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Magnetic Card

Magnetic Card

A magnetic card is also known as a magnetic stripe card. It is a card that has data embedded in an iron-based magnetic strip. This is done by making modifications to the magnetism of the particles of the strip. This technology is generally used for making unique identity cards. They are used for making identity cards, debit and credit cards, or transportation tickets. These cards are unique to the cardholder.

The data can be read from the card by swiping them in a magnetic reading head. Certain organizations use magnetic cards embedded with an RFID tag or a microchip that is used as an access card in the organization.

This allows the organization to check the access of employees on the premises. The user uses it to perform electronic transactions. The transaction can be monetary, or it could be used for exchanging data or granting access to the users to a physical space.

The stripe contains embedded information that can uniquely identify a user. These cards are currently being used in several fields; they are used in driver's licenses, hotel room cards, and user authentication cards.

Magnetic Strip Card

These cards are also called magstripe or swipe cards that contain information about the user or the resources required to perform the card's function. Generally, the cardholder's name or identification number and the issuing authority are also mentioned on the card. It may also contain additional information, such as the issue's date or expiry date.

The transaction can be monetary or exchanging the data to allow the employee to enter the premise of a building. Since the information is stored in a magnetic format in the strip line of the magnetic card, if the user wants to read the information from the card, they have to swipe it through the reading head. The magnetic reader decodes the data embedded in the stripe line. It authorizes the transaction. Sometimes an additional layer of security is added to make the transaction safer.

Structure of Magnetic Stripe Card

Magnetic Card

The Magnetic cards are generally 2 to 3 inches and are made from either plastic or durable paper. The magnetic strip is located on the back side of the magnetic card. The data is embedded in the iron particles in the plastic film. When the card is swept through an electronic reader, the decoder decodes the embedded data. It determines whether to approve or deny the transaction request or whether access will be provided.

Components of Magnetic Stripe Card

Magnetic Card

In a magnetic stripe card, generally, there are three stacks placed horizontally over each other. All tracks are extended along the width of the magnetic card. The data is embedded on each track, but each track may contain different information and play a different role in the transaction. In credit cards, the first two tracks are responsible for storing the details of the credit card. The credit card may contain additional data such as the cardholder's name, account number to which the card is issued, verification code, and date of expiry. The third layer does not contain much information. It might contain the country code or the currency code for the card.

Important points regarding Magnetic Card

  • The magnetic card has a stripe that has iron particles, and certain codes are embedded into these particles enabling the reader to uniquely identify the user or cardholder.
  • Any magnetic reader can read the elements, and it is fairly easy to modify them, making them vulnerable to attacks. So, using the microchip technology instead of the magnetic stripe. It is especially required in credit cards, driver's licenses, or anything that uses technology to access or store sensitive information about the holder.
  • So, the transition is being made from the magnetic strip to the more secure microchip, but from the user's perspective, the difference is between a swipe and a dip.
  • The magnetic stripe card can stop functioning properly if the stripe is dirty, demagnetized, or scratched. So, keeping the cards away from electronic devices or magnetized objects is advised.

Hacking Magnetic Stripe Card

  • Since the magnetic cards were released to the public, they were vulnerable to attack and were frequent targets of fraud.
  • The thieves performed the fraud. They were able to skim the information from the data from the magnetic stripe. Then the information gathered from the stripe is used by the thieves to generate a duplicate card that can access the same account or information. It provides the thieves a way to tap into the online account of the victim of the theft.
  • This was a major reason that it became necessary for the concerned authorities to find a more secure way to perform the transaction and provide access to the user.

Replacing the Magnetic Stripe Card

Magnetic Card
  • Many developments have been made to make transactions more secure for the user. New technologies such as EMV microchips or chip and PIN cards are now being used instead of the traditional magnetic stripe technology. EMV is the acronym used for Europay, Mastercard, and Visa. These are the companies responsible for regulating these cards and the technology used for the functioning of the card.
  • Microchip technology is the most advanced technology developed to replace the magnetic stripe to store and access information. A microchip is an advanced system that uses a unique, single-use encrypted digital signature, making it comparatively difficult to copy or skim information from the stripe. It also has additional security that requires a PIN or a signature to confirm the user's identity before performing the transaction.
  • Magnetic Stripe cards are still used in several areas. They are not completely obsolete. So, for now, the retailers use readers that can process magnetic stripe and EMV cards. These readers can work perfectly with both technologies. Many retailers use magnetic stripe cards as membership cards for customers. The difference is only that the user or the retailer had to insert the microchip card in the reader, while in the case of magnetic cards, they were swiped through the retailer's card reader.

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