Norton Designs Jeans to Prevent Digital Pickpocketing

by Matt Klassen on December 23, 2014

The mobile payment revolution was supposed to make things easier for us, offering a new way to store, carry, and access our money. But to date it seems that all this burgeoning payment platform has done is make things easier for the criminals, ostensibly giving birth to a new breed of cyber-criminal: the digital pickpocket. In fact, with smartphones, NFC-imbedded payment cards, and even passports now wired with some sort of radio frequency technology, hackers are finding more and more ways to intercept the radio communications, giving them unfettered access to our personal information and financial transactions.

But even as security experts warn of this growing problem one partnership between the fashion and security worlds has already designed a unique wearable solution: jeans and a blazer that block wireless signals. Designed by San Francisco-based Betabrand in conjunction with security firm Norton, the jacket and jeans block radio signals, thus preventing any third parties from intercepting and interfering with the operation of a variety of devices.

Putting aside questions about how such blocking technology would interfere with the regular operation of host of personal devices in this age of the Internet of Things for the moment, this technology may actually have life saving applications, for apart from hackers stealing financial and personal information, security analysts warn digital pickpocketing could have much more dire consequences as well.

The problem with this connectivity everything era where almost everything we touch is part of the Internet of Things is that, well, everything that we touch is sending and receiving wireless signals, and often times those signals are not secure. In fact, given that modern technology depends on the unobstructed stream of such wireless signals, it is quickly becoming a playground for cyber-criminals, who simply have to devise ways of intercepting the signals that we’re sending hundreds or even thousands of times a day.

According to the crowdfunding page for the clothes, the two companies claim “that more than 10 million identities are digitally pickpocketed every  year” and “70% of all credit cards will be vulnerable to such attacks” by 2015.

“There is technology readily available for anyone to snatch other people’s credit and debit card data within seconds,” said Disklabs boss Simon Steggles.

“These apps simply copy the card with all the information on it.”

Now granted the mobile payment revolution comes equipped with encryption technology that certainly makes it difficult for hackers to simply swipe your financial information, but such pickpocketing is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wireless cyber-crime.

Consider this problem from the standpoint of law enforcement, as many police agencies have found that after confiscating mobile devices as evidence, said devices are subsequently remotely wiped, removing anything that could have been used as evidence. To combat such occurrences, police are now increasingly using signal blocking bags, made with the same technology as the jeans and blazer, which block wireless signals, protecting the information contained inside.

Further, security analysts are warning that such remote hacks could have significantly more life threatening implications as well, as given the fact devices like in-chest monitoring devices or insulin pumps have all become part of the Internet of Things, connected via wireless signals, they are all vulnerable to remote tampering. Such protective clothing, the security industry will soon tell us, will be the only way to assure your protection.

But back to the technological trousers and blazer for a moment, for while such protection may become a necessity in the near future the problem no one seems to be talking about is that although the silver-based lining of these secure clothes will protect your information (and your health), it will, as I understand it, block all wireless signals, meaning your smartphone or other mobile devices, so long as it resides in your jeans or jacket pocket (or in your protective handbag), will be rendered completely useless, as you’ll be unable to access the network, thus unable to receive any information on your phone. Now I may be wrong, but on the face of it these jeans seem to solve one problem while creating a host of others.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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