By Ahmad Lotfi in The Conversation.
Thieves technically no longer need to reach their hands inside your pockets to steal the money from your purse or wallet. A recent viral photograph of someone on busy public transport with a point-of-sale card reader sparked fears that virtual pickpockets could swipe such a device against passengers’ bank cards and take money from their accounts without them realising. But how vulnerable are we to such attacks?
Contactless payment cards include a small antenna, a memory bank and an embedded microprocessor that can perform secure calculations and communications. A card reader sends out an electromagnetic field that both supplies power to the chip in the card and exchanges data with it via radio signals. When this happens, it sets up a connection that can code and decode information so payment details can be sent securely.
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