NFC Security | Near Field Communication Security Basics

This page covers Near field communication security basics. This NFC security tutorial describes security related strengths in NFC technology, NFC security loopholes and precautions or countermeasures to overcome it.

As we know wireless network helps us overcome burden of wires used for communication earlier days. Though it is prone to attack by intruders using various means at various network interfaces. In order to have secure wireless communication, wireless system should have built-in security protocols at different hardware and software levels across the network architecture. Other than the wireless network, users of the wireless network should also be precautious about certain security aspects.

Before we move into NFC security aspects let us understand NFC technology in brief. This will help in understanding the system and its operation and hence how to be precautious to overcome any security issues.

NFC tag and NFC reader communication

Following are the features of the NFC technology useful to understand NFC security concerns.
➨It operates at radio frequency of 13.56 MHz
➨It is a short range contactless communication system upto the distance of approx. 10 cm.
➨Supports data rates 106 or 212 or 424 Kbps
➨There are two devices in the NFC network i.e. initiator and target. They operate in either active or passive mode. They establish handshake before data transfer take place. Active device will have RF fields of its own while passive device utilize RF fields of active device for operation. Initiator device (i.e. NFC Reader) will always be in active mode. Target device (i.e. NFC Tag) can function either in active mode or in passive mode.
➨Manchester and modified miller coding have been used for data modulation.
➨Most common applications of NFC are payment, ticketing and device pairing for data transfer.

security related strengths in NFC (Near Field Communication) technology

Following are the strengths of NFC technology with respect to NFC security threats:
• It encrypts the data before transmission.
• It requires synchronization or pairing between devices before communication begins.
• It is a short range communication system, hence making it difficult to hack from distance.

NFC security loopholes and precautions to overcome

NFC security

Following points highlight security loopholes and precautions to be taken care in order to overcome it.
• As mentioned NFC supports range upto 10 cm but researchers say it can have EM fields above this range which is vulnerable for possible attack when devices are in active mode. As in active mode RF fields are stronger specially in 106 Kbps data rate. This can be overcome by using secure channel for communication. Moreover use active-passive mode for communication as passive mode is harder to eavesdropping. • 
• The second possible attack is data modification or data corruption by transmiting undesired NFC data between two paired device. This is more vulnerable for attack in 106 Kbps data rate. This is avoided by neglecting the EM radiation having more power at the NFC receiver. This is due to the fact that intruders transmitters always use more power compare to the normal transmit NFC specifications of about 10 to 20dBm. Use secure channel for communication is also one of the alternative.
• Often any one person from the two paired persons will hear that someone is in the middle of the communication. By knowing the same, he/she should stop the protocol and check for disturbances. Use protocol with key aggrement.

Other Useful NFC security Tips

Following are the useful NFC security tips to overcome any security threats:
• Always use NFC enabled certified applications for smartphone and other devices related to payments or booking.
• Check for updates from NFC device manufacturers regarding any software patches to be run. This will ensure that NFC device being in use has right and upgraded software. Application developers and device manufacturer update their software time to time to incorporate security aspects.
• Keep the NFC off, if the device is not using NFC facility.

I presume that this guide is useful with regard to Near Field Communication Security is concerned, I suggest reader to refer IoT Security aspects➤ which also highlights few points which need to be taken care by the users of the IoT network. One can also follow links as mentioned below on security in different wireless standards/technologies as per their need.

NFC Near Field Communication Related Links

NFC basics    NFC-A,NFC-B,NFC-F types    NFC vs RFID    difference between bluetooth,wifi,RFID and NFC    What is NFC on phone    Difference between NFC tag types    NFC Tag vs NFC Reader    NFC tester for NFC testing    NFC Tools and Equipments   

Wireless System Security Related Links

3G Security   LTE Security   GSM Security   Zigbee Security   Z-wave Security   Web App. Security  

IoT Wireless Technologies

WLAN    ➤THREAD    ➤EnOcean    ➤LoRa    ➤SIGFOX    ➤WHDI   
Zigbee   ➤6LoWPAN   ➤Zigbee RF4CE   ➤Z-Wave   ➤NFC   ➤RFID   ➤INSTEON