What is Card Cloning and Why Should We Care?
November 19th, 2021
No security system is completely perfect. Security companies can use modern technology to come up with high-tech access control and alarm systems, but others who want to break into small companies, major corporations, and even government agencies in , can use that same technology to develop workarounds, exploit weaknesses, and trick employees into providing access. One such exploit has to do with proximity access control cards and how easy it is to clone them.
Proximity access control systems have been around since the late 80s and quickly surged to prominence among factories, high-tech companies, and major corporations. These systems send out a signal on the 125 kHz frequency, and if you bring a proximity card close enough it will send its identification to the card reader. The cards don’t need a battery supply, they’re tough and last a long time, and you don’t even have to worry about swiping your card through a malfunctioning reader.
The biggest problem with 125-kHz access cards is the fact that the technology has been around for decades. The encoding on the cards is simple by today’s standards, and while modern security companies have better card systems than they did back in the 80s, you don’t have to look very hard to find a way around those systems. After all, with so many important companies using these cards a lot of people had good reasons to want to exploit them.
For remote access cards, the solution is cloning. Card cloning is relatively easy to do these days: without paying much money, you can get a device that will read the signal coming from a proximity access card and program a new card to send the exact same signal. You can legally buy these devices because they also help companies set up their security system. This method does require that the would-be intruder get an access card in the first place, but that can be easier than you’d think and still represents a hole in your security system.
These days, companies have been fighting against card cloning by switching to a new standard: smart cards. Smart cards operate on the 13.56 MHz frequency, and they add extra credentials, features, and encryption so that if the wrong reader tries to get their access codes the only thing they’ll pick up is gibberish. These new cards follow tested international security standards, and you can use the same cards for access control, business expenses, and personnel tracking. Companies in , and around the world were slow to implement them at first thanks to the cost, but that cost has gone down significantly in the last few years.
Proximity access cards were once all the rage, and many companies still use them today. However, the technology is outdated and easy to clone at this point, so a growing number of companies are switching to the more modern and secure smart card standard. If your company in , has something important to protect, consider getting a smart-card upgrade for your own access control system.