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MAKING SMART CARDS WORK IN THE ENTERPRISE

2018-05-18 08:54:34

MAKING SMART CARDS WORK IN THE ENTERPRISE 


  Will smart cards improve security in the enterprise environment? Smart cards offer a secure and convenient form factor on which employees can carry digital credentials for accessing parking facilities, buildings, computers, and network resources. Indeed, the ability for an employee to carry both physical and logical access credentials can be provided on a single card. Adding to the significance of smart cards, that same card can also be used for employee photo identification, and potentially a multitude of other applic...

Summary

  The time has come for enterprises to begin considering whether smart cards can be used to improve security in their environments. Smart cards offer a secure and convenient form factor on which employees can carry digital credentials for accessing parking facilities, buildings, computers, and network resources. Indeed, the ability for an employee to carry both physical and logical access credentials can be provided on a single card. Adding to the significance of smart cards, that same card can also be used for employee photo identification, and potentially a multitude of other applications, including encryption, digital signatures, secure storage of employee medical information, and electronic wallet for cafeterias and vending machines. Done right, a single-card solution can provide return on investment in the forms of vastly improved security, reduced need for certain security and IT personnel functions, and customer satisfaction. This paper examines some of the key benefits that can be realized from employing smart cards, and it explains how smart cards can be used to significantly improve both physical and logical security. Additionally, it provides an overview of some strategic infrastructure elements needed to make smart cards work in an enterprise environment, including complimentary technologies, personnel, hardware, software, and perhaps most importantly, policies and procedures.

What Are Smart Cards?

  A smart card is a plastic plate about the size of a credit card, with an embedded integrated circuit chip that provides either memory only, or memory along with a programmable microprocessor. Smart cards are designed to be tamper resistant; most – even the memory-only types – contain logic that specifies the rules for accessing the onboard read/write memory; thus the content of the memory is protected. Many microprocessor type chips are manufactured with special coprocessors and logic to perform cryptographic functions onboard the card. The amount of memory, which is EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory), on both types of chips ranges from 8K to 256K bits, with the trend going toward higher amounts of memory.

Like any other computers, smart cards must interface with external systems to be of value; to accomplish the exchange of input/output, smart cards use either a contact or a contactless interface. Contact type cards must be inserted into a reader to make physical contact with it; the reader provides power to the card and exchanges input/output via the physical contacts. Standards for contact cards are defined in ISO 7816. The contactless type card exchanges input/output via induction, and typically is powered by that same inductive circuit. Essentially, this means that the card, which has an embedded wire antenna wound around its perimeter, is activated via radio frequency when it is placed near the reader. The operating distance for contactless cards is relatively short; some types work at up to 10 cm (4 inches), others at up to about one meter. Mifare®, an open technology developed by Philips Semiconductors, is fully compliant with ISO 14443A, and seems to be the de facto industry standard for contactless smart cards.

To help facilitate multiple applications on a single card, manufacturers commonly embed both contact and contactless type chips on the same card to create hybrid cards. Additionally, there are ‘combi’ cards on the market that provide both contact and contactless functionality via a single chip. Furthermore, other card features, such as bar codes and magnetic stripe, can be integrated into the same card as contact and contactless integrated circuit chips. Further information about smart card technology is available from many resources on the Web. A nice multimedia tutorial is available on the US General Services Administration (GSA) eGovernment web site.ii For a more technical description of how smart card technology works, refer to Dr. David B. Everett’s paper on the Smart Card Group web site. iii For an excellent overview of standards that apply to smart cards, refer to the US General Services Administration document entitled “Smart Card Policy and Administrative Guidelines”.


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