Levels of Security: 4, Contact and Contactless Smart Cards

Welcome to the fourth installment in our series on Levels of Security! In this series we are investigating how different ID solutions fit different security needs. As we advise clients on the appropriate badge solution for their organizations, we’ve found that badging needs will generally fall into one of five levels of security. We’ve categorized these by the appropriate solutions: printed PVC cards, barcode & magnetic stripe cards, proximity access devices, contact and contactless RFID cards, and biometric authentication.

LevelsofSecurity4Contactless smart cards use high-frequency radio frequency identification, or RFID, and afford stepped-up security (vs. standard proximity cards) by employing a memory chip that can store more information. Using a larger capacity chip gives users the ability to store more data and encrypt that data, making it much more difficult to compromise. The technologies employed allow the chip data to be read from up to 30-feet, though typical implementations will use readers that are limited to 1-foot, or less. Like standard proximity devices, RFID credentials do not need to be in a direct “line of sight” from the reader. As a result, these devices can be read through clothing, and even packaging (such as in a box, pocket, wallet or purse).

Common applications for contactless RFID devices include:

  • use of RFID-enabled ID cards or fobs for access-control through secured doors or vehicle access to controlled parking areas;
  • storage of computer-network access credentials and authorization levels;
  • access to pharmaceutical cabinets and dispensaries;
  • medical and healthcare applications vary from the tracking of inventory and patients, to confirming correct medication for patients and out-of-bed and fall detection;
  • tracking of retail goods for stock/inventory control, and anti-theft systems;
  • contact-less payment systems, linked to your credit-card or bank-account (i.e. – Apple Pay(TM) )

If you are considering use of RFID credentials, be aware that there are privacy concerns regarding data stored on such devices. Because these devices can be scanned from an extended range, they can be read without the holder’s knowledge. This opens the door (pardon the pun!) for duplication and for skimming of information that is intended to remain private. Some holders of RFID technology choose to wrap their cards in aluminum foil or use RFID blocking wallets to prevent reading until use.

Contact-type smart cards carry a chip with exposed contacts, which must be inserted into a reader for any data to be read or retrieved from the memory chip. These are slightly more secure in that the cards cannot be skimmed in the manner described above. These devices can be used for access control applications, but are currently used more frequently for payment applications. In fact, if you live in the United States and have bank-issued credit- or ATM-cards, you most likely now have a card of this type today, as all US institutions were required to adopt these more-secure cards within the past year. For our European friends, you know you’ve been using these cards for years.

Check back soon for our post regarding the highest level of access control security: biometric authentication.

Levels of Security Series: 3, Proximity Devices

Welcome to the third installment in our series on Levels of Security! In this series we will be investigating how different ID solutions fit different security needs. As we advise clients on the appropriate badge solution for their organizations, we’ve found that badging needs fall into five levels of security. We’ve categorized these by the appropriate solutions: printed PVC cards, barcode & magnetic stripe cards, proximity access devices, contact and contactless RFID cards, and bio-metric authentication.

LevelsofSecurity3Clients whose facilities need a moderate degree of security may find their best solution in proximity access devices. These items are available as cards, key-fobs, or stick-on (adhesive) disks, which are then issued to individual users. Each device includes a tiny computer-chip that houses a small amount of data that is custom programmed for a facility. These credentials allow an installed access control system to determine if the device holder has the required permission to access a facility.

Prior to the introduction of access-control systems, organizations would provide key copies to their employees, or have full-time receptionists, or employee security guards as ways to manage access. The benefits of using proximity devices are many:

  • Unlike keys, access control systems can operate on schedules. For example, a given key-card or fob can be coded to allow access to buildings only Monday thru Friday from 8:00am to 6:00pm. Other devices and individuals can have their own unique schedules.
  • Also unlike keys, with proximity devices, you can immediately and remotely “turn off” or modify access areas and times. This means that an individual who should no longer have access to one or more controlled entryways, or on certain days or times, can have that change affected quickly, and without affecting any other device holder. In the “old days”, if you lost an employee, or if an employee lost a copy of a building key, the locks were changed and new keys were issued – at considerable expense!
  • If the proximity access device is in card form, it can double as the employee’s photo ID  using any of our ID-card printing solutions. Doing so provides both a visual identity check, and a physical access-control check, further enhancing facility and organizational security.
  • Proximity access device readers can be augmented with optional modules, such as numeric key-pads, requiring input of a second-form of authentication. These are often used on exterior doors to prevent unauthorized entry should someone find a lost credential.

As technology has developed, more secure options have been introduced which can store more data and are more difficult to be scanned and copied. We will explore those options in coming installments. But, for organizations with a need for flexible security controls, while maintaining relatively low or moderate costs, the access-control systems and proximity devices are the perfect solution.

 

Levels of Security Series: 2, Barcodes and Magnetic Stripe Cards

Welcome to the second installment in our series on Levels of Security! In this series we are investigating how different ID solutions fit different security needs. As we advise clients on the appropriate badge solutions for their organizations, we find that ID card and badging needs fall into five levels of security. We’ve categorized these by the appropriate solutions: printed PVC cards, bar-code & magnetic stripe cards, proximity devices, contact and contactless RFID cards, and biometric authentication.

LevelsofSecurity2Facilities in need of a low-moderate security solution may find that ID cards printed with a bar-code, or with an encoded magnetic stripe, fill their needs. Like the previous level’s solution, these options are still relatively easy to implement and low cost. Facilities that do not require this level of security may want to refer to the first post in this series: Printed PVC Cards.

Often our clients have other needs that can be met by making enhancements to their regular ID cards, availing themselves of some basic technologies that are commonly in use and available:

  • Restaurants and factories, for example, often use time-clock applications, where employees clock-in and clock-out by “swiping” a mag-stripe or bar-code through a specialized reader, that is connected to their payroll system.
  • Schools, colleges and universities often allow students to obtain meals in on-site facilities, access a library, or make modest purchases from a book store by presenting or swiping an authorized card.
  • Medical service providers’ EHR (electronic health-record) systems often require dual-factor authentication to log in, so equipping the applications’ host PC’s with a bar-code or mag-stripe reader and appropriate access control software, the employee’s ID card can also double as the required second-factor authority.

The bar-code category includes traditional “1D” bar-codes, “2D” bar-codes, or QR codes. These codes are applied to cards by selecting a font that transforms a numeric or alphanumeric code into a lined or pixelated image. These images can be scanned by specialized readers or by smartphone applications that can call up the associated information from a database or business application. This solution requires a database of some kind that associates the unique graphical code with the pertinent information. A significant limitation of this solution is that these codes can be photocopied, resulting in a unauthorized access if secondary security measures are not put in place.

Magnetic Card #2The magnetic stripe card can store a very limited amount of information, such as an account, employee, or student ID number, dollar amount (or other financial balance), & other encoded information. These cards were an early version of modern smart cards, but the age of the technology has also made it less secure than other currently available options. These cards involve technology that make them a slightly higher cost option than “plain” PVC cards, and also require additional expenditures for mag-stripe or bar-code readers and, of course, a compute program to interpret and act on the stored data.

For small organizations or those who do not want to maintain cards themselves, our service bureau is able to print cards on demand for a small fee. Customers who print larger quantities of cards or who would like to be able to issue cards immediately may find that an investment in a printer and supplies is beneficial.

Adding bar-codes or mag-stripes to ID badges can be an excellent solution for organizations with modest incremental functional needs, and have only low to moderate security requirements. Both cards provide a means by which customers or patrons can recognize the authority of the person wearing the card and can provide a sense of visual cohesion in any work, school, or healthcare environment.

Levels of Security Series: 1, Printed PVC Cards

Welcome to the first installment in our series on Levels of Security! In this series we will be investigating how different ID solutions fit different security needs. As we advise clients on the appropriate badge solution for their organizations, we find that ID badging needs fall into one of five levels of security. We’ve categorized these by the appropriate solutions: printed PVC cards, barcode & magnetic stripe cards, proximity devices, contact and contactless RFID cards, and biometric authentication.

Facilities LevelsofSecurity1in need of a minimum security solution may find that a simple ID badge fills their needs. This solution is relatively easy to implement at low cost. Within this category, two distinct levels of security can be achieved: a non-photo card and a photo ID badge.

The non-photo card offers the lowest level of security, but is still helpful for facilities that need a quick method to identify a holder’s credentials. These cards can offer an organization’s seal or logo, card-holder’s name and/or title or position, or simply be color coded. For example, a school or assisted living facility may issue a pink card to its volunteers and blue cards to staff that quickly allow staff, students, parents or residents to identify an authorized individual.

CPClKNfWgAAqdNqThe photo ID badge can include any of the above elements, but then adds an additional security layer: a photo of the cardholder. This provides an additional confirmation that the person carrying a card is the person to whom it was issued. Photo IDs are commonly used for students, teachers, healthcare professionals, and employees at a variety of businesses & government entities.

Both of these entry-level ID solutions help the wearers and their organization project a professional appearance, and give confidence to those they interact with. And they help organizations meet minimal levels of security required by regulators and outside agencies that are prevalent, for example, in the healthcare field.

The limitation of both of these simple ID solutions is that the identity of the cardholder must be confirmed by another person, rather than any automated system of access control. For many organizations, however, they provide a cost-effective solution to their most basic needs.

Whether including a photo on an ID or not, the costs are similar, and can be kept very low. For small organizations, or for those who do not want to design, maintain and issue cards themselves, our service bureau is able to offer professional design and printing of cards on demand, and for small relative fees. Customers who print larger quantities of cards or who would like to be able to issue cards in-house and immediately will find that an investment in a printer and supplies is beneficial.

Basic ID cards are an excellent solution for organizations that do not operate in access-controlled facilities. Both photo and non-photo ID cards provide a means by which customers or patrons can recognize the authority of the person wearing the card, and can provide a sense of visual cohesion in any work, school, or healthcare environment.

New Entrust Datacard Firmware

Entrust Datacard released new firmware for their SD, CD, and CE system printers today. In order to download this update, visit their support page.

The new firmware will provide your printers with a wide variety of enhancements. This summer, Entrust Datacard began sending out new RFID tags with enhanced encryption to ensure that you are receiving authentic Datacard® Certified Supplies that were designed specifically for optimum performance in their Datacard® system. This new firmware will enable the enhanced encryption to take place.

In addition to enabling the enhanced encryption, the new firmware will provide Datacard SD, CD, and CE systems with a wide variety of updates:

  • UV printing on all SD, CD and CE systems
  • Rewrite capability on SD260 and SD260s systems
  • Security enhancements to support PCI requirements
  • Mag stripe fix to help reduce errors when cards are not in position
  • Improved cleaning card on the multi-hopper
  • Other security and performance improvements

For more information about firmware and why it’s important to keep it updated, check out the post about it in our archives.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact one of our experts at +1 888.485.4696.

The Value of High-Quality Printer Consumables

It is always important to buy high-quality consumables for your ID Card Printers from authorized dealers in order to get the best life and results from your machine. At Safe-Card ID Services, we are one such dealer, but there are lots out there; find a dealer you trust!

Less reputable dealers may offer cards and ribbons that are “compatible” with your printer, but are not certified. While you may find that they can offer these at a discount, it’s a cost-cutting measure you may pay for down the road. In the last couple of months we have seen a local company ruin multiple print-heads by using sub-standard cards. Not only was this an inconvenience that interrupted their card production, it was costly, as printer manufacturers’ printer warranties do not cover the print-head if it is damaged due to the use of poor-quality or non-genuine consumable items.

Flaws common to poor-quality cards include the presence of foreign objects (dirt, dust, hair, and plastic particles) irregular sizing and thickness, and jagged cut edges. In the best-case scenario, use of such cards will require more frequent printer cleaning–to remove those foreign objects from your printer. The worst-case scenario results in physical damage to the printer, and specifically the expensive print-head.

Problems you may see with poor-quality ribbons: they may not be compatible with RFID sensors, or printer firmware updates, leading to “no ribbon” or “unknown ribbon” errors, and preventing its use. Also, non-genuine ribbons often are made with sub-standard materials, leading to low-quality images, rendering of colors inconsistently, ribbons tearing and sticking to card surfaces, all of which can also cause damage to the print-head.

All printer manufacturers stipulate that the use of non-branded or low-quality materials can void printer and print-head warranties. While great online deals can be tempting, it is important to make sure that the materials are of high quality – both to preserve your device warranty, and to ensure the best possible output.

The bottom line: be sure to inspect materials before using them. A broken printer costs more to replace or repair than you could ever save with aftermarket or “gray-market” supplies. So find a trustworthy, authorized dealer for your printer consumables, and rest assured that your printer investment will be protected.

Tech Alert: Apple Users of cardPresso ID Badge Design & Print Software

The Problem

elcapitanWe have recently become aware of a technical issue that occurs when users of the cardPresso ID Badge Design & Print software upgrade their Apple computers to the latest edition of OS X (10.11 “El Capitan”). In this latest operating system release, Apple has updated and enhanced system security, particularly as it applies to the use of USB-attached peripherals and mass-storage devices.

Users of cardPresso will know that use of and access to that software is secured through the use of a USB “dongle”, which is required to authenticate and authorize use of the product. The new release of OS X prevents cardPresso from “seeing” the USB dongle, and therefore prevents use of the software in anything other than demonstration mode.

The Fix

cardpressoWhile the El Capitan release also affected scores of other software developers, cardPresso’s software engineers worked quickly to develop, test, and release an update that will address this issue for affected users. The updated version is available for free download on the cardPresso website (www.cardpresso.com), and can be directly installed onto your Mac device with no loss of data of functionality.

As always, we encourage our clients to call on our in-house experts at +1 888.485.4696, should they need further information or support with this issue and resolution.

How to Clear a Card Jam in a Zebra ZXP Series 7 Printer

Card jams are an occasional problem with any PVC card printer. Zebra has made it easy to clear a jam from their ZXP Series 7 printers. Watch the short video below for a quick guide on the process.

As always, if you have trouble clearing a jam or any other concerns with your ZXP Series 7 or any other card printer, call our experts at +1 888.485.4696.

The 4 Items Your Business Needs to Get Started with Printed Cards

Plastic PVC cards are a great business asset in many industries. Identification cards add security or a professional touch to your business. These cards can be as simple as a name tag or include complex features such as holograms or smart chips. Gift or loyalty cards help to create and maintain brand recognition for customers. No matter what your goal is for your cards, you need to start with 4 basic supplies:

zxp-quikcard-bundle-medium__45323_zoom

Zebra ZXP Series 3 QuikCard Bundle

  1. A printer. Available from multiple manufacturers, card printers meet any need, from a few cards a month to hundreds of cards a day.
  2. Ribbon. Ribbons layer colors over a blank card to create the image and text you have designed. They come in a variety of individual or full color options.
  3. Cards. PVC cards are available in myriad colors and security options including smart chip, magnetic stripe, or thin adhesive-backed stickers that can stick to thicker proximity cards.
  4. Design software. There are multiple levels of software from many developers to meet every need. The most advanced software allows administrators to link to databases and encode smart cards.

There are combinations of these four items to meet every budget and need and it is an investment that can pay off dividends for one’s business.

At Safe-Card ID Services we strive to help our customers find the perfect combination of supplies. We have pre-configured bundles that include all of the above items in popular combinations. Our experts also specialize in creating custom bundles to meet the specific needs of our clients. For those with smaller scale needs or who do not want to invest in a printer system, our service bureau also offers custom cards printed to order.

Let us answer your questions about getting started in card printing. Our experts are always available for a free consultation at +1 888.485.4696. We look forward to hearing from you!

Handling PVC Cards for Best Results

To get the best results from your PVC cards, be careful in handling unused stock. If handled improperly, the surface of the card picks up oils from the fingers of the user. The ribbon used by card printers does not adhere to an oily surface, resulting in poor quality photo IDs.

For best results, we recommend careful handling of only the edges of the cards or wearing gloves. Our service bureau team has found that it is relatively simple to place a small stack of cards into an input hopper while keeping their fingers off the cards’ surfaces, as demonstrated below.

CardHandling1However, when we handle a number of individual cards, we often use medical style gloves to protect the surface of the card.

cardhandling2

For more tips visit our TechTips Blog or call one of our experts at +1 888.485.4696.