Security Solutions, Access Control, Proximity Cards

Unsecure and Outdated Proximity Cards

No different than keys, there are a plethora of options out there for proximity cards for your Access Control System. Every manufacturer, such as HID,  seems to have more than a few options with a number of variables and/or methods of “securing” the data on their cards. And in the end, most fall into two categories: 125 kHz or 13.56 MHz.  These are the two frequencies that the card reader at the door transmits to bounce back the data from your card.

The 13.56 MHz is a much higher frequency and is more efficient at moving a lot more data than the legacy 125 KHz. Think FM vs AM radio. This difference is pretty substantial. 13.56 MHz cards tend to be much more secure and are capable of managing data in a very secure manner. 125 kHz formats really don’t do a great job at that.  The data package is much smaller and less complex, usually just 26 bits. In fact, the data is so easy to read that you can find kiosks in grocery stores that not only duplicate your simple house keys, but 125 kHz Proximity Cards as well. In other words, employees could be making copies of their cards without your knowledge.

There is also cloning equipment available in the public market (Amazon, eBay, and others) that an individual can easily hide under their clothing and simply walk by a person carrying a card in their purse or wallet, it will read that card, and then easily write that information to a blank card. Your system and building is not truly secure if you are using 125 kHz cards and readers. 

So, how do you tell if your system is using 125 kHz and needs to be updated? That is a difficult question to answer as most cards and key fobs look very similar whether they are 125 or 13.56, and it’s not explicitly labelled as such in your system. Contact LONG or your security integrator and have a conversation. Rest easy knowing that MOST card access systems can accept either format, so you won’t have to face the costs of replacing anything but the readers, cards, and some labor to reprogram your system.

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Chris Bracken

Christopher Bracken the Branch Manager for all LONG business units in Alaska. Chris is also a professional artist and enjoys his family time as a proud Dad to three highly-energetic boys.