Smart Card Technology

The ID card debate continues to rage with questions over their purpose, necessity and logistics of a nationwide roll-out still to be answered. In the background, a few organisations are starting to invest in increasingly sophisticated identity authentication technology.

Banks including LloydsTSB and HSBC are already starting to roll out token-based solutions, which combine the traditional username and password with a one-time code generated by a keyring-style token, in order to combat ID fraud.

It is encouraging to see that financial services organisations are starting to move away from purely password-based authentication techniques in a bid to combat sophisticated key-loggers and phishers. However, the benefits of two-factor authentication devices, such as tokens and smart cards, are not confined to banks. Yet take-up amongst other industries has been slower.

Smart cards take strong authentication into a new realm, because they are capable of storing so much information on them and have a vast number of uses. One card, issued by an employer, can allow staff access to office buildings as well as the IT network, thereby combining physical and logical security into one device.

Multiple applications on the network can be accessed via a single sign-on mechanism, removing the user’s headache of remembering many different passwords and cutting down calls to the IT helpdesk for password resets.

What is more, remote users can access the network with the same level of security as office-based workers using the same card. Not only that, smart cards can be used to make a digital signature, which in future could make electronic documents permissible as evidence in a court of law.

Tensor have used smart cards within our security systems for a number of years, and represents a prime example of how the technology can be incorporated into a number of applications. From time and attendance solutions, to access control and cashless catering, one smart card is able to perform a variety of individual tasks.

As we continue to move rapidly towards a completely digital age with complex regulations to adhere to, being able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that an email or document was sent or received will be a must-have, not just a nice-to-have.

Increasingly, private enterprises are working with government bodies to deliver commercial and public services to citizens via smart cards, because they are capable of storing multiple credentials for access to different buildings, systems and accounts.

Further development depends on public and private sector investment in new infrastructure, and the most cost-effective approach is to work together in order to develop the technology then use it according to the needs of their individual organisations.

The potential benefits of stronger identity authentication technologies to commercial and public sector organisations alike are immense, encompassing increased efficiency, compliance issues and better access to public services for all.

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