I recently got a letter in the mail from my bank, informing me that it had spotted some potentially fraudulent activity on my credit card.
It was news to me. I’m pretty diligent about checking my account and hadn’t spotted anything amiss.
The letter continued by saying that “this doesn’t mean that fraudulent activity has occurred, or will occur.” So apparently, the bank didn’t really know, either!
Regardless, I received a new card and was told that my existing card would be deactivated.
Better to be safe than sorry, I suppose. Especially given that credit card fraud and identity theft costs billions of dollars across the world every year.
But it seems as fast as we come up with new technology and security to block would-be thieves, criminals keep coming up with new ways to crack the system.
We’ve covered biometric authentication as a fast-growing way to safeguard our data many times before in these pages.
But a group of engineers at the Warwick Manufacturing Group in the United Kingdom have created a novel solution…
If you look at one of your bank cards, you may see a small square “chip” on the front of it. This holds the cardholder’s vital personal data and account information.
My new credit card has one, and in the United Kingdom and Europe, it’s commonplace for bank cards to have these, as part of the “chip-and-pin” payment verification method.
However, a lost or stolen credit card immediately falls prey to today’s sophisticated counterfeiting methods – and the chip is pretty much a flashing beacon that tells thieves exactly where to go.
Answer: Disguise and embed.
The Warwick team has discovered a way to put a cardholder’s data inside the plastic itself, not just on the chip.
This makes it harder for thieves to know where to go – and how to get the information they want.
They’ve developed polymer molding technology that basically “injects” data onto a plastic card.
Professor Gordon Smith is leading the research and explains, “What we’re trying to do is to add functionality to the plastic, so rather than just being a piece of plastic, we’ve found a way to embed and manipulate pigments to embed an image into the plastic.”
The security aspect of the system centers on the unique way that the material – the pigment inside the plastic – is configured when it’s molded.
Smith says: “We’ve realized that once we could make it ‘covert,’ we could color the plastic, so that the image was hidden. Then it became something a lot more special, in that it could look to anti-counterfeiting. Any component could then have a signature of the manufacturer, or the date it was made, or any other data.”
Not Just a One-Trick Pony
From here, Smith says his team is working on ways to add color to the plastic pigments – a process that will add another layer of security to cards.
And it doesn’t just work on credit cards, either…
Smith says the technology has the potential to hold fingerprint data, which could then be extracted with a scanner and cross-referenced with those same biometrics in a database.
In addition, not only is embedding data in plastic applicable to credit cards, it could also work with mobile phones and even cars.
Ahead of the tape,