to design fare payment systems that balance cost effectiveness and security.

Industry best practices for any type of smart card system involve many layers of security, avoiding dependency on any single element. There are typically multiple countermeasures starting at the chip and card and going beyond it to the reader and system level.

“The goal is to design systems so any would-be criminal breaking through one door will simply find another, bigger locked door behind it,” said Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance. “As for RF-enabled transit cards, the security is far greater than the magnetic stripe cards and tokens they replaced.”

After more than 20 years’ use in billions of devices, smart card-based technology remains the gold standard for payment and identity security worldwide.

About the Smart Card Alliance

The Smart Card Alliance is a not-for-profit, multi-industry association working to stimulate the understanding, adoption, use and widespread application of smart card technology.

Through specific projects such as education programs, market research, advocacy, industry relations and open forums, the Alliance keeps its members connected to industry leaders and innovative thought. The Alliance is the single industry voice for smart cards, leading industry discussion on the impact and value of smart cards in the U.S. and Latin America. For more information please visit