NFC Chip ‘Hidden’ in Samsung Battery Causes a Stir

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( — August 16, 2015) — A number of videos recently started circulating the web, apparently demonstrating how there is a hidden chip under the Samsung Smartphone batteries’ protective cover. The videos allege that the chip, powered by the battery itself, is stealing your private data, and transmitting it to devices with corresponding technology.

One video in particular shows a person exposing the battery by peeling the protective foil off, and what can be seen underneath, indeed looks like a chip that is connected to the battery pins. The creator of the video then rips the chip off and places the battery back into the phone to demonstrate how it works just fine without it. In the video he even states he noticed the battery life increased between 5 and 10 percent as a result of his experiment.

However there is no mystery about this allegedly secret technology. The “chip” is not even a chip – it is an antenna for a Near Field Communication (NFC) technology that Samsung includes on a majority of their Smartphone devices, and it serves to offer a number of features first popularized in Galaxy S4 ads (see 0:36 in the video below)

The purpose of NFC is to establish radio communication with another NFC-enabled device in near proximity, some 4 inches or less. Each NFC device can work in three modes: NFC Card Emulation; NFC Reader/Writer; and NFC peer-to-peer (P2P mode):

NFC Card emulation mode enables NFC-enabled devices, such as smartphones, to act like smart cards, allowing users to perform transactions such as payment or ticketing.

NFC Reader/writer mode enables NFC-enabled devices to read information stored on inexpensive NFC tags embedded in labels or smart posters.

NFC peer-to-peer mode enables two NFC-enabled devices to communicate with each other to exchange information in an ad-hoc fashion.

NFC is widely used by smartphone applications, such as electronic wallets that store credit card data, which allow users to bring their phone next to the reader to pay their bill when shopping.

It is true that NFC can be set to request targeted data from your phone, but it was not created for purpose of spying, and it has a number of safety features, such as requiring an action from the phone’s user to relinquish the requested data, which would prevent unwanted download of private information.

Theoretically, it is possible for someone to steal an ID and credit card number from the phone just passing by, however, the attacker would also have to find a way to bypass the required approval for data transfer, and have access to the password.  

NFC was approved as an ISO/IEC standard in 2003, and is based on RFID technology that is as old as the cell phones themselves. The first NFC support was perfected for Symbian OS in 2011.

The reason this new and improved technology is placed in a battery is for practical reasons, the experts say. Since NFC emits a radio wave, it has to be shielded from interfering with other transceivers and sensors in the phone by the virtue of placing the antenna of the back side of the battery itself.