Category Archives: Blog

Levels of Security: 5, Biometric Authentication

Welcome to the fifth, and final, 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.

LevelsofSecurity5Biometric authentication uses a reader to scan and verify identity using a unique physical attribute. The most common are fingerprints, palm prints, facial scans, and iris scans. New technologies are being introduced that include scans of the shape of the skull and of the interior of the ear canal.

For access control, these methods of identity authentication are most often used in addition to another method, playing on the security adage that the most secure method is “something you have, something you know, and something you are.”  An ID card (of any level) or key serve the purpose of being an exclusive item one has. Biometric markers, which are unique to the person seeking entry, is something they are. Often keypads or password encryption serve as “something you know.” Verifying identity through biometrics prevents cards or other access devices from being either stolen or skimmed and recreated using stolen data, as the person who uses the device is just as important as the device itself.

Biometrics are also used on their own to help protect data and to provide appropriate access. Many mobile devices and laptops now use thumbprints instead of passwords as a more secure and unchanging piece of data that only allows access to the appropriate user. This technology provides the option for targeted, instead of widespread, use of biometric authentication. Some programs require the input of a password and verification of a user’s biometric data before allowing access to secure information. This solution can provide an incremental security increase, rather than outfitting an entire facility for biometric scanning.

Certain industries have also begun using biometric scans to store user data: hospitals such as Carolinas Medical Centers use palm scans to ensure that medical records are accurate and secure. Many school systems have begun using thumbprint scanners to link student lunch accounts, replacing the need for a card (which students are prone to lose) or a code (which students sometimes forget and takes a longer time to enter into the lunch line keypad).

The use of biometrics is still controversial, as many people worry about this secure information being stolen or hacked into, creating another version of the privacy problems that have begun to plague technology companies. Companies address this concern in multiple ways. Many do not store biometric information, rather using a computer algorithm to create a unique identifying number based on the biometric scan, which is then associated with the user. Others keep the biometric information stored on a device rather than in a database–banks that have begun using biometric authentication in mobile apps store the user’s information on the device itself rather than in a bank database of users. The same can be done with smart cards. The chip in a contact or contactless smart card has enough storage space to store the data required to verify the cardholder’s identity, which prevents their information from being stored in a centrally controlled (and thus target-rich) access control database.

Thank you for following along with our series on access control security. As always, feel free to contact one of our experts for more information at +1 704.535.5200.

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.

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:

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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.

Datacard Printers – Change the Supplies on a SD Series Card Printer

See how easy it is to change ribbons and cleaning rollers using the Datacard SD series card printer models. This free training video provided by the Datacard Group will demonstrate how to properly change the ribbon and rollers.

Safe-Card ID is an authorized provider of SD series card printers manufacturered by Datacard. If we can assist you with Datacard printers or supplies, we would love to hear from you.

Benefits of Plastic Cards for Car Registrations

Correct identification of vehicles and vehicle owners is achieved by the vehicle registration process. Registration provides a method to tax vehicle owners efficiently and provides other additional benefits to the state. The vehicle owner is provided with a proof of registration by means of a printed paper. The motor vehicles authorized printing centers provide and distribute the paper registration to carry during vehicle operation.

The common paper version of the vehicle registration can be tampered with as there are few features of the cardstock that provide security and longevity. The current paper version of the registration can be easily torn or smudged.

ID card professionals from the manufacturer of Zebra printers have proposed that vehicle registration cards be printed on plastic cards similar to the current state driver’s license. Benefits to the plastic card over paper are many. Some of the benefits that Zebra has offered for upgrading to a plastic registration card are as follows:

Security. Paper registrations can be easily altered, torn and smudged. Plastic cards are more difficult to tamper with and can be enhanced with various security features, such as a hologram to reduce the amount of fraudulent activities.

Durability. The longevity of a plastic card registration is greater than a document printed on paper. For this reason, employee IDs and driver’s licenses are commonly printed on plastic cardstock rather than a laminated paper or teslin from just a few years back.

Efficient data transmission. Plastic cards can hold information embedded on the card that can easily be transmitted for efficient processing of information. Bar codes, magnetic stripes and embedded information can be used for quickly and accurately providing and transmitting data to record events such as vehicle inspections, vehicle transfers and ticketing. By quickly scanning cards into appropriate readers, the data can accurately be imported into summons papers, inspection reports and other records.

Benefits of the plastic card printing can be worthwhile as increased efficiencies and easy transfer of information can outweigh the costs of the system many times over. Online card printing retailers that provide Zebra card printers are happy to provide a custom printing package to meet your individual small or large card printing needs.

Visit our Zebra ID card printer models for specific printer information.
Zebra P110i
Zebra P120i
Zebra P330i
Zebra P430i