Fri Nov 17, 2006 01:35

CASPIAN Advises Consumers to Immediately Remove Cards from Wallets

Consumer watchdog group CASPIAN is demanding a recall of millions of RFID-equipped contactless credit cards in light of serious security flaws reported today in the New York Times. The paper reports that a team of security researchers has found that virtually every one of these cards tested is vulnerable to unauthorized charges and puts consumers at risk for identity theft.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a controversial technology that uses tiny microchips to transmit information at a distance. These RFID microchips have earned the nickname "spychips" because the data they contain can be read silently and invisibly by radio waves without an individual's knowledge or consent. The technology has long been the target of criticism by privacy and civil liberties groups.

"For these financial institutions to put RFID in credit cards, one of the most sensitive items we carry, is absolute lunacy," said Dr. Katherine Albrecht, founder and director of CASPIAN, a consumer group with over 12,000 members in 30 countries worldwide.

Researchers are showing how a thief could skim information from the cards right through purses, backpacks and wallets. This information includes the cardholder's name, credit card number, expiration date and other data that would be sufficient to make unauthorized purchases. They say the information could even be used to identify and track people, a scenario Albrecht and co-author Liz McIntyre lay out in their book, "Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Purchase and Watch Your Every Move."

Despite earlier assurances by the issuing companies that the data contained in the credit cards would be secure, researchers found that the majority of cards they tested did not use encryption or protect the data in any way. The information on them was readily available to unauthorized parties using equipment that could be assembled for as little as $50, the researchers said.

"We cautioned companies against using item-level RFID, and they didn't heed us. Now the credit card industry is facing an unprecedented PR and financial disaster," says McIntyre, who is also a former bank examiner. She points to the astronomical cost to replace the cards, not to mention the potential financial losses, litigation expenses, and erosion of consumer trust.

Albrecht and McIntyre are calling on the industry to issue a public alert detailing the dangers of the cards they've issued, institute an active recall, and make safe versions without RFID available to concerned consumers.

"This recall has to be very clear and very directed since consumers may not know their cards contain RFID tags," says Albrecht. "The industry has repeatedly resisted calls to clearly label the cards. Rather, they've given the cards innocent-sounding names like 'Blink.'"

CASPIAN is advising consumers to immediately remove the credit cards from their wallets and call
the 800 number on the back to insist on an RFID-free replacement card. The group is cautioning consumers not to mail the cards back or simply throw them away due to the risk of their personal information being skimmed.

Today's New York Times article by John Schwartz can be found here:

A research report detailing the findings can be found here:


CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) is a grass-roots consumer group fighting retail surveillance schemes since 1999. With thousands of members in all 50 U.S. states and over 30 countries worldwide, CASPIAN seeks to educate consumers about marketing strategies that invade their privacy and encourage privacy-conscious shopping habits across the retail spectrum.

For more information, visit CASPIAN's RFID privacy website at:


"Spychips" is the winner of the 2006 Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty and has received wide critical acclaim. Authored by recent Harvard graduate Dr. Katherine Albrecht and former bank examiner Liz McIntyre, the book is meticulously researched. "Spychips" draws on patent documents, corporate source materials, conference proceedings, and firsthand interviews to paint a convincing -- and frightening -- picture of the threat posed by RFID.

Despite its hundreds of footnotes and academic-level accuracy, the book remains lively and readable according to critics, who have called it a "techno-thriller" and "a masterpiece of technocriticism."

"Spychips" is available in a newly-released paperback version from Penguin/Plume (October 2006).

"A chilling story about an emerging future in which spychips run amok as Big Brother and Big Shopkeeper invade our privacy in unprecedented ways."
— Chicago Tribune

"Paints a 1984-ish picture of how corporations would like to use RFID tags to keep tabs on you."
— The Associated Press

TOMMY THOMPSON: THE "CHIPPER" PRESIDENT? Election Bid Raises Specter of RFID Implant Threat

click here to read the press release...

3/16/06 George Noory, Coast to Coast
Govt. Tracking: RFID & NAIS
Consumer privacy expert Katherine Albrecht, joined by activists Pat Showalter and Celeste Bishop in hour two, spoke out against the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), a USDA plan to track farm animals using RFID chips. Showalter and Bishop, who both own animals in a small scale, non-commercial capacity, said the new regulations are very burdensome for small farmers. For instance, the "Premises Identification" part of the plan requires owners to report any movements or visitors of the animals, even in the case of a few chickens and goats. The cost and time for such monitoring is prohibitive and also an invasion of their privacy, they argued.
Technology is being used to clamp down and control food in general, said Albrecht, who compared the NAIS plan to the tracking done with grocery loyalty cards, and the efforts to restrict farmers' rights to seeds. In regards to the NAIS, she hoped that small farmers will refuse to comply with the plan, as she believes it does nothing to make the food supply safer (the stated goal of the program), and it discourages self-sufficiency.
Further, the RFID chips, used to track the animals, and recently introduced in passports, are susceptible to hackers who can infect large databases with malicious viruses, she pointed out. The bigger picture is that the government is seeking a top down control of the populace on a global level, and there is "a move afoot to number everything and everyone," said Albrecht. However, she finds that US citizens are more prone to resisting these efforts than Europeans, and that the NAIS may be the issue that wakes people up.
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05/19/06 Coast to Coast with George Noory re: Katherine Albrecht RFID Spy Chips
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"You can run, but you may not be able to hide. Not just from Big Brother, but Big Business, writes Katherine Albrecht in her book Spychips, a detailed analysis of how Radio Frequency Identification technology -- RFID for short -- threatens to erode the last vestiges of our privacy."

Main Page - Sunday, 11/19/06

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