Which chip should I get?

The most common question we get these days is which chip should I get? Dangerous Things has so many different chip implant products now that it can be overwhelming for someone who’s unfamiliar with RFID or NFC technology. Before I start running down a list of links and reading material, I’d like to cover the three sub-questions and desired outcomes that tend to be driving the ultimate question of which chip should I get?

1) I want to copy, clone, or attach my bank card or credit card to a chip implant.

The bottom line here is that bank cards use secure contactless chips with features that don’t allow them to be readily copied to other chips. Could you imagine if it were possible? It would be chaos.

There are legitimate ways to connect your bank card with a contactless service, like Apple Pay. It turns out you can also connect your bank card to other chips using a similar technology, but this is only possible through legitimate channels, and those channels are daunting to set up. That said, a payment implant is being worked on however.

2) I want to use an implant as my access card at work, school, or gym.

There are two approaches here. The first is to clone the existing card, keyfob, or badge to an implant. The only way for this to be possible is if the source card or fob uses a chip technology that is insecure, either by nature (no security) or because the security measures have been overcome (cracked). The second approach is to see if you can convince management to add your compatible implant chip to the existing system. There are challenges to both approaches, but usually customers want to avoid notifying anyone they have a chip implant and silently clone their fob or badge or access card to their implant. Both approaches will require some form of chip compatibility.

In the passive RFID transponder world (transponder = tag = “chip”), there are two operating frequencies which dominate; 125kHz - 134kHz or “low frequency” (LF), and 13.56MHz or “high frequency” (HF). In the LF family of tags, particularly “security badges” and other access control systems, there is no actual security. The chips power up when brought within the magnetic field of a reader and spit out their serial number. The reader takes this number, compares it to a list of authorized numbers, and if you’re on the list the door opens. In the HF family, there are more chip options available with more features, including security features like encryption etc. but, like LF based systems, many of these HF systems (particularly legacy systems) do not use these security features and only listen for the HF chip’s serial number, compare it to a list, and open the door for those who are on it.

The next challenge of cloning a source tag (badge, card, fob, etc.) to an implant is determining whether or not a target chip exists which can emulate or be compatible with the source chip. In the LF family, the T5577 chip from Atmel is quite capable of emulating a whole range of different types of LF chips like EM41xx, HID ProxCard, AWiD, Indala, etc. That’s because the T5577 was designed to be able to change not only its serial number, but also how that serial number is communicated to the reader, so it cam match the source tag’s “data encoding scheme”. We use the T5577 chip in two of our products; the xEM and NExT.

In the HF family, there are many more options for chip types and security features, and many access control systems exist which use those security features. One popular type of chip commonly used for hotel doors and many legacy access control systems is called the Mifare “Classic” S50 1K chip… and there is a collection of older systems that still use this type of chip. This chip type does have security features, but vulnerabilities have been found and attacks that break that security have existed for a long time. At the time of this writing, we have one product - the xM1 - which can be used to clone the entire contents of a “cracked” Mifare S50 1k chip, including the serial number… but doing so requires some extra effort, and in some cases expensive equipment.

3) I want to start my car, open my door, or build a project

Deciding on which chip implant to use for a project depends entirely on which reader you want to use for the project. For example, I use our xEM Access Controller to start my motorcycle, open my garage door, etc. This access controller is able to read 125kHz EM4102 chips, which the T5577 chip in my NExT and xEM implants (I have both) can emulate. If, however, I clone an HID ProxCard to my xEM implant, then it is no longer in EM mode and now the xEM Access Controller cannot read the T5577 chip in my NExT implant.

However, the NExT has two chips inside a single implant… the 125kHz T5577, but it also has an NTAG216 chip which is a 13.56MHz HF chip that speaks ISO14443A and is NFC Type 2 compliant. There are plenty of reader modules and boards which can be used with Arduino and other microprocessors or microcontrollers that can read many different types of ISO14443A chips, even if their features or memory structures are entirely different.

If you are looking for an off-the-shelf solution for something like a front door home lock, there are options. Some cheaper locks or locks you might find directly imported from China usually read 125kHz EM tags, which the T5577 chip in the xEM and NExT implants come configured as by default. Other locks like the Samsung Ezon line, use Mifare Classic S50 1k chips in their “keyfobs”, which the xM1 can be used with. Some Ezon locks from Samsung can also read the NTAG216 chip in the xNT and NExT implant products, but determining which locks can do this has proven more difficult than it should be. Part of the reason for this difficulty is that Samsung likes to change the electronics and firmware inside their lock models, without updating the lock model. For example, I have an SHS-3321 Samsung Ezon lock on my front door, and it reads my xNT and NExT implants just fine… however at some point during the last couple years of production of that specific model, they changed something inside and those later year SHS-3321 locks do not read the NTAG216 chip… so customers that want to be assured of compatibility with an Ezon lock must use the xM1.

Above this line are the top 3 most common drivers of the question which chip should I get? The answers provided are short and do not include the necessary nuance to completely grasp some of the difficulties in answering the primary question. A lot more reading and research will be necessary, and that’s what the following links and information is for.

  1. The original “X-FAQ”. We group our cylindrical injectable transponder implants under the name “x-series”, like the xNT, xEM, xSIID, etc. and so I wrote a FAQ article called X-FAQ, though now we should probably just change it to FAQ since we have other form factors like the flex series.

  2. @Pilgrimsmaster established a great Wiki post called beginners guide to implants & becoming a cyborg. I will be assisting him to update that wiki with a bunch of relevant onboarding information.

  3. Read this post about chip compatibility.

  4. Check out the “Chips 101” page for some videos and important information regarding RFID theory, chip specifics, etc.

  5. Read and chat on this forum! Our customers are some of the best and most interesting people in the universe… and they’re helpful too!