Security improved by Biometric Cards

Zwipe CEO, Kim Humborstad explains how Biometric Cards Improve the Security and Extend the Life of Proximity and Smart Card Systems, even in HID and Allegion Card-Based Solutions.

Security improved by Biometric Cards

More and more, security professionals using card-based front ends for their access control systems have been worried about the security of their proximity systems. A convenient way to establish higher security within certain areas of a building is an appealing idea to many security directors. Whether it’s to more highly secure the pharmacy lab at a hospital, the laboratory at a government research facility or the tarmac at a small airport, some locations simply need to have more scrutiny paid to who is entering. They know, that for $200 or less, their proximity card system can be violated.

After all, proximity systems do not offer a challenge response; they only use passive authentication. The card simply sends the exact same 32 bits each time. A proximity card is easy to mimic. Just record an AM broadcast and replay it. An AM transmitter costs only $30 to build.

It is straightforward to read a proximity card from close range with standard lab equipment. The card can also be easily read from several feet away. Inexpensive card sniffing devices can be bought online that will effortlessly pull the card number and replay it at critical access points.

Meanwhile, your customer has a slew of proximity readers installed and the CFO is not going to be happy to hear they need to tear out all their proximity card readers to secure their facilities. Add a PIN, someone advises. Going beyond the card only – something they carry – and adding a PIN – something they know – many organizations employ multi-factor authentication at such locations. But, even that is done irregularly as this often means a different reader is needed. Yet, even when this is undertaken, somebody else can use still use another employee’s card and PIN.

Some suggest that this can be done with a smart card. After all, the multi-application flexibility of contactless smart cards lets a facility use them for logical/information access control, time and attendance and other applications in addition to physical access control. Each application gets its own memory space on the card or tag and security keys prevent one application from accessing another. For those considering biometrics at some of their access points, the card can even hold the biometric template.

Nonetheless, there still remains a problem with the smart card. Who is presenting the smart card to the reader? The system doesn’t know. All it can understand is that an authorized card has been presented to the reader. Thus, the door should open, respective of who is holding the card.

Only biometrics provides the solution for authenticating “who” is at the door. In the perfect world of large budgets, facilities would have a biometrics reader at every door that would need higher security. Of course, that would mean ripping out the present card readers and having to budget the money for new biometric readers plus the make the investment of making sure that the biometric integrates into their present access control system.

Adding Biometrics Will Help Secure the Facility – But, At What Cost?

What if the biometric was put directly on the card? The proximity or smart card credential with on-card fingerprint reading would provide all the assets of the proximity or smart card and eliminate its most glaring deficiencies, not knowing who is holding it as well as eliminate the problems of sniffing.

A biometric card quickly reads the user’s fingerprint in less than a second. Eliminating the problems of solely deploying proximity or smart cards, the wirelessly powered biometric card lets users authenticate themselves directly on the card through something they are, a fingerprint or thumbprint. Only then will the card system activate the lock. This is much more secure than simply using a standard proximity or smart card, which verifies only something the user carries and can easily be duplicated.

The precept is simple. An on-card fingerprint scanner with 3D capacitive technology resides on the contactless card which has universal compatibility with all ISO 14443 readers (the standard contactless card reader) from the leading brands, including HID and Allegion readers. The biometric card is DESFIRE EV1 and MIFARE Classic compatible, meaning it works with proximity card readers as well as smart card readers. Without having to change out an organization’s existing readers, the biometric card provides an easy, low cost way for security manager to provide a biometric upgrade to access control systems using card readers.

Importantly, the biometric card is more secure to use than other available ID and authentication solutions on the market today. The fingerprint data is captured by the on-card fingerprint scanner and is stored only inside the card. No exchange of data is conducted with external systems. This provides secure template management since the fingerprint never leaves the card. It also eliminates user concerns with privacy issues. The card is unique to the user and only the authorized card holder can activate card communication with the reader. When a positive match occurs, the biometric card activates communication with the lock or reader in the same way as other ISO 14443 contactless smart cards.

Problem Solved – Keep Using Your Proximity/Smart Card System

Security improved by Biometric Cards

No longer do your customers need to worry about quickly replacing their proximity card or smart card readers to secure their facilities. With a biometric proximity card or biometric smart card, security managers and their integrators can use biometrics on high security openings, such as a hospital pharmacy, IT server room or special research lab, without having to switch out their card readers for biometric readers.

Biometric cards can be issued to key staff and personnel providing the enhanced security benefits of 2-factor biometric authentication without any changes to their existing access control system software or proximity readers. Administrators simply add the biometric card into their system in the same way they incorporate their present proximity or smart cards, all the while extending the life and return on investment of their installed proximity card systems.


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