What’s in your wallet?

So I was reading about RFID chips in common products on Slashdot and how there are troubling implications of such (see also this article). This tidbit reminded me of something though:

“Already, microchips are turning up in some computer printers, car keys and tires, on shampoo bottles and department store clothing tags. They’re also in library books and “contactless” payment cards (such as American Express’ “Blue” and ExxonMobil’s “Speedpass.”)”

I have a checking account with a large bank chain in the US and an associated Debit/Credit MasterCard that I rarely use. When my old card expired, they sent me a new one with one of these chips as part of their PayPass program; I recall being a bit nonplussed by this ‘feature’ when I first got it, but I’ve been carrying it around in my wallet. After being reminded of it from the article, I thought it would be a good time to have a close look at my card.

The first thing to note is that you can’t feel where the chip is inside the credit card; its that thin. The opaque plastic of the card makes it difficult to spot too. But I have a laser pointer (that I primarily use as a cat toy; they love to chase and swat at the red spot on the floor :) and moving it back and forth across the front of the card while observing the back in low light led to the discovery of its location; the signature area only extends about 3/4 of the length of the card, leaving a gap on the right side (as viewed from the back) where there is nothing… except the RFID chip just below the surface ;)

I then decided to indulge my curiosity and marked off the rectangular area where the laser spot didn’t shine through with a mechanical pencil. I got out my trusty dissection kit from my university biology classes and gently notched the plastic just outside the pencil rectangle with a needle probe and then cut through with a scalpel. I took my excised plastic rectangle and carefully separated top from bottom; it was like prying open a mango pit (a bit difficult :) but there was the little treasure inside:

Chip Front

Chip back

As you can see, I apparently cut some red antenna wires that extended further into the card; it would be interesting to see the layout of those. So anyway, now I have a neutered card that has a little window in it ;)

I totally could see people getting rich marketing RFID detection and deactivation/removal kits. These things are total paranoia inducers (turn your head sideways and look at the front image; see the beady-eyed robot grinning back at you? ;-) Sounds like a business model!

[Note: I’ve uploaded these images to the Wikimedia Commons under copyleft licenses: front and back]

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One Response to “What’s in your wallet?”

  1. Richard Halsted Says:

    i am glad that i found this page i work for a large bank and we are now issueing out credit cards wit this chip in them and i have been wondering what the chip looked like

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