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Expanding IoT market necessitates NFC tag security update

Posted: 14 May 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:NFC Forum? NFC? IoT? security update? smartphone?

The NFC Forum, which manages and promotes the Near Field Communications protocol, has released a major update of its Signature Record Type Definition (SRTD) 2.0 spec for securing NFC transactions. With companies introducing a plethora of applications related to cell phones as well a variety of IoT use cases, the update release couldn't be more timely.

According to NFC Forum estimates derived from shipment numbers its members reported, there are in excess of 500 million NFC-enabled smartphones in the global marketplace. And according to market research collected by Strategy Analytics, the number of NFC-enabled devices will grow sharply as an increasing number of manufacturers integrate NFC technology into devices in the home and in commercial buildings, where many will use already widely available smartphones as the means to access such devices.

Then, too, there is the use of NFC in wearable Internet of Things (IoT) applications, where its transmission range of about four inches (10cm) makes NFC ideal for a variety of near-body network apps where such devices need to pass information back and forth and coordinate activities.

NFC starts to move towards wearables IoT

NFC is moving beyond its use in smartphone financial transactions into use as an interface between mobiles and a variety of wearable IoT devices.

The barrier to widespread application is that NFC has had to overcome the lack of adequate security for its various transaction modalities. NFC devices are used in three ways: reader-writer, in which the NFC module either collects data from or writes data to an NFC RFID tag; peer-to-peer, in which two NFC devices exchange data when in close proximity; and card emulation, in which the only NFC function is a proxy, such as for a credit card or a contactless building-access card. In a transaction involving a smartphone, the module inside the phone acts as a contactless card and the module inside the payment terminal acts as a reader, collecting data from the phone and then triggering a secure transaction.

NFC architecture

NFC architecture allows a variety of connection schemes with devices in the environment.

In Version 1.0 of the SRTD spec, the mechanisms used for guaranteeing the security of messages using the NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF) were based on techniques similar to those used in most web browsers, where code signing techniques for securing a transaction are tied to internally create digital certificates, causing a host of security problems.

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