New jeans protect credit cards from hacking

A San Francisco based clothing manufacturer has developed what are probably the world's first high security jeans. The jeans' pockets are lined with a metal fabric to stop thieves from hacking into credit cards and passports tagged with radio frequency security chips.

  • DAVID MARK: A San Francisco based clothing manufacturer has developed what are probably the world's first high security jeans.

    The jeans' pockets are lined with a metal fabric to stop thieves from hacking into credit cards and passports tagged with radio frequency security chips.

    The new invention is in part a response to an increase in the number of people reporting their data has been stolen from cards in their pocket or wallet.

    Ashley Hall reports.

    ASHLEY HALL: If you're a regular online shopper, you've probably already seen advertisements for hack proof wallets.

    They're made from a material that radio waves can't penetrate, and they protect anything inside that is prone to hacking, like your credit cards.

    Now, the online company Betabrand is adopting the same principle for jeans by lining the pockets with a special protective barrier.

    CHRIS LINDLAND: It was actually Norton security that had come to us to suggest a product collaboration and they were really the ones that drove this project, encouraging us to look at identity theft as something that fashion could perhaps address.

    ASHLEY HALL: Chris Lindland is the chief executive of Betabrand.

    CHRIS LINDLAND: So we then went around experimenting with a number of fabrics to find yes indeed that could be true and we rapidly prototyped over the last month a pair of jeans and just put it live a week ago.

    ASHLEY HALL: So it's just the pocket. What sort of fabric do you use?

    CHRIS LINDLAND: It's actually a proprietary fabric. What it does it essentially beats the ability to perform credit card skimming on a wallet with them.

    ASHLEY HALL: Chris Lindland says the company's responding to a growing problem.

    CHRIS LINDLAND: Over 10 million people will be affected by identity theft in some way next year, so you know, what they're doing and their interest in security is kind of to take a global look at all the ways that it can be stopped and so why not try with fashion?

    ASHLEY HALL: Betabrand is also using the new material to line blazer pockets and chief executive Chris Lindland says more products may follow.

    CHRIS LINDLAND: We are a clothing prototype machine and what we do is we put out brand new clothing ideas about every day and it's hypothetical prototype type clothing and the most popular stuff is crowd funded into existence. So in the instances of the jeans, those were crowd funded into success in 24 hours and the interest keeps growing.

    ASHLEY HALL: So what sort of price are we likely to be paying to buy these protective jeans?

    CHRIS LINDLAND: That's an interesting thing, so they're going to cost around $150. So within the premium jean market, they're very affordable. The fabric itself is expensive.

    ASHLEY HALL: So can you wash it in the washing machine?

    CHRIS LINDLAND: Yeah we're up to, I think, 25 washes on our prototype there now without any problem.

    ASHLEY HALL: Dr Katina Michael is an associate professor at the school of information systems at the University of Wollongong.

    She says radio information identification technology, known as RFID, is inherently risky.

    KATINA MICHAEL: Pretty much somebody just needs to be within proximity of the device and they can actually clone it.

    ASHLEY HALL: Dr Michael says there are some steps you can take on your own to protect your data.

    KATINA MICHAEL: Aluminium foil, conductive paint, wire mesh, or any other number of similar alternatives is going to be opaque to radiation. So basically if we can line wallets with aluminium foil, our clothes, then we're doing a pretty good job at blocking this interception from occurring.

    ASHLEY HALL: And she says it's not just credit cards that need protection. Dr Michael says there's concern as well for radio controlled medical implants.

    KATINA MICHAEL: Can you imagine all these people basically walking around with medical implants which are susceptible to surreptitious behaviour around approximate location. We don't want to have hackers going around with nasty and malicious implications of trying to render a device inoperable, for example, in different types of medical patients.

    ASHLEY HALL: Dr Michael says companies using RFID technology were long ago warned of the risks. She says while they continue to use the technology, it will be up to individuals to keep their personal data safe.

    DAVID MARK: Ashley Hall reporting.

Citation: Ashley Hall, Chris Lindland, and Katina Michael, December 19, 2014, "New jeans protect credit cards from hacking" ABC Radio: PM Dec. 2014: 6.50pm-6.53pm. http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/pm/new-jeans-protect-credit-cards-from-hacking/5980470