Levels of Security Series: 2, Barcode 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 organizations on appropriate badge solutions, we find their needs fall into one of five levels of security. We’ve categorized these by the appropriate solutions: printed PVC cards, barcode and magnetic stripe cards, proximity devices, contact and contactless RFID cards, and biometric authentication.

Barcode and Magnetic Stripe Cards are an easy way to add security elements to your IDsFacilities 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 should refer to the first post in this series: Printed PVC Cards.

Often our clients can meet other needs by making enhancements to their regular ID cards. Some commonly available technologies allow for many uses of these enhanced cards.

  • Restaurants and factories, for example, often use time-clock applications. Employees clock in and out by “swiping” card through a reader connected to the payroll system.
  • Many schools, colleges and universities have moved to a “one-card” system. This system allows students to obtain meals in cafeterias, access a library, or make purchases by presenting an authorized card.
  • Medical service providers’ EHR (electronic health-record) systems often require dual-factor authentication to log in. By equipping system computers with readers for barcode and magnetic stripe cards and appropriate access control software, the employee’s ID card can double as the required second-factor authority.

Barcode Cards

The barcode category includes traditional “1D” bar-codes, “2D” bar-codes, or QR codes. These codes created by selecting a font that transforms an alphanumeric code into a lined or pixelated image. These images are printed onto the card and can be scanned by specialized readers or by smartphone applications. This solution requires a database of some kind that associates the unique graphical code with the pertinent information. A significant limitation here is that barcodes can be photocopied. This can result in unauthorized access if secondary security measures are not put in place.

Magnetic Stripe Cards

Magnetic Stripe CardsThe 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 early versions of modern smart cards are less secure than newer options due to technological advances. The technology used in them makes these a slightly higher-cost option than “plain” PVC cards. In addition, they require specialized readers and a computer program to interpret and act on the stored data.

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. 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 reasonable fee.

Barcode and magnetic stripe cards are excellent solutions for organizations with modest functional needs and low to moderate security requirements. Both options provide a way for customers or patrons to recognize the authority of the person wearing the card. And all ID badge solutions add the benefit of a sense of visual cohesion in any work, school, or healthcare environment.

Levels of Security Series: 1, Printed PVC Cards

Printed PVC Cards are the first measure many business take in ID security.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 organizations on appropriate badge solutions, we find their 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 in 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. This category contains two distinct levels of security: a non-photo card and a photo ID badge.

Non-Photo Printed PVC Cards

The non-photo card offers the lowest level of security, but still provides 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 feature color coding. For example, a school or assisted living facility may issue a pink card to volunteers and blue cards to staff. This quickly allows staff, students, parents or residents to identify an authorized individual.

Photo IDs on Printed PVC Cards

Example of a Printed PVC CardThe 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 organizations project a professional appearance, giving confidence to clients. They help organizations meet minimal security guidelines required by regulators that are prevalent, for example, in the healthcare field.

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

Printed PVC Cards: A Low-Cost Solution

Whether the design includes a photo on an ID or not, printed PVC cards have similar, relatively low costs. 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. Either option for printed PVC cards provides a means by which clients or patrons can recognize the authority of the wearer, and can provide a sense of visual cohesion in any work, school, or healthcare environment.

Fargo Printer – Wrong Ribbon Error

We often receive calls from clients whose Fargo ID card printers display a “wrong ribbon” error. This error will appear on the printer’s LCD screen or on the user’s computer monitor and has a few potential causes.HID Fargo Printers - wrong ribbon error

Common Causes of the “Wrong Ribbon” Error:

Hardware Fault

Occasionally, we find that there is a hardware fault with the printer, particularly with the ribbon sensor or RFID-tag reader. After ruling out the other possible problems listed below, please call one of our experts if you still receive the “wrong ribbon” error.

Wrong Ribbon

You could, indeed, have the wrong ribbon for the printer. Many Fargo ribbon cartridges look identical, and there are no markings on the ribbon carriers to indicate which you have. For example, a YMCKO ribbon for the Fargo DTC1250e looks like the YMCKO ribbon for the DTC4250e, but they are not interchangeable. Each ribbon has an embedded RFID tag which includes a ribbon part-number. The printer’s corresponding firmware includes a list of all ribbons that are compatible with the printer. As a result, if your ribbon is not compatible with your printer, you will receive this message.

Bad Ribbon RFID Tag

Fargo ID-card printer ribbons are manufactured to include an RFID tag, which contains information about the ribbon itself (ribbon type, lot number, manufacturing site, etc.). On VERY rare occasions, this RFID tag is missing, or the data has been corrupted. This will prevent the printer from recognizing an otherwise good ribbon as valid. Try another ribbon if you have one available.

Out-of-Date Firmware

You could have out-of-date firmware on your printer. Periodically, Fargo will introduce new firmware to include updated manufacturing information. Once this new firmware is introduced, they will include new data on the encoded RFID tag affixed to the ribbon cartridge.  A printer with outdated firmware will be unable to validate ribbons that have this new encoding and reject them, returning a “wrong ribbon” error. Please see our separate blog post “Fargo Printers How-to: Update your Drivers and Firmware” for detailed instructions on updating firmware.

Incorrect Driver Setting

But most-likely, the error is the result of an incorrect print-driver setting. For example, you may have a full-color (YMCKO) ribbon, but a print driver set for a monochrome-black (K) ribbon. This mismatch between the actual ribbon loaded, and the ribbon the PC “thinks” should be loaded will result in a mismatch, and “wrong ribbon” error. For this scenario, follow the directions below to change the printer driver settings.

Choosing the Correct Driver Setting

Prior to beginning the instructions below, please verify that you have Windows administrator rights or have been granted Windows permissions by  your network administrator to change the driver functions on your computer. Without these elevated privileges, you will not be able to make these changes.

  1. Click the Windows “Start” icon (usually the lower-left corner of your screen);
  2. Select “Devices and Printers” (if not visible, enter this as a term in the search box);
  3. Locate your Fargo printer and right-click on it;
  4. Select and click on “Printing preferences” – a new window will open;
  5. Select the “Device Options” tab, then use the drop-down box to select your ribbon type;
  6. Click the “Apply” button in the lower-right, and then click “OK” to finish and close the Window.

Need more info?

Fargo ID-card printers are manufactured by HID Global. For information about Fargo printers, contact us for a free consultation toll-free at +1 888.485.4696 (US & Canada), or +1 704.535.5200 (elsewhere).

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.

Value of High-Quality Consumables for ID Card Printers

Always use high-quality consumables, purchased from authorized dealers in your ID card printer. These supplies provide the best life and results from your machine. Safe-Card ID Services is one such dealer, but there are lots out there; find a dealer you trust!

But I saw cheaper consumables online…

Less reputable dealers may offer cards and ribbons that are “compatible” with your printer but are not certified. While you may find that they offer these at a discount, these savings may be an illusion. Recently, a local client ruined multiple print-heads by using sub-standard cards. Not only was this an inconvenience that interrupted their card production, it was costly. Printer manufacturers’ warranties do not cover print-head damage from poor-quality or non-genuine consumables.

What problems might low-quality consumables have?

Poor-quality cards may have foreign objects (dirt, dust, hair, and plastic particles), irregular sizing and thickness, and jagged-cut edges. In the best-case scenario, using these cards will require more frequent printer cleaning (to remove those foreign objects!). The worst-case scenario results in physical damage to the printer, specifically the expensive print-head.

Poor-quality ribbons may not be compatible with RFID sensors or printer firmware updates, leading to “no ribbon” or “unknown ribbon” errors, thus preventing their use. Non-genuine ribbons are often made with sub-standard materials. Use of these materials can lead to low-quality images, rendering of colors inconsistently, and ribbons tearing and sticking to card surfaces, all of which can also cause damage to the print-head.

Why are high-quality consumables such a big deal?

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. 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

Printed PVC ID-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 they can include complex security 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. Plastic-card printer. Available from multiple manufacturers, these specialized printers come in a variety of configurations, and are designed to meet most any need, from a few cards a month to hundreds of cards a day.
  2. Print Ribbon. Ribbons layer colors over a blank card to create the image and text you have designed. They come in a variety of monochrome colors, or full-color options.
  3. Blank Cards. PVC cards are available in myriad colors and security options including smart chip, magnetic stripe, or thin adhesive-backed stickers that can be applied to thick, non-printable proximity cards.
  4. Card Design & Printing Software. There are multiple brands of of software available from many developers, and that are specifically designed to simplify the design and production of printed PVC cards. Basic software versions all support creation and printing of photo-ID cards, whether single- or dual-sided, and features like simple bar-codes. The more advanced software versions support multi-user environments and shared databases, live-links to existing databases, and even the direct encoding of proximity access cards and RFID smart cards.

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

At Safe-Card ID Services we strive to help our customers find solution to address their expressed requirements. We offer many pre-configured bundles that include all of the above items in well-matched 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 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 toll-free at +1 888.485.4696 (US & Canada). We look forward to hearing from you!

Handling PVC Cards for Best Results

Why Care in Handling PVC Cards is Important

Properly handling PVC cards will give you better results by preventing dirt, hair, and grease from adhering to the card. To get the best results from your PVC cards, be careful in handling and storing unused stock. If handled improperly, the card’s surface will attract dust and lint. Additionally, touching the printable surfaces will transfer residual oils from the user’s fingers. The printing process can trap or embed dust and lint on the print surface, and ribbons used in card printers does not adhere to oily surfaces, resulting in poor quality photo IDs.

For best results, we recommend handling cards only by the edges or wearing nitrile gloves (un-powdered). 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.

Handling PVC Cards CarefullyHowever, when we handle a number of individual cards, we often use medical-style nitrile gloves to protect the surface of the card.

Handling PVC Cards with gloves

For more tips browse our TechTips Blog, or call our ID experts at +1 888.485.4696.

Evolis Primacy – How to Do a Routine Printer Cleaning

The following video provided by Evolis provides manufacturer instructions illustrating how to complete a routine printer cleaning with a cleaning card.

1. Open the printer lid on the top of the printer.
2. Remove the print ribbon.
3. Close the lid.
4. Open the card input hopper.
5. Remove all blank cards.
6. Shift the card thickness gauge to “MAX”.
7. Remove the adhesive strip from the cleaning card.
8. Place the cleaning card in the input hopper and leave the hopper door open.
9. Press the power button twice.
10. The card will be automatically cycled through the printer and ejected into the output hopper.
11. Remove the card from the output hopper and close the card output hopper.
12. Open the printer lid.
13. Replace the print ribbon and close the lid.
14. Return unused cards to the input hopper.
15. Return the thickness gauge to its correct setting and close the hopper door.

For information about the Evolis Primacy printer, please contact our ID card experts at +1 888.485.4696.