Smartcards - Integrated Circuit Card - ICC smart cards
A smart card is of the size of a credit card, which bears a small microprocessor. The microprocessor makes the card 'smart' and differentiates it from other plastic cards. The card can process instructions, just like a Personal Computer rather than just store information. These tiny chips are even more powerful than the bulky early personal computers that emerged in the early 70's.
The card can be programmed, and new applications could be added after its issue. It can also store comparatively large amounts of information and can control access to its stored information.
A smartcard is a credit card sized plastic card with a microchip module embedded according to the International Standards Organisation 7816 standard. There are several types of media that fall into the smartcard category. These devices have a lot of common features and may be described Simple smartcards, Smartcards, Super Smartcards and Contactless smartcards.
Most Smart cards, if not all, incorporate an integrated circuit chip (ICC) on the plastic card. This ICC is usually a micro-controller with limited computational power and I/O support. ISO uses the term, Integrated Circuit Card (ICC) to identify all those devices where an integrated circuit is contained within an ISO ID1 identification card piece of plastic.
The Smartcard looks like a common credit card, but the resemblance ends there. Hidden in the thickness of the plastic, a powerful brain controls the card's functions and opens access to networks and computers. It allows the card to capture, verify, store and transmit information (transactions) in a way that can be directed to mainframe computers for further processing. It can also validate the identity of the cardholder through network access.
A typical smart card has the same dimensions as a standard credit card and appears to be very similar with the exception of a set of gold contacts. When inserted into a reader, these contacts provide power to a microprocessor located on the smart card; the smart card is thus able to store and process information, in particular cryptographic keys and algorithms for providing digital signatures and for use with other encryption.
Because of their programmability, chip-based cards are capable of performing many further functions. Access to buildings and to locations within buildings can be regulated using such devices. Similarly, chip-cards can be an effective and efficient way to represent and check tickets, and to provide evidence of organisational membership.
In effect, the Smartcard is a portable data storage device. It can process information to authenticate the card, identify the cardholder, encrypt and decrypt messages, and generate electronic signatures. Thus, it provides an automated form of user accountability, as it maintains a log that keeps track of such things as who used the card, when the transaction took place, and what merchandise was bought. The magnetic strip card lacks this capability.
Since a smart card uses multi directional interaction between the card and the reader, true authentication of identity can be met in a more secure way than the traditional magnetic stripe card. The cardholder's identity is held on the card via a secret key. The smart card achieves this capability using a small built in computer (the smart chip).
This computer allows the card to interact with the card reader, not just pass information to it. Unlike magnetic cards, this identifier cannot leave the card so there is never an issue of 'sniffing' someone else's identifier. Historically, smart cards have been used as 'purse' or stored value cards. Such cards had little functionality and performed only minor computing tasks such as increasing or decreasing the stored value on the card.
EMV-compliant chip technology
To ensure chip cards are recognised and accepted in all countries where card payments are made, countries around the world are building them to an international specification originally set by the international card schemes Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV).
In 1996, Europay, MasterCard and Visa first released flexible specifications for smart card-based debit and credit payments.
In 1999, the three card associations founded EMVCo, an independent organization, to manage and enhance EMV specifications as
technology advances and the implementation of chip card programs become more prevalent.
Western Europe faced a deadline of January 2005 to make the smart card/EMV switch. Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle
East, Africa and Asia/Pacific must make the move by January 2006.
There exist two types of so called chip cards. While one type of cards (memory cards) are just a bunch of E˛Prom storage,
the second type of cards is more like a small computer. It includes a microcontroller with RAM for operation, ROM for holding
the OS and E˛Prom for holding your data and your program. It communicates with the outer world through its chip contacts by use
of a bi-directional serial interface. This interface and most other SmartCard related facts are standardized by the International
Organization for Standardization (ISO) in ISO 7816 standard.
Smart cards come in two varieties: memory and microprocessor. Memory cards simply store data and can be viewed as a small floppy disk with optional security. A microprocessor card, on the other hand, can add, delete and manipulate information in its memory on the card. Similar to a miniature computer, a microprocessor card has an input/output port operating system and hard disk with built-in security features.
Smart cards have two different types of interfaces: contact and contactless. Contact smart cards are inserted into a smart card reader, making physical contact with the reader. However, contactless smart cards have an antenna embedded inside the card that enables communication with the reader without physical contact. A combi card combines the two features with a very high level of security.
The SmartCard is a microchip-based card that uses technology similar to the technology found in computers. Just like the magnetic stripe found on other cards, smart cards can hold personal information and other machine instructions. What makes these cards different is that the chip can store up to 1,000 times more information than magnetic striped cards.
It can also make a decision, as it has relatively powerful processing capabilities that allow it to do more than a magnetic stripe card (e.g., data encryption).
Memory-only cards store programs or data. They replace transaction vouchers, magnetic media or currency. As they contain no
processing capabilities or significant security, they are often used as a stored-value card or “electronic purse” for relatively
inexpensive transactions like telephone tolls, rapid-transit fares, and road tolls. Microprocessor cards, by contrast, can
process data. They often replace magnetic-stripe cards, transaction vouchers, identity cards and currency. This card processes
data based on procedures stored within it, including cryptographic procedures for security purposes.
Magnetic strips on credit cards are easy to clone, and are used by fraudsters to make illegal transactions in other people's
names. It is also cheap to do so, using devices that
can cost as little as US$2,251. Return on investment is thus immediate for fraudsters when cloning a corporate credit card, for
The smartcard is a PKI enabling device. It enables the storage
of digital keys and certificates on a microchip within a physically secure
device. Once stored or created on the smartcard, your private keys can never be
removed. As such, all signing and encryption activity takes place on the smartcard.
Multi-function Smart Card Now Under a Dollar
03/05 - MasterCard has teamed up with technology companies including Keycorp Limited of Australia, Infineon
Technologies AG of Germany and a number of leading regional and global smart card manufacturers to deliver the US$0.99 white
card, based on the new MULTOS step/one platform.
Smart Card Memory Types - ROM Read only memory (mask ROM), EEPROM (Electrically erasable PROM), RAM (Random access memory)
Information on the manufacture of smart cards. Wafers, chips and modules, chip classifications, memory chip, microcontroller chips, operating systems, readers and terminals.
U. S. Government Smart Card Handbook - resource guide on smart cards
OpenSC Smart Card Driver Names
The supported internal card driver names in OpenSC are