Chameleon Emulates Contactless Smart Cards


Researchers at Ruhr University of Bochum in Germany have been busy working with RFID and related devices for quite some time now. They call the fruit of their labors Chameleon, a versatile Contactless Smart Card Emulator. Contactless Smart Cards are RFID style devices that also contain a smart card style memory. These cards are often used for payment, replacing mag strip style credit cards. Philips MIFARE Classic cards are a common example of contactless smart cards. The Chameleon is set up to emulate any number of cards using the common 13.56MHz frequency band. Adding a new card is as simple as loading up a new CODEC  and application to the firmware. Currently Chameleon can emulate MIFARE cards using the ISO14443A.

The Chameleon is completely open source, and can be built for around $25 USD. The heart of the system is an Atmel ATxmega192A3 microcontroller. The 192 is a great microcontroller for this task because it contains hardware accelerators for both DES and AES-128. An FTDI USB interface chip is used to provide an optional communication link between a host computer and the ATxmega. The link can be used for debugging, as well as manipulating data in real-time. A host PC is not necessary for use though – the Chameleon will operate just fine as a stand alone unit. We definitely like this project – though we’re going to be doubling down on the shielding in our RF blocking wallets.