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Smart card

Smart card

(also chip card)

Smart card definition

A smart card is a physical card with an embedded integrated circuit (IC) chip that has the same function as a security token. Organizations use smart cards to store and process data. Only users with the card’s PIN can access the information it keeps. As a result, smart cards can enhance security in authentication, access control, and data protection scenarios.

See also: unauthorized access, security token

Smart card pros

  • Strong authentication. Smart cards can store unique credentials like cryptographic keys, digital certificates, or biometric data. They provide better security than traditional username/password authentication methods.
  • Multi-factor authentication. Organizations can use smart cards as part of a multi-factor authentication system, where the user must present something they have (the smart card), something they know (a PIN), or something they are (biometric data).
  • Data encryption. Smart cards can securely store and process encryption keys, enabling secure communication and data storage.
  • Tamper resistance. Smart cards provide a secure container for sensitive information, making it more difficult for bad actors to tamper with data.
  • Portability. Smart cards are portable, so organizations can consistently use them across different devices and systems.
  • Scalability. Smart cards are suitable for large organizations or systems with many users.

Smart card cons

  • Easy to steal. Smart cards are physical security devices, meaning users can easily lose or damage them. Moreover, bad actors can steal them to compromise the system.
  • User inconvenience. Employees might find carrying the smart card and remembering the PIN challenging, especially if they have multiple cards. Users who forget their smart card cannot access the system or app.
  • High price. Smart card systems, including card readers and management software, can be costly for startups or SMEs.
  • Compatibility issues. Organizations need to update smart cards with advanced technologies to prevent security threats. Still, they might not be compatible with all devices.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security