Smart card technology, with its inbuilt security features, is becoming increasingly prevalent across a range of sectors. Providing everything from access control to two-factor authentication, their range of applications makes them exceptionally useful. Here we’ll look at the different sectors where they are making an impact.
Compliance with new regulations means that critical infrastructure utilities need to make their technologies much more secure, and this includes using two-factor authentication. The preferred option is to combine smart card technology with biometric fingerprinting. This means that when employees enter a building the fingerprint they scan has to be identical with the fingerprint saved on the card. This ensures that the person carrying the card is the individual they purport to be.
Only once identity has been validated will the card provide access. However, a further level of security is provided by the smart cards which can be programmed to control which areas the individual can have access to. System admins can control access on a person to person basis so that everyone within an organization can have unique access rights. At the same time, lost cards can be cancelled (though they cannot be used without biometric authorization, anyway) and temporary workers or visitors can be given cards that will only work for specific durations.
The use of smart cards is becoming widespread in universities across the nation. In addition to acting as ID cards, they enable students to have secure access to lecture halls, libraries, cafeterias, and dormitories. Perhaps the biggest security benefit, however, is that doors won’t open for anyone without a smart card, preventing intruders from accessing the buildings. Indeed, it is even possible for students to have their card’s access rights revoked if the university feels their behavior is a concern. In this way, students who may hold a grudge against staff or peers or those who have made threats can find that their cards no longer give them access.
Another security feature of these smart cards is that they don’t contain any personal data. Instead, they contain a unique identifier which enables a reader to access information held about the student on the university’s system. As a result, anyone finding the card would not be able to access the user’s personal data – nor would they be able to duplicate the card.
Besides being used for security, universities are also using smart cards for cashless vending. By taking away the need to pay in cash, universities are dramatically reducing queues in busy eating areas, especially at high traffic times. Additionally, the use of cashless vending means that the administrative task of counting the takings and bookkeeping is eradicated. Any takings are logged electronically, and the bookkeeping is automated.
The tracking of student attendance is another useful feature of smart cards, helping pastoral staff intervene with attendance issues at an early stage before absence has a serious impact on their studies.
The increasing number of cybersecurity breaches and the consequences of being hacked have forced businesses in the corporate sector to seek more secure ways to authenticate user IDs. As a result, they are moving to a more biometric focused security system to do this, and smart cards which can hold biometric data are providing the solution that ensures only authorized personnel are given physical and logical access. This helps enterprises protect buildings and computer systems, preventing unauthorized access to the physical hardware and stopping hackers from accessing the network even if they have the username and password of employees.
Logical access can also be controlled in the same way as physical access, limiting employees’ privileges so they can only access the areas of the network they need to carry out their jobs. This prevents unscrupulous workers from stealing intellectual property, taking part in industrial espionage or leaking sensitive information that they should not have access to.
In the healthcare system, smart cards, together with smart wristbands, are being employed to authenticate a patient’s ID, removing any potential for the wrong medical records to be used. If two patients with the same name are in the same facility, this kind of technology can ensure that medical staff don’t put lives at risk by referring to the wrong records.
At the same time, smart cards are also being used to verify medical insurance, ensuring patients get essential treatment and that accurate records are provided for making a claim.
Government agencies are now using smart cards to replace paper vouchers when providing benefits to eligible citizens. Cards are able to provide the secure issuing of benefits by authenticating the ID of the recipient which is done by them entering a secret PIN when using the card.
The use of the card cuts the administrative burden on agency staff and helps reduce instances of fraud. At the same time, the card gives access to information about the holder, including demographic data, economic circumstances and health information which might be pertinent in deciding the level of benefits that the person is eligible to receive.
Smart cards, such as those available from Universal Smart Cards, are becoming ubiquitous across many sectors – and for good reason. They are an affordable, easy to use and extremely effective way to increase security. They prevent intruders, stop hacking, authenticate identity and restrict access to (and within) buildings and IT systems. At the same time, they automate processes, reduce workload and help organizations comply with regulations.