'Card cloning' device puts key card entry at risk

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Many schools and companies across the country use a key card entry system to give employees access to work buildings. We have them here at WTHR. It's a pretty common security strategy.

However, one local security expert said a $30 tool can put a company's security at risk. A few inches and a couple seconds, and your identity can be stolen--at least your key card identity.

Armando Perez, the President and General Manager of Hoosier Security says key cards are still the most common way companies allow entry for their employees. Key cards are supposed to be secure, but retailers overseas are threatening that security with a fairly cheap device.

Selling for about $30 online, card copiers are designed to steal your information. Schools can be especially susceptible.

"These copying devices are so inexpensive now, students can get their hands on them, and there could be all kinds of repercussions there," said Perez. "I don't really want to go into giving anybody any ideas about it, but the people who need to solve the problem are aware of this."

Perez said there's really no regulatory method for stopping the production of these card copiers overseas. He said it's up to companies to upgrade their key cards or scanning equipment, which can be costly.

Since you need to be six inches away from someone to copy their entry card, Perez said it likely won't be a stranger on the street, but could very well be an unsuspecting co-worker. That's why it's hard to catch the copier.

"If somebody from research gets the credentials of someone in accounting, they can now have access to all of the accounting information in the business. Nobody would ever know because it's still a valid credential."

As I test, I let him try to clone my entry card to WTHR.

Fortunately, the device wasn't able to clone my card due to the high frequency it emits. But Perez said other schools and companies may be running lower frequencies. Additionally, he warned better, more expensive copiers may still clone my card.

A carbon fiber wallet, which is built to block the frequency signal, can help, but doesn't make it completely preventable. They come at a hefty price - $150 - and a lot of people don't keep key cards in their wallet.