Science & Technology
8:00 am
Mon February 27, 2012

New Tap And Pay Technology To Thwart Virtual Pickpockets

Virtual pickpocketing may have just become more challenging.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have created a new method to improve credit card security that allows a card to be turned "on" and "off."

With new technology such as Near-Field Communications (NFC) and Radio Frequency Identification (ID), consumers no longer have to swipe their credit card to make a purchase or withdraw money. Instead, they may simply "wave" their card over a scanner.

But these current "tap and pay" credit cards are always electronically accessible as long as there is a scanner near enough to read the card. This allows pickpockets who possess these scanners to almost effortlessly take information and even cash stored on someone's credit card.

However, Pittsburgh Engineering Professor Marlin Mickle says a new card security technology works just like a light switch to thwart electronic pickpockets.

"The card, instead of being on all the time, is only on when you activate the switch, and the switch is just activated by a very simple pressure point on the card which is known by the user," Mickle said.

With this new technology, customers would hold RFID or NFC credit cards in a specified area such as the credit card emblem when making a transaction. As long as this "switch" is held, the customer would be able to make transactions with the card. After the pressure point is released, the card deactivates, making it impossible for anyone with a scanner to take your money or information.

Mickle says these technological advancements aren't only safe, they're also cheap to implement.

"There's going to be some retooling costs for the people who make the credit cards, but my guess is that the cost of the parts that go in there once you actually have the tooling done is going to be on the order of cents," Mickle said.

This new technology has been in development for 6-12 months and is ready to be implemented. So far, however, no credit card manufacturer or company has approached the University of Pittsburgh about using this electronic tool.