A Secure element refers to a protected execution environment specifically for NFC applications. For instance, the contactless payment card chip is a good analogy. This chip card operates the EMV payment application to ensure safe transactions. Institutions such as Famoco are known to offer secure and remotely managed solutions when it comes to mobile payment applications.
Among the major benefit is high level of security offered by a safe payment solution when compared to Trusted Execution Environment.
RFID is a similar technology to NFC. RFID chips are found in contactless payment cards like pre-paid cards that you can use while travelling on some of the public transportation systems. You might also come across items such as card holders and wallets advertised as RFID blocking.
RFID refers to radio frequency identification. It refers to a system in a small radio transponder, transmitter and receiver. They are sometimes referred to as antennas, readers and tags. This technology can also be found used in retail shops to gain access to control like identification cards mostly used by the staff. Moreover, this technology can also be used in monitoring cars getting in and out of garages or chipping pets.
Note that RFID is not necessarily secure since the technology lacks encryption. There is presence of RFID skimmers that gives hackers access to reading RFID data from objects like cards as long as they are nearby. As along as RFID items contain this technology, then hackers can steal information using this technology.
Should you be worried about your nfc device being hacked? Compared to other types of RFID, NFC is more secure. However, its perfect as it is meant to serve as a convenience way of connection and not security. NFC needs you to swipe, bump or tap devices that are NFC enabled such as phone against another NFC enabled reader such as another phone. Provided both devices have the NFC technology, and are within the wireless range of the NFC, then the connection will be valid.
There is a weakness here since no passwords or credentials are needed. NFC connections are made automatically and don’t need any type of password entry or login like how Wi-Fi does. This opens up a loophole for real problems as anyone cam make an NFC connection with another device provided, they get close to it.
NFC can be made secure in the application layer through implementing more safer channels or asking for credentials.
NFC as a protocol is not safe. Despite close proximity needed for NFC to work, unwanted bumps can come up. In some occasions, intentioned bumps can lead to disasters.