So, Who’s *Got* A Mylar Wallet?

Electronic Pickpocket Stoppers (pdf)

Because, says electronic security expert Bruce Schneier, crystallizing the view of many: “As weird as it sounds, wrapping your passport in tinfoil helps. The tinfoil people, in this case, happen to be correct.”

[…] All of these nifty and oh-so-convenient bits of plastic employ versions of what’s known as radio frequency identification technology, or RFID. That is, they toss out bits of data that are caught by receivers, with little or no contact, just through the air in some cases. The new credit cards, such as MasterCard’s PayPass, don’t have to be swiped through a machine. Swiping is so retro, and takes precious extra seconds. You need only lightly tap the PayPass on a terminal to register a purchase.

Neato. It feels as if you’re living in the future, or in an episode of “24,” when you slap your purse on the Metro turnstile and the gate opens, or you wave your ID badge at a node on the wall and your office door beeps open (and then your face and all your recent movements around the office — yikes! — pop up on the security guard’s computer).

But alas, just as every problem has a solution, so every solution has a problem, right?

According to some security gurus, even when there is no receiver in the vicinity, your digital secrets are leaking merrily from the cards in your wallet, like sound from a radio that you can’t turn off.

So, conceivably, a pickpocket with a laptop and an antenna could lift the digital contents of your wallet. […]