Application of Smart Card
For enterprises contemplating the use of smart cards, the following four primary applications should be considered. While each one of these applications is a compelling use for smart cards, the real beauty of an enterprise smart card program is that a single card issued to each employee can be used for all of them. RSA Security presented a web seminar on this topic (it is now available via the web on demand); their use of the term “smart badge” makes sense in referring to a single-card solution to multiple enterprise applications.
l Employee ID badge – Many organizations already utilize employee badges as part of their physical security program. When smart cards become part of the plan, it makes perfect sense to customize the card with a photograph of the employee to whom the card is issued, along with the employee’s signature, the organization’s logo, the badge expiration date, and other features that pertain to the organization and/or the employee’s department.
l Building access – Controlling physical access to buildings and other facilities such as parking garages can be accomplished in part via smart cards. As is the case when any security controls are put in place, designing this solution entails a balancing act between the level of security and the amount of convenience in using the system. Often contactless smart cards are used for physical access because they provide a good balance of security and convenience – users need only touch the card to the reader. In contrast, with other types of cards, including contact smart cards, magnetic stripe, and bar code, the user must insert or swipe the card in a certain way in order for it to be read.
l PC / network logon – There are two basic ways that smart cards can be used to authenticate users for PC and network access. The first way is to store passwords for multiple applications in the card’s tamper-resistant memory. With this method, the system reads the password from the card when the user inserts it into a reader. Typically the user must also type a PIN (Personal Identification Number) to access to the secure storage on the card. This method is arguably a significant improvement over normal password systems, which suffer such abuses as users writing their passwords on sticky pads, and shoulder surfers attempting to glean passwords by watching the keystrokes of authorized users during the logon process. However, the second of the two ways offers an even stronger method of authentication via the use of digital certificates. More information about certificate-based logon is presented in the section on “Benefits” herein.
l Remote network access – Essentially, this is the same concept as the PC and network logon application (above). Many organizations still allow remote access user authentication via passwords. Again, the use of certificate-based authentication using smart cards can significantly improve security over password-based methods.
Besides the above four primary applications, smart cards can potentially be used for any number of additional applications. Below are some others for consideration.
l Digital signatures and secure e-mail – Employees can digitally sign e-mail, as well as decrypt secure electronic mail using their smart card. The card contains the employee’s digital certificate, along with his/her public and private key pair.
l Secure storage – Employees gain access to secure storage areas on servers and laptop computers via certificates stored on their smart cards.
l Authentication for accessing web sites – Employees can be authenticated via smart cards to access secure applications and content on an organization’s web sites – especially intranet and extranet web sites. In some cases, it may also be worth considering the issuance of smart cards to business partners and certain customers for accessing secure areas on the company web sites.
l Storage of sensitive data – Sensitive data can be stored securely on smart cards. For example, personal medical data can be stored on each employee’s smart badge, which could then be read in the event of a medical emergency.
l Debit transactions – Smart cards can be used for cash payments at cafeterias and vending machines. Users would occasionally ‘recharge’ their card in exchange for cash; the card would then be used as if it were the equivalent of that cash. This can be more convenient for both consumers and vendors.
To further consider the possibilities for applications, below are some ideas for how to integrate complimentary technologies into smart card-enabled systems.
l Biometrics – Biometric devices such as fingerprint readers can either replace or be combined with the use of PINs to access private data on smart cards, thus increasing security by introducing another factor of authentication. The factor of security introduced with biometrics is referred to as “something you are”, or “something about you”, which is some unique biological characteristic, such as a thumbprint. This measure will increase security by helping to ensure that a person in possession of a smart card is authorized to use the services of that card. The use of biometrics also makes it significantly more difficult to repudiate transactions (more on this topic herein).
l Electronic turnstiles – Facility access systems can be integrated with electronic turnstiles that are outfitted with either contact or contactless smart card readers. The turnstiles, which might be placed at office building entrances, allow the authorized smart badge holder to pass through a gate. These devices are often designed to prevent ‘piggybacking’, in which a person (who may or may not be authorized) attempts to pass through the turnstile on the heels of an authorized person who has just presented his or her card.
l Surveillance cameras – Cameras could be integrated with facility access systems to increase the level of security. For example, a surveillance system could be triggered to record the video of any person entering particular areas offhours. Another example is that the surveillance system could record the video of any person attempting to enter a facility using a badge that was reported as lost or stolen. In some situations, it may be desirable to have security personnel monitor the video for certain areas. Regardless of whether any live video is monitored or not, it probably always makes sense to record that video, so that evidence of security breaches, when they occur, can be maintained.
l Alarm systems – Alarm systems could also be integrated with facility access systems similarly to surveillance systems. In this scenario, certain events – such as off-hours access or attempts to use a stolen card – would trigger an alarm, which would in turn alert security personnel to respond.
l DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication) – Where greater operating distances are needed for convenience and/or speed of ingress/egress – for example, in parking facilities – complimentary technologies can achieve that distance. For example, infrared DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication) technology can be used to communicate between a device and the reader at distances of more than several meters. One way that DSRC is employed is for a contactless card (i.e. an employee’s smart badge) to be inserted into a small device in a vehicle; the device reads the employee’s card and acts as a proxy in sending the credentials to the reader.
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