'Phantom' Key Card Investigation

Half of all college presidents say they've increased security on campus and key card entry is often one of the ways they've done it.  However, some of the cards, which can also be used to gain access to offices and even make purchases, may not be

ID key cards - we swipe them and tap them everywhere, using them to unlock doors at office buildings and even college dormitories. But just how secure are these magic ID cards?

"They’re extremely vulnerable," said security expert Walt Augustinowicz of Identity Stronghold.

Using a card cloning device, Augustinowicz showed INSIDE EDITION’s Jim Moret just how easily these cards can be cloned onto a phantom key.

"I’m stunned," said Moret.

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In the blink of an eye, Augustinowicz demonstrated just how vulnerable ID cards can be using a self-made cloning device that he built into a cell phone case.

"For less than $100, a thief could buy the parts online to build a device just like this," said Augustinowicz.

Augustinowicz says many college students' IDs are particularly vulnerable to cloning. And even more troublesome, he says not only could someone clone a student's card to get access to their secure dorm buildings, but many students cards are linked up to their bank accounts – making them also vulnerable to financial theft.

"If I go just like that," said Augustinowicz while holding a blank plastic ID card over his cloning device, "Then boom, this is a copy of that card. So literally, in two to three seconds, those cards are identical now."

INSIDE EDITION accompanied Augustinowicz to Northern Arizona University where, with students’ permission, he tried to electronically pickpocket their ID cards.

"This light right here, when that flashes it’s detecting a card right in there. All I have to do is push a button and then bam, it’s a clone," said Augustinowicz after his device electronically read the tiny radio chip embedded in a student’s card.

Amazingly, in just a few seconds, Augustinowicz's cloner was able to scan and steal the ID of every freshman we spoke with, even through their pockets and backpacks.

"I’m shocked," said Moret. "It’s just that easy for a perfect stranger to gain access to a college dorm?"

"Yes," answered Augustinowicz.

"This is the card that we cloned," said Moret as he tapped a copy of a student’s cloned card on the proximity reader outside her door building. And with a quick, audible click the door lock mechanism immediately opened. “Look at that!” said Moret. "How does that make you feel?"

"Pretty unsafe," answered the student.

Again and again, Augustinowicz and Moret surprised students with how easily they could clone their cards and use a phantom key to unlock their seemingly secure dorm room.

"You can do that? That's terrifying," said another student.

"Every student we talked to has been vulnerable," said Moret.

"And all of them will be," replied Augustinowicz.

Don't panic though. While this technology may be vulnerable, Augustinowicz says the good news is there's a simple and cheap fix. His company, Identity Stronghold, and others make special card protectors that will prevent ID cards from being cloned.

For just a few dollars, many companies, including Augustinowicz's, sell card protectors that will prevent anyone from cloning your ID card or credit card.

"Just do that. Now you're protected," said Augustinowicz while sliding a student’s ID card into a protective shield that blocks a cloning device from picking up the radio signal embedded in the card. "It’s like putting an on-off switch on your card," said Augustinowicz.

Augustinowicz gave every student we interviewed a card protector and destroyed the cards we cloned.

Moret said, "You could be saving someone from a potential assault."

"Absolutely," confirmed Augustinowicz.

A spokesman for Northern Arizona University told us they took immediate action to protect students and their cards after learning what we discovered.